When CRM Becomes A Meeting Room Buzzword

CRM is a concept that’s essential for any business to fully understand. Unfortunately it’s often misused in the boardroom and other management discussions. In my experience, it’s always a case of two extremes when the topic of CRM comes into meetings:

  • The suits tend to see it as purely a business process.
  • The techies on the other hand, see it as yet another system.

So who’s right? Ironically, both of them are right and wrong at the same time.

As mentioned in Wikipedia:

Customer relationship management is a corporate level strategy, focusing on creating and maintaining relationships with customers. However, CRM is not a technology itself, but rather a holistic approach to an organisation’s philosophy, placing the emphasis firmly on the customer.

Therefore, there’s no specific tool that can provide CRM capabilities to an organisation, regardless what the vendors promised… if you don’t actually build relationships extending trade with your customers.

The reason why I’m writing about CRM is due to an experience I had in a previous meeting regarding my company’s web site initiation process. In this meeting, a key non-IT department brought along an external consultant claiming to be from a marketing background.

This consultant had suggested an almost overall overhaul of the web site, which essentially would transform it from an informative web site, to something which could theoritically make it more interactive.

Foundation wise, this new direction will make the web site user-centric as compared to the initial plan of it being product-centric. Honestly, I find the whole idea to be ridiculous as if this plan was executed according to this consultant’s proposal, the onus would be upon my company to moderate and maintain this web site. Imagine stuffing a property developer’s web site with flash games and forums and a classifieds section. This is to me is very much unnecessary as it moves resources from the core business into a something which is not only unnecessary, but alien to the proposed department which is going to be assigned these new duties.

The funny thing about this whole incident is that the IT head find this whole mumbo-jumbo by the consultant to be an extremely good idea compared to the initial plan. What crushes me the most is this statement he mentioned; “You guys know what this means? We’re now heading towards implementing CRM with this web site project”.

It simply kills me that the involvement of “customers” with this new direction is literally non-existant. Listed below are specific reasons why I state it as so:

  1. Requires potentially messy data migration/synchronisation
    • Customers data need to be converted from a separate database into an undecided database system [Bad points: Unverified data source, Unnecessary Integration, Lack of Business Value]
    • Additional steps to synchronise data and obtain compulsory data which existing customers may not have (eg. email address) [Bad points: Time consuming, Lack of Business Value]
    • May require additional infrastructure and skill-building investments [Bad Points: Becomes a Cost Centre, Decreases mobility]
  2. The cost factor
    • Time [Bad points: Taking an irrecoverable resource away]
    • Money [Bad points: Incurred expenditure are neither core business related nor business support costs]
  3. Ambiguity
    • Pure theorisation based on irrelevant or incompatible technology-business model [Bad points: Disruption of Risk vs Benefit Analysis, Uncharted territories]
    • Blurred roles and responsibilities delegation [Bad points: Skillset incompatibility, Restrategisation costs]

However, as my senior has put it, I may not see the “big picture”. This is probably true, yet I find that using correction fluid to draw it is in essence, a poor execution strategy.

Care to give your two cents?

4 responses to “When CRM Becomes A Meeting Room Buzzword”.

  1. ronnie Says:

    If anyone tells you a website is CRM, they are selling snake oil. Stay away from them. Websites don’t manage relationships. People do.

    My experience in Malaysia is that too often, CEOs say they want all the glowing benefits of CRM but most don’t have the balls to make the required decisions. CRM data has a habit of pointing fingers to the real culprits in the company who may be warlords in their own depts. Try telling the CEOs to fire half their front-line workforce who won’t even use the CRM system properly. Or tell them what’s needed to churn CRM data into meaningful actionables. Then lay back and watch them squirm.

    If your bosses think CRM relies purely on processes, then your company may be doomed. Many CRM projects fail because of one thing – non-compliance of the staff or the incapability of the CEO to make the right decisions based on CRM data. One cannot divorce the people component from a CRM strategy. CEOs don’t like to hear that because many simply don’t know what to do with crappy managers and stubborn employees that may have inherited from previous management. No CRM system can ever fix a human problem.

    There is nothing wrong with a CRM concept. Only that usually, its the company itself that sabotages the success of a CRM implementation because it fails to appreciate how critically work culture is connected to CRM success.

  2. Site Admin Azmeen Says:

    If anyone tells you a website is CRM, they are selling snake oil. Stay away from them. Websites don’t manage relationships. People do.

    I couldn’t agree more. I did mention exactly what you said, although I did avoid the term “snake oil”, when I so much want to say it.

    If your bosses think CRM relies purely on processes, then your company may be doomed. Many CRM projects fail because of one thing – non-compliance of the staff or the incapability of the CEO to make the right decisions based on CRM data.

    Exactly… hence this post 🙂

  3. Hatem Says:

    It’s not a coincidence that our CRM section is the one which receive the highest spam over our network 🙂 Just to say that lot of people who don’t know anything about customer relationship are in love with buzzwords, before going further and talk about incompetence.

    This have been said, CRM could be very positive if it is correctly implemented, it’s not about only having a CRM software at our company. I assisted in many cases that was really harmful.

    In two words CRM is collecting lot of data about your customers and how you can manage it. The questions will be always what kind of data you will collect, and how you’ll manage it to maximize your profit. Step by step, with a good strategy and lot of patience everything should work fine. 🙂

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