The Evolution of CRM

Adding one of my old blog posts here. The CRM industry is over 20 years old. We’ve come a long way.
CRM is about delivering customer happiness and helping people.
Evolution of CRM

Sometimes I daydream. I think too much about the environment. In order to keep the boat afloat I worry about increasing sales. When I can’t increase sales or my technical relevance, I think about lowering costs.

I recite this mantra daily: Be nice, increase sales/relevance, lower costs, reduce carbon footprint

I live in the world of information as it pertains to customer relationships. In simplest terms, CRM is a model for managing existing and future customers. The goal is to capture the wealth of customer info and systematically offer a solution that meets customer needs. This process used to be low tech, high touch. It’s now high tech, high touch. Customers can learn rapidly and become self-aware about their goals. It’s my job to make them faster, stronger and more efficient. If there was an analogy to cars, all customers wanted a Ferrari or Mercedes during the roaring 90s. Almost everyone bought premium CRM products from Siebel (part of Oracle). Then they realized a Honda would suffice. There was a proliferation of cheaper CRM products. A new kind of CRM company emerged from the 2000s bloodletting. Based in the  ‘cloud’, it was called Salesforce.  It was cheaper, easy to use and less impactful on the environment.  Soon everyone got their Prius.

Now everyone wants a Tesla. Customer intimacy is the new objective in 2013. Customers can quickly identify best-in-breed products by simple web searches. Key contacts are reachable using Linkedin or Facebook. In the information age, almost anyone can become tech-savvy overnight. Knowledge and technical fluency is subject to the whims of the internet where 15 year old whiz kids can build world-class products and outgun MBAs.  It’s possible to become irrelevant just as fast.

The good news is that CRM is evolving into a platform for ubiquitous customer awareness. Not only do we have to be aware of customer preferences but we need to aware of their exposure and impact to the environment. Environmental catastrophes will impact customer mindsets and whether they want to “buy” or “sell.” For example it’s known that bad weather typically increases customer support needs even if there is not a technical outage. Customers have to be caressed 24×7 or they will go with plan B.

Fortunately customer data is now available at one’s fingertips on a smartphone, 24×7. Customer data is being pushed to us through in-house systems and various social media channels. With a few clicks (the ‘like’ button), customer intentions can be deciphered. The pull model of traditional CRM and manual data entry is going away. Large enterprises which are still dependent  on the “always be closing” modus operandi will disappear. The new sales/service mantra is “always be helping.” And this can happen with a few clicks.

The Tesla has finally arrived.  New CRM tools like Linkedin offer a plethora of data and help connect the dots. There are now sites where customers know more about you than yourself.  The infrastructure holding the information age together is increasingly being hosted by energy efficient data centers run by Facebook, Google and Apple. And most customers want to lower their carbon footprint and prefer to do business with someone aligned with their values.

The most promising trend in the age of customer intimacy is how CRM thought leaders like Marc Benioff are increasingly partnering with spiritual gurus (Deepak Chopra) and life coaches (Tony Robbins). The transactional mindset of sealing the deal is being replaced by helping someone advance personally or professionally. Who would have believed in 1993 (when Siebel got started) that CRM would go the way of Bob Marley?

“Live for yourself and you will live in vain. Live for others and you will live again.”
– Bob Marley


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