Isn’t It All CRM?

As i read this recent post from Mike Boysen, I had a flashback to twenty years ago.  Mike raised some very compelling questions and burning issues with respect to the success of CRM.  A few quotes from the first few paragraphs of his post set the tone.

“…numerous studies have shown that the impact of CRM on an organization’s performance is simply not where one would expect, given the enormous investments companies are making.”

“The simple truth is that technology, by itself, cannot create business outcomes.”

Spot on.  So here’s the thing.  I completed my first SFA (sales force automation) project in 1987.  And after…well I lost count of the number of CRM projects…the questions about enterprise, and more importantly, customer value haven’t really changed in more than two decades.  Companies, customers of CRM, have spend countless billions of dollars on CRM technology.  And as Mike rightfully questions, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of consensus on the value that has been created from this investment.  Mike goes on in his post to suggest specific changes that the CRM industry should consider to address this customer value dilemma.

I would argue that the responsibility is not at the feet of the CRM industry, but falls squarely in the lap of the enterprise customers of the CRM industry.  Since those early days, concept of the “customer-centric enterprise” has been top of mind.  How many organizations have achieved it?  Those that have, haven’t done it through the delivery of a CRM application on a desktop.

They’ve done it through core values, culture and strategies that include every traditionally silo’d function in the enterprise as part of the customer-centric business model.  That’s not just sales, marketing and customer service.  That’s finance, HR, logistics, manufacturing.  Every enterprise function.  Every enterprise function has an impact on the customer experience.  Every one.

So, until enterprises can clearly articulate and implement their customer-centric business model, is it really incumbent upon the CRM industry to take any different path than its currently on?


  1. CRM systems are by design transactionally-focused. Business outcomes like loyalty and NPS are more relational in nature. Most CRM developers are adding social media modules to their platforms to do a better job of capturing the relational side of customer interactions, but most of them work only on a macro level.
    I really like the idea of using social media at the call center level, and using it to obtain a better view of the individual customer. The trick is to pull social streams and data about each individual caller in
    real time as they contact the service organization, so that the CSR has a complete view of the caller’s social influence and history while on the call. Seeing the caller’s recent tweets and facebook posts, and knowing their social reach and influence while they are interacting with the customer would lead to more meaningful interaction and targeted follow up.

    • Thanks for the comment Ron. And interesting observation. I’m not sure CRM systems are inherently designed as transactional. In my experience, its often more the way they are implemented and the business processes that they are applied to that are transactional. Way back in the early days of CRM, when it was SFA, the whole goal was to deliver a better enterprise view of the BtoB relationship. Yes, the sales opportunity was the transaction and at the root of the hierarchy. But, then along came companies like Janna Systems who’s data model put the contact at the root of the hierarchy. By definition a contact-centric hierarchy has to be relationship driven. Its also practical to early loyalty through a series of transactions. Or even one transaction for that matter. “Not sure that I will, but if I ever have the need to buy X again, I’ll buy from those guys” NPS is a satisfaction measure and does not necessarily measure loyalty. It measures reference-ability. That can happen via a one-time transaction.

      Your view of pulling social profiles and streams into CRM and the contact centers makes perfect sense. This is why we see so many CRM vendors trying now to bolt on these capabilities. And I would suggest that, while influence is a factor in treatment, activities streams (where I cam from, where I’m going on line) can be an even more important analytic in real-time treatment.

      thanks again. I hope to see you back

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