Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

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.

11 Comments:

Blogger Charles Frith said...

Agreed. CRM's emphasis is on numbers which works to a point. That point is diminishing as people come alive with this age old yet new fangled conversation.

1:51 PM, April 08, 2007  
Blogger Ron Elizondo said...

Hey John, I really liked this post. It's something that has been on my mind for a while now.

What I get from it: The difference between focusing on consumers in trying to get them to be interested and desire one's brand instead of trying to "convince" them (literally, usually trying too much) of doing so, which usually ends up in pushing them away.

Now the real question might be: How to focus on the consumers giving them just what's enough to make them want my brand?

Thanks, nice interesting bits.
Ron E.
http://brandcurve.com

9:35 PM, April 08, 2007  
Anonymous LeightonJ said...

John

I agree with your post. I see CRM too often used as a means to aggregate relationships that a company has with a customer. Unfortunately the busy staff member does not read that content and its context before diving into their telemarketing script.

They key is to understand the customers agenda( wants/needs etc) rather than managements agenda ( based on quarterly KPI's).

As you note, CRM can really work if you understand the customer, what they want, when they want it, where they want to buy it, at a price they find acceptable - all you have to do is treat them well as they go through those steps.

4:49 PM, April 09, 2007  
Anonymous frank said...

CRM has come to represent the systems solution to not understanding your customers from the organisational inside. We should want to manage our relationship with our customers, for their benefit, but we should not want to DO CRM on them.

What was more unpleasant in the source article was the reference to 'loyalty management' - now THAT'S a horrible thought.

9:32 AM, April 11, 2007  
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