Monday, March 31, 2008

Microsoft Dynamics Community

There is a nice new site for Dynamics here:

If you decide to sign up, please enter my user name, jstraumann, as your referral code!
Irresponsible Journalism

This morning while perusing my news headlines, one jumped out at me:

“Windows Vista Hacked at CanSecWest Conference”

However when I read the full article at

it turns out Vista *was not* hacked, Adobe Flash was! During the hacking contest, apparently the hackers were unable to crack Vista itself, unlike Apple OS X which fell in 1 day. It was only after the rules were amended to allow attacks against 3rd party software that runs on the OS that the flaw was found in Flash.
I do not understand how a publication can allow a headline which is completely untrue!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

“No returns…Exchange only” policies = BAD customer service!!
Some time ago I bought my wife some very expensive French undergarments at a nice local shop. I had guessed at her sizes and when she inevitably went back to the store to look at some other sets, she was told about the “no returns, exchanges only policy”. Today my wife bought some clothes for our 6 year old daughter at a retail shop near us that is part of a chain, and when she went back because the clothes didn’t fit, she was told “no returns…only exchanges.”

So my first piece of advice is to shoppers (caveat emptor and all that) ASK about these policies. Since the undergarments thing my wife and I almost always ask, but she was in a hurry and did not think for a minute that a chain store would have such a policy, but lo and behold, they do.

My next piece of advice is to the retailers to tell them that this is a very bad customer service policy. I think too often stores that sell tangible goods don’t consider themselves as a service business, but let me tell you this…if you sell ANYTHING to customers, you ARE a service business, and service is what keeps people coming back.

I was speaking to a small business owner one day about this topic, and this person said “Well a lot of small retailers cannot afford to have people returning things.” Hmmm, maybe a valid point, but my answer to that is “What can they afford more, someone returning something or someone NEVER coming to their store again?”

In the case of the French undergarments, the product was a very high quality and overall my wife was pleased with it, however I (we) will never shop there again. In my opinion (and I am a customer, therefore I am ALWAYS right J) if I buy something I should have a reasonable amount of time to return it for a full refund if I so choose. I understand if retailers do not want people coming in after 6 months to return things, but how about a 2-week or 1 month policy?

In speaking with some of these retailers, the mind set seems to be that once a sale is made, this policy ensures they keep the sale, but I guarantee in the end it is costing repeat customers. As anyone who works in sales knows, repeat customers are the lifeblood of any business, and for a small business the loss of even one customer can be significant.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I was working on a little callout assembly recently and all went well until I had to hook into the customer's Java web service. I used WSDL.exe to generate a proxy class and was able to successfully instantiate the object and call into the Java web service (thanks Adam!), but I could not for the life of me get the XML right! I needed to pass in CRM account data, which comes into a postcallout in a very nice XML string, but then when I passed that XML string into the java web service it puked. I tried all kinds of fancy .NET methods to build the XML, for example:

System.Xml.XmlDocument mydoc = new System.Xml.XmlDocument();
mydoc.LoadXml("" );
mydoc.LoadXml("" );

XmlElement newElem = mydoc.CreateElement("account_request");
newElem.InnerXml = postImageEntityXml;
mydoc.DocumentElement.AppendChild( newElem );

XmlElement resp = mydoc.CreateElement("response");
newElem.InnerXml = "";mydoc.DocumentElement.AppendChild( resp );

with no joy.

Thankfully, a programmer at the customer lent a hand and as anyone who programs for a living knows, those extra eyes *really* come in handy! The end string that worked looked like this:
String myXML = "" +
"" +
postImageEntityXml +
XmlElement element = mydoc.DocumentElement;

Which without the formatting ended up at 3 lines. Nice. Keep It Sweet and Simple...isn't that what the acronym KISS stands for?? :)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

CRM v4 Unleashed!

The book has been released and is available now:

Friday, March 21, 2008

I got tagged with the latest chain Meme!

Menno has tagged me as part of the latest chain Meme that is going around in the blogosphere!

Here are 8 random facts about me.

Here are the the Meme rules:
Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules.
At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

My 8 things are:
I used to own a pizza shop and coincidentally weighed 260 lbs
I really want to move back to my homeland
I miss playing rugby like a limb, a part of me is gone
My ultimate fantasy is to play for, speak before, whatever...a crowd of 100,000 people
I have had surgery 10 times and am facing #s 11 and 12, yet I am surprisingly upright
An indulgence I only occassionaly allow myself is to buy new books
I have no idea why my wife married me
I miss my parents terribly

Here are the 8 people I would like to see post their 8 random facts:
Jim Glass
Al Fournier
Simon Hutson
Matt Wittemann
Anne Stanton
Michael Höhne
Ben Vollmer
Bill Gates

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

CRM - it's not software, it's a state of mind!!

As someone who works with CRM solutions, my goal is always to help my customers improve their relationships (translate: loyalty) with *their* customers. CRM is not software, it is a state of mind that needs to be practiced by everyone in an organization. Companies must view *every* customer contact as a chance to impress their customers and therefore keep their existing customers, or cultivate new customers. Let me illustrate this with an example.

