Customer relationship management is a misnomer – the idea that businesses can manage customer relationships is false – today we are in a customer managed environment.
CRM has been around for quite some time and the history is fairly well known; technology triggered in the early 1990’s, heightened expectations followed, the trough of unfulfilled expectations and benefits followed. Today we have seemingly lower costs of implementation, but in this post-ecstatic-CRM state, caution is still warranted as the alluring value and benefits still exist, but execution is still the challenge.
“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”; from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (1597), that is, a thing is what it is, not what it is called. A rose will still be a rose (its appearance, fragrance, and touch) even if it was called something else. So what about CRM – customer relationship management – what is it, is it still CRM even if we call it something else…?
Let’s accept that CRM is a misnomer – that is, it is something that is called by the wrong name. As a customer, I don’t wake up in the morning wondering about how I can improve my relationship with my Bank or my local coffee shop. Similarly then, for an organisation to think that it can ‘manage’ the relationship with its customers is a bit of a stretch these days.
A lot have things have changed in recent years, particularly how customers behave. Today we are in an environment where our customers are in the driver’s seat, we are in an environment of ‘customer managed relationships’. Customers have access to more information than ever before, to more choices and the ability to act on these choices.
So let’s not think that we can ‘manage’ customer relationships. The best an organisation can do is influence the experience and outcome at each stage of the customer journey and customer lifecycle to an extent where true relationships are established on a mutual exchange of value.
CRM – Customer Relationship Management – by its own name is misleading us. CRM is a misnomer. This inside-out idea that we can ‘manage’ customer relationships is the concept that misleads us in thinking that we can manage a customer, rather than influence. The reality is that we are in a customer managed environment. The control is with the customer.
The customer constantly evaluates the value they receive from businesses, they continually hold organisations accountable to the delivery of their value propositions. So whilst customers may not consider the relationship with their providers and products and services, they do constantly evaluate the value equation, “is this value for money, could I get better value somewhere else..?”
Therefore, even though we may use a piece of technology that we call CRM, let’s not think we can actually manage the customer. Instead, let’s put in the effort to understanding the value our customers are looking for and then let’s design experiences and engagement approaches that deliver value, and therefore maybe we can influence the lifecycle of our customers and therefore the value exchanged.