The words “but of course CRM is not a technology” prompted a collective sigh of relief from the audience. The speaker hadn’t fallen into the trap of committing the ultimate CRM sin and assuming that CRM technology could fix a business problem. The room was wise to mistakes of first generation CRM. I remember many moments like this, listening to vendors speak at conferences for example, pitching their products before inserting the appropriate “CRM is not a technology” caveat. Over the years I’d like to think I’ve had a fairly balanced view of what CRM technology can deliver and the importance of investing in complimentary capabilities like customer vision & strategy, people & change etc. (see my posts on “Software doesn’t build relationships, people do” or “the emperor’s new social CRM clothes”). 10 or so years ago I used to recite stories of organizations who “did” CRM without technology – the clichéd local store manager who remembered his customers individually, understood their needs and tailored his offering to suit. This sort of story was a reaction against technology-centric CRM. It translated into the importance of thinking from the customer’s perspective and defining a customer proposition before looking at technology and other enabling capabilities. However, sometimes I think the backlash against CRM/ Social CRM technology (whatever you want to call it) has gone too far. I see organizations that totally separate their business function from their technology department. The business defines its vision, its requirements, its priorities and its timescales and then throws them over the fence for the IT department to interpret and deliver. As digital has swept through our lives I no longer believe it’s possible for the vast majority of organizations to deliver on their customer proposition without technology (even my local independent corner shop has a Facebook page where they promote special offers and promotions from other local businesses!). Customers are interacting with organizations and with each other online, through smartphones & tablet PCs, through social networking sites, apps, consumer review sites and group purchasing sites; not forgetting of course, all the traditional channels. Moreover, technology has now become an enabler to create a differentiated customer proposition not just enable a set of requirements. Technology can help identify customer needs the business was not previously aware of and create new ways to help customers complete the jobs they are trying to do when they interact with an organization. To take advantage of digital and not get out-maneuvered by smaller, more nimble start-ups, left brain and right brain must work together as one. The silo that we built up as a backlash against first generation, technology-centric (failed) CRM, must now be broken down. Of course this doesn’t mean jumping to technology for the sake of technology. Of course this doesn’t mean that technology is a silver bullet that magically improve customer relationships. But if you don’t have people in the same room who understand both the customer experience / proposition / creative etc AND the latest technology / integration / security etc then success is much more difficult to achieve.
Cross-posted from www.thecustomerevolution.com