Put the Relationship Back into Your CRM

Put the Relationship Back into Your CRM

CRM technology is more powerful than ever. The features and functionality available from Salesforce and other popular CRM platforms are both expansive and impressive. This is hardly surprising, either; the demand for CRM continues to grow as the majority of businesses center their customer relationship strategies entirely around CRM software. After all, customer relationships are important! Any modern business worth its salt understands that. So all in all, a whopping $11 billion in spent annually on CRM software.

It’s awfully strange, then, that there’s a roughly 60% failure rate in CRM implementations—a figure that’s barely budged since the late nineties.

What’s gone wrong?

The problem here is almost tragic in its simplicity: companies are forgetting about that all-important “R” in CRM. Customer relationship management is about relationships, and CRM software exists to facilitate those relationships. Customer relationships can’t be cultivated by software alone, no matter how fancy.

It’s not enough, then, to simply pick a CRM software and set it running. Nor is it enough to leave CRM entirely in the hands of IT. CEOs need to get involved in setting out a specific strategy and goals for an organization’s customer relationships, with CRM software simply being the tools used to make that strategy happen.

What is needed for a CRM strategy to succeed is a comprehensive vision. There are dozens of effective business-customer relationship models. The first question to examine is, which one best characterizes how your customers see your business? Do they see your company as an old friend, a passionate fling, a servant, or something else entirely?

How customers see their relationship with an organization sets the groundwork for what they want and expect from their interactions with that organization—and violating these expectations can alienate consumers. A customer that wants to be treated as a friend will be offended by interactions that seem impersonal. Conversely, if a customer wants a purely transactional experience, they will find overtures of friendship or other personal touches off-putting. It’s critical to gauge exactly how customers are relating to your brand.

This is one place where good CRM software comes in—in the right hands and with the right direction, the data they store can be mined to yield information on not just who your customers are but how they communicate to and about your company.

Once you know what kind of relationship customers have with your organization, you can set to work on reinforcing and supporting this relationship, or, if necessary, morphing it into a more profitable one.

It’s important to bear in mind that straight sales figures should not be the only gauge of whether or not a relationship is “profitable.” Building an engaged community is equally important. You don’t just want to know whether people are spending money and how much—you need to know how often they’re logging on to your site, whether or not they are creating content, and if they are discussing your brand or referring new customers. Here, again, good CRM software can help.

Even the most powerful tool has to be used properly to be any good. Getting the most out of CRM software requires a human touch to guide and oversee a fully realized CRM strategy.