Type ‘what is CRM’ into your browser of choice and you’ll be presented with any number of responses, all saying that CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is a set of IT systems and software that enable businesses to better serve their customers.
That’s fine, as far as it goes, but it’s hardly the whole story. Even within this narrowest systems definition, CRM brings big benefits:
- It helps companies make sense of big data and wield it productively
- It enables businesses to speak to customers in a consistent yet personal way
- CRM means efficiency, with consistent, effective communications possible on a scale and in a way that simply wouldn’t otherwise be possible
- It lets organisations measure the effectiveness of what they say and the way they say it
Yet CRM is far more than a system…
CRM is how companies segment a customer base and engage with each part of it. It’s how they put the feedback they receive to use. At its best, CRM is the customer experience refined and focused on the small and personal, then used to drive communications.
Yet CRM is more than the customer experience…
The big R
Pick CRM apart and there’s a great big R at the middle of it. That’s appropriate, because relationships are every bit as central to business success as they are to CRM.
“Ah,” you might say, “but people and businesses don’t really form relationships. They’re only pseudo relationships built on mutual convenience.”
In many cases that may be true, but usually that’s more a case of the CRM not being done very well, or the business not truly buying into its relationship building. Think about the inherent trust brands like Virgin, Apple and Jaguar/Land Rover create and the value of real, long lasting business/consumer relationships becomes clear.
But which comes first? Do trusted, respected companies have successful CRM systems and processes because they enjoy a head start in their inherent levels of trust? Or can CRM really transform the relationships a business has with its customers?
Look at it this way: if trusted brands could trade forever on trust alone then they would be exempt to the march of technology (Blockbuster), shifting trends (Woolworth’s) or ‘doing a Ratner’ (Ratners). Today’s biggest brands have no right to remain so – they just happen to be really good at CRM (among many other things).
Yet CRM runs deeper even than relationships…
CRM is why
CRM is more than efficiency and processing power. It’s more than understanding data and marrying it with communication. It’s even more than finding and growing the relationships that sustain you. These are the ‘hows’ of CRM, the nuts and bolts of building personalized, people-to-people experiences.
What is CRM really? It is why. It’s why your customers love you and why they come back. It’s why your customers say good things about you. When things fall between the cracks, CRM (or lack of it) is why they leave you, and the way you harness the power of CRM is why they come back.
Peter Drucker once said, “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” CRM is how you do it.