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The medium is the message

The following story is fictional, contrived to highlight issues with

customer contact management but read on to learn a thing or two about


Meet Holly, a successful40-something, complete with career, husband, two

children, Swedish nanny, big home, expensive car, the lot. She appears to

be your dreamcustomer come true, and she runs the family finances.

Unfortunately, some early experiences (Holly is convinced, rightly or

wrongly, she was the first person to have been missold an endowment policy)

has led her to believe all financial services compan-ies are a necessary

evil to be kept at arm&#39s length as much as possible.

A few years ago, IndirectCircle came on the scene offering a price-leading

phone-based personal insurance service and Holly was attracted to the idea

straight away – low premiums, no more brokers ringing up, no wasting of a

Saturday morning filling in forms in somebody&#39s uncomfortable office. First

the car insurance, then the house insurance went Indirect&#39s way.

Initially, Holly liked the way everything could be done by phone from the

comfort of her own home.

She was less impressed when Indirect Circle&#39s new phone system introduced

the dreaded IVR, especially as it seemed to take longer and longer to get

to talk to a real person. But she was basically happy with the service

and,on the occasion she had to make a claim, the process was smoothly


Then two things happened simultaneously. She discovered Indirect Circle

had a website and she decided to invest some Tessa proceeds into an Isa.

Once on Indirect&#39s website, she was surprised (because Indirect had never

mentioned this) to discover it offered Isas and applications could be made

online. Great, she thought, and started to fill out the form.

After 15 minutes, she came across a question she just did not understand –

something about mini this and maxi that.

Having her mobile to hand, she called her usual Indirect number, only to

discover it does not process Isas there.

There was an email facility on the site so rather than make another call

and suffer more IVR muzak, she completed the email pro forma and sent it


Now there seemed no way of saving the information she had already filled

in, so with a big sigh and dark mutterings of wasted time, she left the


A few days later, she still had not had a reply to her email. But two

envelopes dropped on her mat in the morning&#39s post.

She was a bit perplexed when one of the envelopes turned out to be a

marketing flier from Indirect Circle acknowledging her as a valued customer

and inviting her to apply for an Isa under privileged terms.

There was a phone number she could call but no mention of her email. She

called the number and eventually got to talk to a real live person who had

no knowledge of any email.

She was unimpressed but at least now she did understand about mini and

maxi Isas.

Which is why she got interested in the other envelope. WayAhead Direct

seemed to be a broker offering insurance and investment (including Isas)

products from a number of companies.

When she next turned on her computer, she looked up its website. She was

pleasantly surprised. Not only could she complete an application online,

she could also make changes to the Isa once it was set up.

She was impressed even more when she discoveredshe could “talk” to

someoneat the broker&#39s office via her computer when she again got stuck

with the application process.

The “talking” began with Holly using the facility to send a message to one

of WayAhead&#39s advisers and getting an immediate response back while the

application screen was still in front of her.

Gilbert was very helpfulbut she was still unsure ona few things so he

asked whether she wanted him to call her. This he did, on Holly&#39s mobile,

since her phone line was tied up accessing the internet.

Gilbert also somehow managed to take control of her computer and move the

mouse to various pieces of information on her screen as he was explaining

things over the phone.

He guided her throughthe application process sothe business was comple-ted

successfully in the one

session, to Holly&#39s great satisfaction.A little later, she wondered

whether WayAhead could also help with the carinsurance which was coming up

forrenewal. She sent Gilbert an email, not really expecting a response,

given her previous experiences with Indirect.

But almost straight away, she got an acknowledgement that the email had

been received, that WayAhead would be happy to help with her motor

requirements and that someone would contact hervia her stated preferred

medium – home phone.

She was delighted when she got a call later that evening from Natalie who

introduced herself as an insurance colleague of Gilbert&#39s.

She knew all about Holly from the Isa application, thanked her for her

email and gave her options for motor insurance, including, once again,

choices in doing the business via the web or the telephone.

As time was short that evening, she opted to go via Way Ahead&#39s website

the following day, confident she would be able to do what she needed, given

that help seemed to be always on hand.

She was less surprised the following day (because her expectations of good

service were already being driven ever upwards) when, while on WayAhead&#39s

site, she got a message from Gilbert updating her on the Isa application

progress and asking her to let him know if he needed any help with the

motor quote.

Holly never did get back to Indirect Circle.

The moral of this little tale is a simple one. Different customers like to

do business using different media and some customers will use all the

different media available to them.

Sales activities are morelikely to need point-of-sale “real-time”

interaction bet-ween customer and company to be successful and the

technology to support such interactions is available today.


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