The DNA of a CRM system

In thinking about a generic CRM technology product, I was recently asked what the common components are. Having recently been involved in a high profile government RFP and Vendor Evaluation, I have come up with the following list of common components. I believe these components represent the DNA of a CRM Technology solution.

In thinking about a generic CRM technology product, I was recently asked what the common components are. Having recently been involved in a high profile government RFP and Vendor Evaluation, I have come up with the following list of common components. I believe these components represent the DNA of a CRM Technology solution.

Continue reading “The DNA of a CRM system”

Keeping CRM simple

What is it about the term “CRM”? Why is it so confusing?

Confusing message. Confusing for customers.

If you were new to the topic and had read many of the posts on CRM Groups and Blogs, I’m sure you might find the whole thing to appear highly confusing. There are a number of terms and interpretations that means that the reader may find it hard to form an accurate picture of an overall CRM marketplace. In reply to Ray Brown of , I believe there is the likelihood that this confusion is impacting on the development of best practice in the fast evolving customer space.

First of all, let me be clear about “Best Practice”. There can only be a “Best” practice when it is proven to be the best through both quantitative and qualitative measures. In CRM, how often can a Sales, Marketing or Service process be clearly demonstrated to be “The Best”? I prefer to use the term “leading” practice to imply it is a good practice, well proven but without being THE best.

So how does a lack of clear market identity impact upon leading practice? In my view, it is about ensuring we have a consistent language to ensure we are comparing apples with apples. Let me give an example: What do you, the reader, understand by the term “Email Management”? To some, it relates to the way that you, as a user of email, manages your own emails. To others, it relates to the way an organisation handles the traffic coming in, out and around its organisation. To another subset, Email Management refers to a toolset that often resides in Contact Centre and/or CRM technology which automates the handling of both inbound and outbound customer emails. Same term, different perceptions. Each of these examples will have a different “leading practice”. Certainly the way I manage my emails is far from a leading practice!

When we consider developing leading practices, we need to be clear about what that practice is and against what are we benchmarking?

How do we resolve the confusion to the benefit of both “vendors” and “users” in this space? A common language would be useful but the software vendors have benefitted from the reach and marketing spend in associating the term CRM with software. In its purest form, haven’t organisations been “managing customers” long before the dawn of commerce, let alone computers? Therefore I believe it is too late to redefine the dictionary. It is therefore better for vendors to react to whatever perception is held by a customer and define offerings to meet the demand. CRM vendors need to be increasingly agile to tailor solutions to meet varied demands and preconceptions of customers. During engagements, there is an opportunity to align the perception to the vendors reality but one mustn’t forget that whatever perception is held by the customer is probably appropriate. Therefore, going back to the Email management example, a software vendor might need to ensure that a target customer seeking “Email Management” has the same understanding as they do rather than try to convince them that the terminology is incorrect.

In conclusion, I do not think that CRM should be complicated. It is many things to many people. It can be transactional and interactional. It can be strategic and tactical. Whatever it is, it must not lose sight that the C stands for Customer. It cannot be about just technology. It cannot be about only processes or people. It really affects all 3 and that is where I believe education comes in. However, whether it is Sales Force Automation, Customer Experience Management or Contact Centre improvements, that is all CRM in the eyes of an organisation and we should be flexible enough in our approach to recognise that and react accordingly.

What is a Customer?

Confusion about CRM terminology is exacerbated by confusion over what constitutes a “customer”. Why?

It appears that many businesses are getting confused about the meaning of the word “customer”.

Recently, I travelled on a train and was a “guest” whilst in a hospital I was referred to as a Customer, not a patient.


Surely a Customer is one of these two definitions (from the Oxford Dictionary):

  • a person who buys goods or services from a shop or business:
  • [with adjective] a person of a specified kind with whom one has to deal:

I have observed government departments struggle with this. One example was at a UK Farming Payment Agency paying Agricultural grants and rebates to farmers.
Farmer Giles may be a client with whom the Agency are dealing but he is an applicant (a customer?) yet if Farmer Giles wife called the Agency regarding his affairs, she cannot be a client but an agent of the client? She wasn’t the client but she is not the customer either? And what of those buying something? Neither- both are applying for something and receiving something in return. However, the Agency decided to call them all “customers”. Clear cut?
Not exactly, see my original discussion on the complexities of the Pharmaceutical Industry. CRM software is often based on the premise that a customer has a financial relationship with you. In fact, the customer database tables often were those from financial applications. The trouble now is that customer databases are full of other non trading entities. It is therefore becoming an important “up front” question for organisations to ask “Who and what is a Customer to US?”

The variety of answers across the world explains why CRM means so many different things to different people. I explained my point of view in a previous post.

For those who may be sceptical about this argument, here is a question for you:

Who are the customers for organisations such as:

1. Political Parties

2. Tourism Agencies

3. Car Manufacturers

OK, now ask yourself whether the definition of a customer holds true across all of those examples. This is why each organisation must form its own view of what a customer is.

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