CRM Is Not About The Customer!
David Armano passes on a Bain report that highlights widespread executive fears about the commoditisation of their products, their lack of contact with their customers and a disconnect between company goals and internal culture. No surprises there, but it then goes on to explain that
Executive anxieties about losing touch with their customers is driving higher and higher usage of customer tools such as CRM and segmentation.
Translated, this means they're focussing on the customer by analysing them to death, segmenting them into easy to swallow chunks and implicitly serving some less well.
CRM is all too often about pushing out to customers who don't really want a relationship with you - they have enough relationships in their time-poor real life. They want to be able to have a conversation with you when they see fit (to "pull" you towards them) and they want you to enthuse them with everything you do, but they don't want a relationship.
The management word is also a problem, it's riddled with the sense of control - customers should not be managed, they should be served. Live by that dictum and you're halfway there. By all means create efficient systems that manage your business, but their goal should be to better serve the customer.
You want to ensure you have such a presence in the marketplace that customers are drawn to you, that you stand for something they like, and that you produce something they want, the way they want it - all without restriction, irritating delay or segmentatation.
You don't segment customers, they segment themselves via behaviours and worldviews that are beyond your control.They segment themselves by choosing to enagage with you and you better be ready to engage right back. Customer Enthusiasm Management, as posited in a recent Harvard Business Review, seems to me to be a much better thought.
The fears about commodification and culture as strategy are crucial issues, but CRM is not the answer. Targetting falsely designated groupings more efficiently will not make your product any less of a commodity (great customer service after all should be a given) nor will it motivate your staff to provide that all pervasive enthusiasm that typifies businesses that get it right.
CRM is all about reports, efficiency and CRM software, it's not about the customer. And that's a problem.