Our Ford Explorer is getting on a bit in years, and our driver side power window recently broke. While the window would not move up or down, it was wedged in place and so we left it alone whilst our friend who works on our car looked for the parts to fix it. Unfortunately on the weekend we used a valet parking service and the guy, despite the fact that the window button was covered in tape, pressed the button which left the window wedged downward a centimeter or so, resulting in a very pleasant (NOT) whistling noise whilst driving.
So I figured we need to get this sorted out and on Monday morning I called a local Ford dealership. We usually use a dealer a bit far from our house so I decided to try one closer, here is the transcript of that call, names omitted as I do not want to get sued:

Ford guy answers gruffly "Hello?"
Me: "Oh, I was trying to reach X Ford Service"
Ford guy: "This is It"
Me: "Oh, OK. Anyway our power window is broken and I need to get a service appointment to get it sorted out. It's a 2000 Explorer and as far as I can tell the window has detached from the brackets that attach it to the power mechanism...."
Ford guy cuts me off and says "You need parts, I'll transfer you"
Me: "Wait, I want to make a service..." cut off, transferred to Parts
Ford Guy #2, again gruffly: "Hello?"
Me: "Um, I was talking to service and they said they had to transfer me to parts, is this the right department?"
Ford guy #2: "No, this is the body shop"
Me: "Oh, can you transfer me back to service"
Ford guy #2: "No, I don't know how to do that, you have to call back." Hangs up.

You know the expression "You never get a second chance to make a first impression"?!? Wow, what an AWFUL introduction to their dealership. Here they had a golden opportunity to get a new service customer, and possibly a new customer for a new car sometime in the future, and they flat out blew it! No software in the world could help these folks because they don't practice the right attitude of customer service. I have always told my customers that in many ways I think service is more important than sales force automation, as it is service that retains customers and impresses new ones!

So, after this dealership goes through customer relationship training from The Straumann Group - if you're interested in this training you can email me here: - let's see how this scenario *could* play out:
I call:
Ford guy: "Good morning, thanks for calling X Ford, how can I help you today?"
Me: "Hi, I have a problem with a broken power window on my 2000 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer and I need to schedule an appointment to get it looked at"
Ford guy: "Wow a broken window in winter, that cannot be fun! What's your name and phone number sir?"
Me: "John Straumann, 123-456-7890"
Ford guy: "OK Mr. Straumann, I do not see you in our database so it seems you have not been to our location before"
Me: "That's right, I have not"
Ford guy: "Ok Mr Straumann, in that case I am going to waive the initial service fee to check the window. We pride ourselves on our service and we are always happy when we have the chance to meet new Ford owners!"
Me: "That's great, thanks"
Ford guy: "So I have an appointments open at 10 AM and 12 PM today. Do either of those times work for you?"
Me: "Sure, 12 PM is great."
Ford guy: "Perfect, do you need me to send you directions to our store and will you need a ride home from our courtesy van?"
Me: "No I know where you are and I do not need a ride, thanks"
Ford guy: "OK, thanks for calling and we will see you at 12".

Anyone see a difference in the dialog as compared to my actual experience? Now let's take this one step further. This ultra courteous and "proud to be a Ford guy" guy hangs up and begins creating the service request. He notes the car is a 2000 Explorer, and it occurs to him that it being 2008 this car is likely getting on in years....Hmm, could Mr. Straumann be a potential new customer?

Absolutely! It just so happens I am currently looking at new cars, and the Ford Explorer is on our short list because our 2000 ha been rock solid! However in today's very competitive market that short list still has about 10 cars on it, so the manufacturers really need to impress me!

Meanwhile, the Ford guy forwards my info to their star sales guy.

Ok, so now it is 10:30 AM and I get a call:
Ford guy #2: "Mr. Straumann?"
Me: "Yes"
Ford guy #2: "Good morning. This is Peter from X Ford and I work in the new cars sales department. I saw that you are bringing in your Explorer for service today and I wanted to say hello."
Me" "Ah, ok"
Ford guy #2: "Mr Straumann, since your Explorer is a 2000, it occurred to me that you might be considering a new car purchase sometime in the near future. Since your car is going to be in our shop today, I'd like to offer you the use of a 2008 Eddie Bauer Explorer while we fix your car. Would you be interested in that?"
Me: "For sure, that would be great"
Ford guy #2: "That's great, are you coming to our store alone or is your wife coming with you?" Me: "Actually my wife is coming with me"
Ford guy #2: "OK, well we are always happy to meet loyal Ford owners, so since you have had your car for almost 8 years, when you take the 2008 Explorer I will also give you a coupon to have lunch on us! So you and your wife take the car, go have lunch and have fun! Hopefully that will alleviate some of the inconvenience while your window gets fixed, and you can go enjoy a free lunch"
Me: "Wow that's great, thank you very much"
Ford guy #2: "Ok, I will come and see you at the service counter at about 12:10 PM to give you time to get your car checked in."
Me: "Sounds good, see you then."

Wow, what a difference,. Not only am I getting great service from the repairs department, now I am also being courted by the sales department but in a very subtle way. Peter did not call and go straight for the pressure sale, he introduced himself, made it very easy for me to test drive the new Explorer, and bought me lunch. Peter is building a REALTIONSHIP!

Statistics say it costs car manufacturers about $500 just to get someone to walk in the front door of a dealership. In this case the Ford dealer has used a service call to cultivate a potential new customer, and even factoring in the free lunch, their costs are a heck of a lot less than $500!

So at the end of all this of course I might not buy the Ford, the market *is* very competitive, however through the application of Customer Relationship Management principles, this Ford dealership has greatly increased the chances I will buy another Ford Explorer. Further, I will be very likely to relate this story of great service to people I interact with, and everyone knows word-of-mouth is extremely important to anyone in business.

Happy CRMing!