What CRM is and what it should be

The good thing with acronyms is that they are easy to remember. Their weakness is that it’s easy to forget their meaning. Let’s consider CRM for instance, it means “Customer relationship management”. I repeat customer relationship management.

If we have a closer look, we are forced to admit that CRM has been lead astray to become, in the best case, a sales enablement tool and in the worse case a reporting tool to provide informations to sales managers without any benefits for the salespeople who have reluctance to update the data and often both this tedious task.

Don’t blame the tools. It’s the notion of customer relationship that’s been lead astray. Tools only followed the trend.

So, customer relationship would be nothing more than a series of interactions in a negociation process which has to end with a closing. Notice that if we’re talking of acquiring new customers the word customer itself is not relevant : they are prospect who’ll become customers after the closing. That means that the relationship with the so called customer may be more or less strong, from the existing client that has to be developped in a known context to the new prospect whom very few things are known about with a a very weak historical. Depending on the industry, it may even be someone who does not know the company at all and who only needs a connection to connect with the seller. That’s for the “customer”.

Then, what’s about relationship. Customer relationship is about selling, what is the final purpose of any company. But is that all ? Is there possible to do other things with a client, an actual or potential prospect ? I don’t know….gather feedbacks about products, competitors (most of times the prospect also contacts the competitors, maybe he’s already done some business with them), the discours, the image of the brand… These are informations with a high added value provided a business wants and organizes itself to take the most of it. I was recently told “at the end some prospects sign with our competitors but the time we invested was worth : they told us our weaknesses, what made the difference etc… and since we didn’t threw them out when they said “no” we are still keeping an informal relationship with them and maybe one day…”. That’s far away from the “he does not sign…this [email protected]%@! is making us loose our time, get rid of him” that can be head in many places. Selling is the essential part of customer relationship, but that’s not the only one.

Players who  take a part in the customer relationship are, on the seller ‘s side, salespeople, marketing people but also product directors. The purpose is not only to “push” the message and execute the methodology but also to continuously “pull” (listen and learn to improve) : waiting 8 month to assess anything is too long, feedbacks have to be taken into account on the flow until they reach a critical and coherent mass that will say “something has to be made”.

This takes us back to social CRM, a concept that identified as value creating and will doubtlessly be a hot topic in 2010. But, since it’s a new approach and more than a simple makeover, being successful implies a clear understanding of the objective, of its meaning and implication. Some recent discussions gave me the evidence that old reflexes die hard and the risk of reusing the good old tricks and turn a social CRM project into a (socially qualified) harassment and lead generation tool is not trivial at all. The conversation reported in this note is edifying even if I thing that a tool that helps managing the relationhship side would be of uany use for whom does not want to go this way.

Anyone who wants to start a social CRM project has to keep in mind its deep meaning in order not to see other distort it and decrease its value through successive adjustments.

After all, CRM was social by nature and was only waiting for tools to improve and behaviors to change to push its logic to its end.

clients, Communautés, CRM, Innovation, relation, relation client, social crm, vente

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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