CRM - It's Personal

By Kathryn Sharfman on 2009/04/07

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has matured over the years. It was once commonly defined as software to manage sales leads and not much else but has now become a recognised business methodology for helping to shape and form an organisation.
Here's an outline of my personal journey with CRM.

Where My Relationship With CRM Started

Back in the day, I worked with CRM software when it was mostly used to manage leads and the sales cycle. Some examples of my projects:

  • Sales management - managing contacts and interactions efficiently to free up time for the personal value-add.
  • Optimising marketing campaigns - testing various lead response mechanisms from initial contact to conversion.
  • Streamlining how the organisation retained and developed customers and stakeholders with in-built quality control and end-to-end process management.

The above initiatives are now called Management CRM.

Fast Forward to 2005

When Dell experienced Dell Hell, they addressed the situation with CRM. Dell acknowledged the importance of its customers and demonstrated it was not only listening, but engaging and developing its proposition from that dialogue.

The Dell Hell case study put paid to pigeon-holing CRM with the narrow definition of "sales software". CRM was to make or break Dell's situation. CRM had graduated.

And Today

In essence, there are at least 3 established forms of CRM:

Management CRM - the golden oldie, the tools that allow us to interact with customers effectively. Keeping it personal, freeing up time for value-added human interaction.

Analytical CRM - insight into customer needs. For online development, we use site analytics (including sales funnels), heat mapping and overall customer journeys in relation to an organisation's goals. We can optimise lead generation and sales campaigns based on the insights we gain from measurement and tracking.

Operational CRM - the development of customer-led interaction and tools, based on customer needs. Analytical CRM informs the development of Operational CRM. For new development, we understand the current needs and requirements in order to address what we need to improve on or change. The applications for Operational CRM are unlimited.

Now it's Really Personal

Be it personalisation, customisation, customer-centric or customer-driven, organisations are listening, learning and responding to the needs of their customers to develop their proposition. I wonder what Abraham Maslow would think if he knew how much we relied on his hierarchy of needs!

Analytical and Operational CRM are allowing organisations to innovate and try to stay ahead of competition.

Who would have thought that you would be able to check in online for your flight and choose your own seat before it became industry standard? And how much better will Amazon get at tempting me with books and music I might like to buy? I would however like them to realise I bought the Dolly Parton CD as a gift for my aunt, not for myself, and that I don't need to be offered more Country and Western titles! I'm sure this gripe has been added to Amazon's ongoing development programme.

Management CRM has joined the Social Media scene. Tools like Salesforce are integrated with Facebook for new levels of personal customer insight. Casual communication (poking, nudging and tweeting) now generates leads. People unwittingly share their private details and those of their own contacts in a social setting, maybe not realising they are someone's next sales opportunity.

CRM and I have been in a long relationship now. My personal thoughts are:

  • As a manager, you need a system to manage a team to address everyone working in their own way. This helps consistency of service and a process that works. But your team needs to embrace CRM too.
  • As a brand, you want the customer experience to be as consistent as possible and the reputation to be reinforced.
  • As a business, you want the insights into the behaviour so you can develop your strategies for growing the business. What are the trends? What segments of your target audience do you need to prioritise? How can you convert and cross-sell more effectively?
  • And as a "customer", you want to manage the relationship too.
  • Ultimately, we can call it CRM but it is still about communication, understanding your audience, having empathy and treating humans with respect.
  • If your organisation's end product falls short, you can have the best CRM solution in the world and it will still fall short.

Where will my relationship with CRM take me over the next few years? I have heard talk of Relationship CRM but I think that is jargon overkill - Relationship Customer Relationship Management. It'll never catch on...

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