In which Jill re-lives a CRM success story.

Back in 2002—by tech standards, the Dark Ages—Customer Relationship Management was white-hot. Siebel Systems had just hit its peak at 45 percent market share, and (which would later acquire Siebel) was nipping at its heels. Large enterprise software vendors like IBM and SAP had begun building their own customer management solutions as IT analyst firms frantically updated their quadrants and waves.

Back then I was a management consultant, and my clients were all buying CRM products, plugging them in, and expecting sales to denotate. Of course, when that didn’t happen, they blamed their tools. Hoping for Gonzo Marketing—the title of a popular book at the time—sales and marketing executives instead had to justify seven-figure technology expenditures to their boards.

That same year Addison-Wesley published my second book, The CRM Handbook. It wasn’t as get-naked-and-party as the Gonzo book, but it featured real-life stories of companies that had delivered CRM early and gotten it right. The book did well because it colored in deliberate customer growth strategies and the technologies that fueled them. Each case study was broken down into four sections: What They Did; The Challenges; Their Advice; and The Golden Nugget, an important lesson during the CRM effort.

One of the companies I profiled was Verizon. The communications conglomerate had not only delivered a sophisticated database marketing capabilities, but it had also integrated data from GTE and Bell Atlantic, the two companies that had merged to form Verizon. The director of the CRM program had focused on data, subsequently mapping it to various customer experience scenarios (this was before customer journey was a thing), rolling out incremental marketing functionality and positioning the newfound capabilities as differentiating. This building-block approach to managing customers was ahead of its time.

One objective I heard again and again when I interviewed Verizon’s CRM team was: “We want a collaborative relationship with our customers, so the benefits to the customer exceed the risk of leaving. Customer delight is a key priority!” It was a bit of a rallying cry, stated with conviction and complementing the culture.

Flash forward 15 years. I’d ordered my Google Pixel phone from Verizon in October, only to be informed that it was back-ordered until January. Disappointed, I considered changing carriers but decided to stick with the current phone for a few more months. I received my Pixel in January, as promised.

A week later I got a box in the mail containing an apology letter along with a Google VR Headset. Opening the package, Verizon’s Golden Nugget came flooding back: “We need to remember our brand,” said the executive heading up CRM. “Is the experience we’re providing our customers consistent with our brand? With our image? …Does it reflect who we want to be?”

Yes, Verizon. Yes, it does.

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