Customer Relationship Management technology, otherwise known as CRM, has been around for over 20 years now, as a process to manage, track, monitor and analyse a customer’s call centre experience. As early as 1993, US-based consultants and authors Martha Rogers and Don Peppers were credited with the birth of the CRM revolution with the publication of their first book on the subject The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time.
The book, which was heralded as the “bible of the new marketing” by Business Week, focused on the importance of speaking to the customer on a more personal level and responding to their specific and individual needs when support is needed.
For many businesses at the time this new type of customer communication, which shifted the emphasis from a ‘one to many’ to a ‘one to one’ approach, was revolutionary and heralded a new era of customer focus. This has continued to evolve and develop over the last two decades, moving from simply tracking the customer relationship to being more concerned with the actual experience.
Technology has of course continued to improve CRM functionality, and we now have at our fingertips more information about our customers than we ever thought possible. Crucially, this information can be saved and managed using user-friendly interfaces that automate many previously laborious tasks. The challenge for today’s CRM users is how to make best and most efficient use of this data and the interactions we have with our customers. We need to ensure we are not simply gathering information for the sake of it and that the information we are gathering is the most relevant to the outreach we then engage in.
CRM platforms are continuing to evolve, with the functionality of the software constantly improving. However, the frequency of the updates have prompted some in the industry to question if there is now too much functionality on offer and whether the proposition has become too complex. After 20 years at the customer coalface there are suggestions that CRM software should become more fragmented and focused on specific customer contact areas.
But perhaps the most important question for businesses today is whether to move beyond their internally focused CRM systems to more externally focused customer experience methods. After all, today’s customer does not expect to be managed, but to be communicated with on a personal level as part of a more efficient overall service. The customer experience is no longer a supplementary concern, but a crucial service that can actually make a competitive difference to a business. In the 21st century, perhaps CRM is only part of the solution?