When I left Oracle, I was haunted by numerous conversations with clients around how their brick and mortar stores fit into their digital strategies. This theme is ultimately what drove our team to create ENGAGE.cx and the Relationship Cloud™.
We have been meeting daily with clients for quite some time now, and I am hearing a similar kind of question once we’ve shown them how ENGAGE.cx is able to drive superior relationships by focusing on customer “in-journey” experiences. As a point of reference, ENGAGE.cx is focused on what our friend and CRM pundit Paul Greenberg calls “the emotional verticals.” These verticals are consumer-facing and include industries like retail, hospitality, travel, financial services, wellness, and healthcare.
Invariably the customers say, “I love what you are doing, but don’t I need a CRM before I can do that?” This is fascinating for a whole host of reasons. But in the end, this statement of need from clients is precisely where ENGAGE.cx fits. So why are they asking this question? The answer is simple: they have never had to buy a CRM in the past. Their point of sale system was the system of record for decades. But, in today’s world, clients now have a marketing database, a social database, an eCommerce database, and a returns database — all in addition to their POS. So, its understandable why customers would think a CRM would be essential to centralize customer information.
Exploring the Need for B2C CRM
Here is our chance to explore this issue. Let’s assume a company buys a license for a traditional CRM (like Salesforce, Dynamics, or Oracle). How does data get into the system? All traditional CRMs are built around the model of having the in-house sales person enter data. (Ok, maybe it’s possible to add the building of integrations to the growing list of other databases to seed data, but we all know where this leads.) The company has its traditional CRM and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a rigid integration of the systems it uses today. But who keeps the customer information up to date in this process? The company is still dependent on sales persons to drive the sales process and update information on the customer in their sales funnel.
The problem is, emotional verticals don’t operate this way. The customer drives the process, and there really isn’t a funnel in the traditional sense. Today, customers engage on their terms, and these interactions should provide the context that enable businesses to respond in real-time. So, if the traditional CRM model still requires an internal sales process, then what is the answer to the CRM question? Companies may not need a sales funnel, but they do need to centralize customer information. Unfortunately, going down the path of implementing a traditional CRM solely for this purpose creates yet another back office database that requires synchronization and was never created to drive better customer experience.
So, in the end, the answer is that you don’t need a CRM in the traditional sense. A static database that is unresponsive to the experience of the customer won’t work today. Those CRMs are relics from a bygone era. Rather, businesses need an active process that empowers companies to respond to customers according to their needs and preferences, right at the precise moment of engagement. This ability to deliver positive experience “in the moment” is the difference between building profitable customer relationships and attracting mere window shoppers.