Can Technology Substitute for Real Customer Knowledge?

Grunge Office Stamp - FAIL

I received a very disconcerting email this morning from  It was the typical occasional email that customers receive, recommending books that I might enjoy.

Amazon, of course, is known for its ability to understand its customers’ taste and to make recommendations on that basis.  The entire system is technology-based, not human-based.  That is to say, doesn’t really know me at all; it creates the illusion of knowing me by crunching data about my browsing and buying habits on its site.

But they really proved that to me this morning!  I received a recommendation that reads like this:

“Barbara Weaver Smith,

Are you looking for something in our Business & Investing books department? If so, you might be interested in these items:”

And first on the list is the book Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company.  I am the co-author of this book!  So obviously has no idea who I am and how insulting that email would be.  But even worse, only the other author’s name was listed!  So, is sending me an email recommending that I buy my own book but doesn’t even list my name as author!  I’m not a ghost writer or an “as told to” or a “written with” co-author.  I’m a side-by-side, names in the same font size co-author of a book published by a major publisher, Wiley.  And how many other hundreds of thousands of amazon customers got that same email, recommending that they buy my book without acknowledging me as a co-author?  Whew!

So, aside from the fact that really failed at their attempt to connect with me this morning, I have a more important point to make.  If you want to convince your customers that you know them and therefore you care about them, there is no substitute for really knowing them.

That’s what small and midsize companies can do so much better than behemoth companies.  Yes, you can manage customer data with a CRM, and you should.  But beware of allowing hands-off data analysis create a pseudo-familiarity.  If your customers ever get an email like I just did, they will be very unhappy with you, for a long time.

P.S.  If you follow this blog, you know that it’s rare for me to rant.  This is about as close as I get!  Just take it as a sign of what happens when you #Fail!


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