Your CRM Is Probably A Fossil

Customer relationship management concept man selecting CRM

Customer relationship management (CRM) is always evolving and after two decades it’s still being redefined today. Who knows what CRM will look like in the future, but SugarCRM’s Veronica Mikhail, shows how far management of customer relationships has come.

Some say CRM is mature and its functionality is firmly defined.  I disagree, and I think that view encourages the ‘set and forget’ mindset that can turn CRM into a white woolly mammoth, that is, a long forgotten, hulking cumbersome beast that no one looks at anymore.

Just as our brains evolved to get us to our ‘wise and thinking’ sapient state, so has CRM. It’s been shaped by discoveries and new tools, becoming increasingly complex and social.

CRM now handles critical information in the same way other core business systems do, and it’s hard to think of smart businesses surviving without it.

Today, CRM is the intelligent brain driving engagement across the entire customer experience and helpfully joining up marketing, sales and service.

Innovations have been fuelled by opportunities and challenges, and I’m sure there will be plenty of each still to come. CRM’s evolutionary trajectory shows no signs of slowing, changing as we change, constantly improving.

Fast adaptation is the key, and only the fittest will thrive.

Here’s a look at how it’s evolved over the years.

it’s responded to challenges

The evolution of the human brain is a nice analogy: the oldest ‘reptile’ part of our brain controls our basic vital functions, and over millennia – as we faced new challenges and opportunities – our brains rewired and improved upon the original core, to handle increasingly sophisticated cognitive processing, learning, collaboration and communication.

Sound familiar? CRM is evolving from rudimentary contact management and database marketing, into a highly complex enabler for understanding, collaborating, building relationships and professional socialising.

it has responded to opportunities

With the arrival of the Internet, CRM accelerated, allowing businesses to plug into our lives and build a detailed picture of who we are and what we want. More recently, the age of mobile has given CRM another boost, extending it to the very edges of business.

CRM has made itself a very sharp tool for gaining advantage, but plenty of organisations still have an outdated view of what CRM can do – thinking it’s merely a sales force automation or lead generation tool went out eons ago.

it’s reacted to catastrophes

Large scale extinction events happen regularly in the business space, think the dot com bubble and more recently the global financial crisis, which sent a lot of CRM players into tricky territory. Those who survived adapted quickly to provide things the market wanted – like flexible licensing, ‘CRM as a Service’ and cloud-based CRM.

These innovations made CRM much more accessible.

Social intelligence

It’s argued that social interactions boost evolutionary brain growth. More social animals – like humans, dolphins and ants – have proportionately larger brains – or so we tell ourselves.

Social has had the same effect on CRM. Socially-developed open source CRM boosted it through open participation, and the explosion of social media has seen a massive leap in the engagement power of CRM. If businesses aren’t utilising these new social CRM tools, they’re falling behind.

Back to the individual

Yes CRM helps us understand individual customers better, but a new twist is that we’re also starting to really focus on the individuals using CRM on the business end.

The next great leap is shaping CRM specifically for each and every person using CRM so its true potential is realised.

tips to keep up with the evolving Crm

  • Go beyond the basics – use CRM as a strategic tool
  • Keep an open mind about your CRM
  • Keep an eye on CRM innovations
  • Be ready to evolve your CRM to meet new opportunities and challenge

Veronica Mikhail is the marketing director, APAC at software company SugarCRM.