Last week, through a retail client of mine, I was introduced to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool that I will leave nameless. If installed in my client's brick and mortar store, as a customer approached the cash register, they would be asked to enter their mobile phone number on a tablet displayed prominently on the counter.
Every time they returned to the establishment, they would be called upon to repeat this exercise with the promise of future rewards, discounts, and specific sales directed towards them based on their buying habits – all directed through their mobile phone as a text message.
In other words, this CRM system was building a database of customers who over time would be asked to enter additional information such as first and last name, email address and other questions that allow pinpoint targeting.
This retail tool also allows the retailer to reach out to customers who have not visited the store over an extended period of time. These people receive messages such as – "Hey, we miss you! Pay us a visit and save 20% on your next purchase."
As consumers and "Loyalty Club" members, we see this all of the time. At my local grocery store chain, I know that by providing the cashier with my Stop & Shop card, I will receive discounted pricing on certain items as well as gas points. You have to smile when after buying one brand of paper towels, you receive a discount coupon for their competitor. In this case, I am willing to provide detailed accounts of my buying habits in exchange for the savings.
Here is the biggest problem that I see with the CRM system described at the beginning of this post – they are requesting that I provide my mobile phone number.
In a world where both my home phone and business phone receive an overabundance of robo-calls, election surveys, pharmaceutical warnings, fund-raising efforts, vacation sweepstakes, and hang-ups, my mobile phone provides a respite from this audio (and textual) garbage. At the moment, on my cell phone, I receive messages from people that I know, with information that is important to me.
To paraphrase an NRA bumper sticker, "I'll give you my mobile number when you pry it from my cold, dead hand." –Doug.