CRM Must Evolve To 'Customer Experience' Or Become Mere Back-end Database

Tony Hughes


I was engaged late last year to lead some round table forums with over 100 organizations across multiple cities in Australia. In the sessions we actively discussed the role of CRM in creating Customer eXperience (CX) and the half-day workshops were created by The Eventful Group who are holding a major CRM conference in July, 2015 where I hope to be a keynote speaker.

One common theme in the workshops I led was that CRM is a dirty word. CRM failure rates are claimed to be anywhere from 33% to 70%. This infographic from Dun and Bradstreet says it all.

Almost unanimously, people said that they positioned a CRM initiative internally as a system for creating a 'single source of the truth' or a '360 degree view of the customer'. That's smart because CEOs don't want yet another software system in their business but they do want the outcome it can deliver.

Some people say that people don't want to buy a drill, they want a hole. I disagree; people actually want their picture hanging on the wall. CRM is no different. CXOs want what the system can do for them and that must be the focus. But the single biggest mistake that enterprises make in implementing CRM systems is that they neglect their internal and external customers.

Every CRM should be implemented to serve sales people and customers, whether they be channel partners or end-users and consumers. The big questions must be: How will the system serve the sales person - how will it help them sell more effectively? Strategy is important but designing Customer eXperience (CX) is where you create clarity in use-cases and functional requirements. The devil is very much in the detail. The goal of any CRM implementation must be to serve internal and external users, rather than be a uber big brother reporting tool.

The delegates at the round table forums provided lots of interesting feedback and here are the things they believe need to be addressed to ensure success and long-term ROI for CX initiatives:

  • Design and deliver a customer centric culture right across your business - produce a team culture that focuses on continuous learning and training, looking to continually evolve and improve
  • Provide a clear and articulated vision with attainable values for the future - "live by them and not just preach them"
  • Methods to change the engrained behaviors and habits of staff with years of experience who are "set in their ways" or who've said "we've tried that before and it didn't work"
  • Making the appropriate decisions without adverse impact on the end customer experience
  • Remove the silos within your organization - organizations with siloed functions and departments work independently but have a significant impact on the overall customer experience
  • Overcoming fear and intimidation - what if my team don't follow the process - it could be catastrophic!!
  • Committing everyone to customer centricity - how you get everyone moving in the same direction
  • Engaging different generations to embrace new processes and technology available to them
  • How providing clear up-stream - and down-stream communication of "why" the new processes are in place can influence usage and accuracy of data quality
  • Coping with evolving systems' training needs - upgrades, new developments and design changes
  • Ensuring the customer focus from training and methodologies remain "top of mind" when staff are in their roles
  • "Everyone is a customer" - using personal experiences, positive or negative, to apply within your own work
  • Finding, attracting and retaining the right individuals for your business, when the skills aren't always available

I certainly agree and here are my top 5 recommendations:

  1. CRM must be strategy, not a technology
  2. Design end-to-end customer [and channel partner] experience
  3. Embrace the concept of mash-ups for best of breed capabilities
  4. Design for sales process enablement and sales person efficiency
  5. Ensure you're measuring the right things (inputs)

CRM failure rates are high so don't allow technology to hijack your customer relationship management strategy! Technology is merely an enabler of processes and service levels.

Real leadership is needed and executive commitment to CX (Customer eXperience) is essential... message to CEO: You need to change your job descprition; obsessively focus on CX rather than CRM.


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at

Main image photo by: Xenosmilus hodsonae. Florida Museum of Natural History Fossil Hall at the University of Florida


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