Remember the good old days? You needed a quart of milk so you went to “The Store” (remember The Store, more on that in a moment) and bought one. Your choices were large or small; regular or skim and that was about it. Today? “The Store” is one of many you might choose from: Hyper-Market- types that you drive to and less expensive (mostly); Convenience Market-types that you pass on a commute or are close to your home and usually more expensive; Specialty Markets that may have milk and if they do it’s very expensive and beautifully packaged; Web Stores where I can enter the information 24/7 and hopefully fits the carton on my doorstep when I asked for it; Organic Markets where you can milk the cows…you get the picture.

Buying a quart of milk is suddenly complex. Or is it?

For the consumer it actually can be simple. I want a quart of milk. I know what type I want. I know its price. And, I know where to go to buy it.

The complexity lies with the retailer who has to vie for consumer attention across an ever growing landscape of choices in both product and service.

CRM—Customers Really Manage—simplicity…. You, the buyer can be in control by limiting your choice and knowing what you want.

CRM—Customer Relationship Marketing—complex…the retailer needs to know a lot about you; has to make key assumptions; requires a huge technology infrastructure…or maybe not.

Let’s go back to the original—“The Store”—stores that our parents or grandparents went to. Walk in with me…… “Hi David, two quarts of skim milk? Would you like some chocolate syrup with that? How’s the misses? Your kids are getting big. ”.

WOW!! Remember that kind of treatment?? What a CRM program they must have had in place!

And, long before computers, they did. It was called service. And they based it on the simple notion that the best competitive action, in a world where anyone could sell a gallon of milk was to make you, the buyer, feel special, feel your business was wanted and appreciated. We all like to go to a place where we are known.

Fast forward to today. Check out all the stories on service. The new “discovery” in retail is that service is important. Analysts are writing about it. Trainers are making killings with it. Hands are being wrung over how to implement, and in short, a new wave of technology will soon be unleashed.

Here is the truth as I see it:

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works.” – John Gaule

The complex system of algorithms and models, of the web and all its digital siblings, of CRM in all its iterations, is like nothing we have ever seen. Or is it?

Neither simple nor complex is the best desired state. One does not necessarily trump the other.

However, if we understand the simple and remain true to its power (in this case service) and build on what works well, then as we evolve what works will only work better and the next generation will have a new simple system to build on – think on that!

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