Tuesday, December 6, 2022

CRM – The Cruise Ship of Pleasure?

Okay, let’s simply start out by admitting that CRM is complex, and becomes more so the greater the size of the enterprise. To the many entities who have been or are involved in the realm of CRM, don’t take a sigh of relief just yet that you have been, or can be, exonerated because of that complexity….on the contrary you are held even more accountable for the effective and efficient running of the ship because of it.

I have in the past posted some very pointed questions on various CRM groups boards. It is amazing the preponderance of responses that have ruffled some feathers. Why? Let’s just describe it as protected and vested self-serving interests. But they did also serve to get me thinking about their misaligned perspectives the realignment of which is an essential ingredient in righting the ship.

CRM, and its’ contemporary (and Father) is the category known as Contact Managers (CM). Rare is it to hear salespeople complain about using CM’s, from which the companies employing CM’s also benefit and derive all of the expected benefits from. The proof? The salespeople proudly proclaim its benefits and that they couldn’t live without it. Not so with many CRM systems. Have you ever heard of an enterpise-level salesperson touting the indispensability of their CRM system? I haven’t, and I have been around plenty of these dissatisfied and reluctant warriors. This in part, as my opening sentence indicated, is due to a much greater complexity of an enterprise organization from that of a small-to-medium size business. You would think, however, that CRM buyers would apply the elements to their CRM system that CM companies and its’ users have successfully done so with in order to achieve enthusiastic adoption and resultant benefit. Is it even possible to do so? I think so, if we take a look at a cruise ship ecosystem and consider the reason that every element of that ship must have for the intended outcome of pleasure.

Let’s compare CM’s to speed boats, sport cruisers, and heck, even “small” yachts, and lets equate CRM systems to cruise ships. It is evident the distinction. The smaller crafts are agile, require less resources to operate, are maneuverable and operate more in a self-reliant and less-dependent environment. Essentially, the owner and/or user of these crafts finds that it is totally suited to their lifestyle and as a result derives much enjoyment and use from it, as well as others invited to share in that experience as well. And, of course, their costs are miniscule compared to cruise ships. But they can’t accommodate the enormity of people that the cruise ships can. When one thinks of going on a cruise, it is easy to conjure up the image of being waited on 24/7, with virtually every delight available to make the trip a memorable one which serves to produce positive word-of-mouth and thus repeat business. After all, the cruise ship is designed for one purpose – total delight and user experience – of its customer who let’s not forget is part and parcel of that same ecosystem. The layers of comparison though begin to come off here when CRM is compared to a cruise ship as I believe too often in the CRM realm that the salesforce is not seen, nor treated as, the true customer of CRM systems. Big mistake. Ask just about anybody who the true beneficiary is of a CRM system, and the answer will likely be the company’s (external) customer.

Considering the ecosystem required, however, to run that cruise ship requires an interlinked system of staff and support in order to produce this repeated business through the real value that the customer derives. And, the travelers want to take advantage of nearly every service offered them because of this dedication to their pleasurable experience. Now, I know comparing cruise ships and CRM systems seems an unlikely pairing, but the concept is clear. So the question is, why don’t CRM systems, intended for the sales organization (first and foremost after which marketing and customer support services are to also benefit), produce similar results of pleasure that cruise ship customers do?

The answer lies in this simple comparison. Cruise ships, with their many working parts, are completely designed to provide their customer with an unburdened experience and do not expect the customer to do their work because they (the customer) too are part of that ecosystem. The customer is there to exploit those staff services. Conversely, the enterprises and various factions within them that employ CRM systems do not have the perspective, and often not the attitude, that they are there to also provide their “CRM customer” (the salesforce) with an unburdened and pleasurable experience as well. It is as if in this case that the customer is there to support them with all the demands of what the rest of the ecosystem wants. Hardly in this case then a pleasurable journey inviting its full use by “the customer”.

Just imagine a cruise ship employee expecting you the passenger to do their work…

Mike Muhney is the Co-inventor of ACT! which was the software application that was the foundation of Contact Management and CRM.  After the acquisition of ACT! by Symantec, Mike founded several ventures specialized in Contact Management, Relationships Management, and CRM as well as serving as an international Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting focused on their CRM practice.  As one of the pioneers and prominent authorities in this field, he has a broad and deep understanding of the problems, the needs, and the trends in this market.  Specifically, he recognizes that current solutions from low-end address books to high-end CRMs are all based on a centralized database that creates a silo, which is the culprit of poor data (i.e., incomplete, incorrect, unreliable, outdated, redundant, etc.) and he addresses these and other longstanding issues as a public speaker today.