December 21, 2000, 1:21 PM — Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a strong example of a company that not only has an expansive view of its customers but is also focused on meeting their needs and retaining them. Enterprise counts among its customers both people who rent vehicles and insurance companies that provide referrals. And the com-pany has created impressive systems to ensure that it is meeting the needs of these distinct groups as closely as possible.
It's important to note that the company didn't just mobilize around its customers from a technology standpoint. It also provided tangible incentives to employees to become customer focused, and made it as simple as possible for employees and insurance companies to access and work with Enterprise's systems.
Enterprise understands that technology on its own does little to ensure the success of any customer initiative. IT can make a significant contribution, but it can only do so with the right company culture and the appropriate processes in place to make that technology work for the benefit of the customer. Enterprise did what it felt was best for its customers and its business, and effectively boosted the bottom line as a result.
Some of the lessons to be learned from Enterprise should be applied with caution, however. Customer satisfaction as a metric for success works well in this case, given the nature of Enterprise's rental car business. But in other industries customer satisfaction does not necessarily equal loyalty (particularly in markets characterized by significant pricing changes or product/technology enhancements). Likewise, a paradox of CRM in an age of packaged software is the fact that some of the most effective current CRM models to date have been largely internal, IT-driven efforts. Internet poster children like Dell and Amazon.com have shunned off-the-shelf CRM packages or customized them heavily, viewing their internal development capabilities as a competitive advantage. Enterprise has done the same.
Companies not blessed with such formidable internal resources can work with outside providers. But they should pay close attention to the process and culture issues that make these companies successful, and not fixate on the shiny technology wrapping on the package.