I recently read a quote from a major Customer Relationship Manager provider that said, “Despite all the advancements in technology, sales success is still dependent on one thing, communication.” I’m not sure I fully agree. I would suggest it’s dependent on relationships.

When I talk to people responsible for customers, the discussion invariably gravitates to CRM. And guess what? Most of the people I talk to, hate it. They see CRM as an administrative burden that has been designed as a management and forecasting tool rather than a productivity tool.

Worse still, they see what was promised as a relationship management system as merely a data-dumping place for anything about their customers. T may explain why there are only about 20-30 million users of CRM systems compared to the 200 million users on LinkedIn, which has the emphasis on relationship management.

Now, don’t get me wrong. CRM is a great tool. The dashboards provide wonderful charts of the sales funnel, leads by source campaign, origin of sales, key contact details and a host of other things.

But it appears it may have been misnamed and misrepresented and therefore fallen short of expectations for the very people that deal with customers.

It probably should have been named CDM, Customer Data Management because CRM manages the activities around customer engagement, not customer retention itself. In our constant quest to get data to provide solutions for us, it has largely been forgotten that although CRM is a powerful tool, it can’t create relationships and therefore any sales.

So the piece I feel is missing is the piece about building relationships. What CRMs can’t do is help you understand what your customers think and feel when interactions occur. CRM systems don’t actually track relationships or experiences.

How do we see, in one place,  the role of our key customer contacts and the strengths and weaknesses of our coverage with them? Where is the plan to strengthen our relationship coverage with whom and how?

We still need CRM, but how we can we ensure we keep our CRM but we stop focusing on data and spend more time focusing on building relationships?

We need a Customer Relationship Plan that utilizes all the good stuff in the CRM, but maps our relationships and provides the basis and framework for whom we should be talking to and about what. We need a relationship plan that is specific in its Goals and Key Initiatives and can be measured over time.

Building relationships is fundamental to customer retention and growth. As such, we need to be focused more on the “front end” than the “back end” of our customers business. We need to focus on the customer relationship not the customer data.

Are you finding your CRM gets in the way of building relationships? Do you have a Customer Relationship Plan?

About the Author:

I am the customer relationship mentor, who helps those responsible for their company’s most important customers, to build and maintain their customer relationships and keep them happy, so that they can protect & grow their business.

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