Bloomingdale’s And The CRM App That Associates Were Never Asked About

Written by Frank Hayes and Evan Schuman
February 29th, 2012

One of the oldest adages in IT is that corporate tends to issue edicts without checking how they will play in the stores, without asking the foot soldiers and store managers whether it’s a good idea. A consultant this week offered a deliciously illustrative example, and it involves Bloomingdale’s and a CRM project.

The coincidental number that was the program’s weak spot? The required information-gathering with a customer took about 10 minutes, which is also roughly the same amount of time it takes most associates to make a new sale. They receive commission for those new sales and nothing for filling out the forms. Wonder why the program didn’t work well?

The consultant, who asked that his name be withheld, said he was asked by Bloomingdale’s to figure out why the program wasn’t delivering. The program was designed to gather a lot more information about customers, to be added to that customer’s CRM profile. The first problem was that the application sought far too much data from customers. Other than annoying customers (which would reduce cooperation and is bad for 100 other reasons) and wasting sales associates’ time (wouldn’t you rather they be selling?), much of the data was simply not needed.

“It wanted to know the personal assistant’s phone number. A third E-mail address. Where they had certain houses for certain dates throughout the year,” the consultant said. “They wanted so much dream data. They had these execs in a room who wrote down everything they wanted to know. Everything that the corporate team thought was important.”

So was the data even used? Corporate “pretty much ignored 95 percent of the data.”

Added the consultant: “It took 5 to 10 minutes to put one sale into the database, and they weren’t paid any incentive. If I’m wasting this time, I might as well get another sale in.” That was from the sales associates. Their direct managers had similar thoughts, because the managers are paid on productivity.

The system also glitched periodically, said the consultant, saying “the profile is not complete on John Doe” and related issues that made completing the reports in the field challenging.

We reached out to Bloomingdale’s for comment and no one replied.

There are many things that corporate knows better than the field, but the best way to make local sales—especially with a business as personal as Bloomingdale’s—is an area where the stores’ view must be supreme.

Failing that, the next key question is how to get associates to carry out corporate edicts. The old school kneejerk answer—”They either comply or they’re fired”—doesn’t work with sales associates. They know that substantially beating their sales targets is job security, one that allows them to ignore all but the most important rules. Can they steal from the store? No. Can they assault a customer or another employee? No. Can they show up for work an hour late? If they’re blowing past their numbers, most likely they can, and they know it.

What about filling out screens of data for corporate, something that even their manager doesn’t care about? Nope.

More importantly, if corporate understands the issues, would even corporate want it?


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