The New Cost-Effectiveness Argument


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You don’t buy size 12 shoes for size 9 feet. You don’t get a Bugatti Chiron for grocery store runs. You don’t swat flies with field artillery. And you don’t buy more contact center technology than your business can reasonably grow into.

The customer service neighborhood of CRM was the wrong side of the tracks for many years. The contact center could only cost the company money (so it was thought), so the responsible strategy was to cut costs to the bone and never spend anything there unless forced to. Asking for more staff or better equipment was like getting the state to renovate the prison libraryimpossible without somebody of the calibre of Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption.

That attitude was changing by the dawn of the 21st Century. Research proved that better customer service led to better retention, loyalty, and advocacy among customers. These led to a strengthened brand and increased revenue in the long term. New integration technology meant the contact center could save and even generate sales in its own right. The rise of online communities and social networking showed the strength of the motivated and well-connected customer. A shout of praise when a company went the extra mile for a customer in need could be amplified. So could a howl of outrage when one was treated callously, with potentially disastrous results. Spending in the contact center was not only necessary, it was the smart thing to do.

The freedom to make decisions based on results rather than thrift was never license to burn money, but it meant that customer service had a stronger voice at the budgeting table. Unfortunately, not everybody got that memo. Customer service tech can provide some amazing capabilities, and it’s possible to get swept up in what a system can do instead of what it must do. Buyers need to focus on fixing shortcomings before adding potential.

Analogy time: Buying technology is like furnishing a baby’s room. New parents may want a crib that has a changing table attached to it, and can transform into a bed when the kid outgrows a crib, and then into a desk or a toy box when they outgrow that. Sure, it’s good to be prepared for growth, but for the next two to three years all you need is a crib. And is the room itself even large enough for your growing offspring? You can house an infant in a large cupboard, but that’s not enough room for a toddler. Crib for now, space for later, and then you can figure out how to fill that space. For business, it’s current capability first, then capacity for expansionnot the expansion itself.

Likewise, a vendor trying to deliver too much, too soon might not find a welcoming business environment right now. Explosive growth has been the usual way to go, making noise and garnering attention, then trying to grow into the space thus created. This is not a time to be hiring 100 salespeople to fight for 70 jobs, or to focus on new customers while neglecting existing ones. Sustainable growth, or even reduced growth, combined with stellar customer care, is going to be the right call for most businesses.

Much of the above presupposes an organization based in the United States, or doing most of its business there. Our more civilized neighbors, who have managed the crisis better, might benefit from other strategies. But we all should remember first to do what keeps the lights on, then what’s most effective, and tune for efficiency afterwards, as time and budget allow.

Marshall Lager
CRM Evangelists
Marshall Lager has been writing about CRM and related topics since 2005, first as a journalist for CRM Magazine and then as an analyst and consultant. He has worked at Informa and G2, and as an independent. Specialties include customer experience, B2C, customer journey mapping, and finding the humor in our sometimes dry and dour field.


  1. This is also quite a good example for the application of agile principles to business decisions: First crawl, then walk, only then start to run. There is no reason for doing a big investment into something now, that can be utilised only in a few years, if at all, given general uncertainties.

    Thanks for sharing Marshall


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