CRM, CX and Customer Engagement – three humble wishes to better the industry

CRM, CX and Customer Engagement – three humble wishes to better the industry

The CRM Playaz asked me about my take on CRM for 2023. Of course, I happily supplied an answer …

So, here we are. CRM in terms of concept and software is quite mature, after all it is around for quite some time. It went through some iterations and spun out into other areas, being more transactionally focused, instead of engagement focused. This led to the creation of more software categories, termed customer engagement management or, more recently, customer experience management. This had the potential to create misconceptions and ambiguities, especially when all three categories, customer relationship management, customer engagement and customer experience are looked at. There is confusion across these terms – as there are no generally accepted definitions around – and there is even confusion when looking at the terms individually. 

That made me express three wishes and advice, one for customer relationship management, one for customer experience, and one for customer engagement.

TL;DR – if you do not want to read, here is the video that I created.

Let’s start with CRM

CRM stands for customer relationship management. I do not want to dive into the discussion about whether there is too much focus on the M and not enough on the R. This is certainly worth a discussion of its own. Instead, let me share the observation that, sadly, CRM is far too often used when actually SFA – sales force automation is meant. This is a limited view on CRM that has been introduced mainly by vendors that focus on enabling sales forces and that has gained far too much traction.

Customer relationship management, as a strategy, as a discipline, supported by technology, covers all aspects of marketing, sales, and service. In brief, it supports and enables all customer facing functions. It is therefore so much more than just SFA, sales force automation. This is true, even if only a sales oriented implementation is done. Limiting one’s thinking of CRM to sales force automation is a surefire approach to missing out on a lot of possibilities to improve the life of non-sales customer facing staff.

My wish is to not limit customer relationship management to SFA to enable us to be able to leverage all the possibilities that CRM offers.

Continuing with CX

CX stands for customer experience. It is also the acronym that is used to name a software category. Let us be clear: there is at most one person on the planet – in the universe – who is in charge of their own experience. Yes, the person that actually has an experience. In terms of businesses, this is the customer. The actual experience will differ with the person, with gender, cultural background, education, etc. And for any person, this experience may also very well be different day by day, it might even differ with the time of the day. There is so much context involved in this.

A software system cannot deliver an experience. There is no system of experience whatsoever. A software system can only enable an experience, by being used to engage with the customer with the intent of the customer having a desired experience.

My wish is for both, software vendors and -buyers to not talk of creating experiences but to think about how to successfully use software systems for what they are intended: customer engagement.

Which brings me to CE – customer engagement

Customer engagement is a bi-directional process. And as a company or an organization you have only one side under a semblance of control: your own side. You cannot control how the customer acts or reacts and how the customer engages with you. You as a business can only offer the ways and means, from which the customer does choose. This choice that your organization offers has an impact on how the customer experience’s the interaction with your organization, btw. 

As customer engagement is bi-directional with one half of the process being out of a business’ control, businesses must not consider their own objectives as the reason for the engagement. Instead, they rather need to look at achieving their own objectives as a consequence of the customers achieving theirs. The reason for every engagement, every step in it, is fulfilling a customer need, thereby making the customer successful. A customer who consistently fulfils their needs successfully with the help of a company is a happy customer. Happy customers return.

My wish is that businesses, their managers and employees, understand their success as being a consequence of the success of their customers. Creating happy, satisfied customers is the objective, not the means to become successful oneself.

In this sense I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous year 2023.