The vision for CRM at most companies is too small because of the success of Siebel and then Salesforce.com, which defined CRM as a way to track and manage the sales process, essentially as sales force automation (SFA). In this model, CRM is inflicted on the sales staff for the benefit of the managers of a company. CRM becomes a big to-do list that does little to help increase more sales. This sort of tracking is a great help in running a boiler room operation in which the sales staff is driven to keep up a high level of activity without much regard for quality of the actions taken.
With the addition of social business capabilities like Salesforce Chatter or integrations between CRM systems and Jive Software or Microsoft Yammer, the information about the sales process becomes distributed to a wider audience through a news feed. The awareness that comes from broadcasting updates about sales activity for specific opportunities can provide for help in closing sales, but the process remains essentially internally focused.
In a recent conversation with Larry Augustin, CEO of SugarCRM, who has a significant stake in the success of both CRM and customer-centric social business, I received the outline of a new vision for CRM, one that is far more focused on providing increased quality in the process of selling and of serving the customer. If your company writes a big check for CRM, but doesn’t do much with it besides track sales, this vision may hold the key to getting much more out of your investment.
Larry Augustin’s Grand Vision for Customer-centric CRM
Augustin thinks that limiting CRM to sales force automation represents small thinking that vastly undersells the opportunity to use CRM effectively. “It is time for CRM to stop being so inwardly focused,” said Augustin. “Instead of sales force automation, CRM should live up to its name and start helping every single person who interacts with customers do a better job of serving them.”
Completing this vision means expanding what CRM typically does in several ways.
- The amount of information collected about the customer must increase dramatically, according to Augustin. “Instead of just having an order history, we must seek to expand the customer record to include everything that we know about the customer,” said Augustin. “In essence, we must combine the type of customer profile that is typically used by marketers or customer service apps and include that in CRM.”
- Contextual information must be expanded so that an individual customer’s behavior can be compared to the norm. “It is vital that the largest possible set of information, including external sources when possible, be used to create a more inclusive profiles to quickly reveal to users what is unique about the customer,” said Augustin. “For example, when a company shows that they ‘know’ me on a personal level without being creepy, I tend to feel more valued, and typically respond to those personalized messages.”
- The reach CRM of must be dramatically expanded to new populations of users who interact with the customers. “It is ridiculous to limit CRM to sales. In my view, every clerk walking the floor of a store, every customer service rep, every repair technician, receptionists – essentially everyone that interacts with a customer should have a view of the customer provided by CRM. Through our research we believe that for every user of CRM, there are at least 25 customer-facing individuals not using CRM, but they should,” said Augustin. “It’s not just about upselling, but about how to make the customer happier.”
- Real-time data, big data, and data from the Internet of things will all play a role in expanding the customer profile. “Some signals from this broader set of information will be volatile and only useful for a short time,” said Augustin. “Others will become part of the permanent record.”
- While CRM in its current form is used quite frequently from mobile apps, the new apps that are created to support the larger vision must also be mobile. “The ability to rapidly and affordably create custom mobile apps for each audience of the broader vision of CRM will become a differentiator,” said Augustin.