Rethinking CRM: Provide Customers the Information They Care about in a Seamless Fashion

Customers Don’t Want to Be Managed; They Do Want Good Experiences and Outcomes

August 21, 2008

What's the secret to a successful CRM strategy? Provide a seamless cross-touchpoint, cross-channel and cross-lifecycle experience. Let your customers manage their relationships with you, not the other way around. We recommend that you focus first on customer service, not on sales or marketing. Why? Customers (or prospective customers) will provide you the most information when they need help from you in selecting, evaluating, purchasing, learning, using or optimizing a product or service. They're much more likely to provide rich information about their situation and context when they're looking for help. Today, the scope of a CRM strategy extends well beyond marketing, sales and service. Successful CRM initiatives give customers visibility into all the back-end processes that may impact their experience. We've identified five customer-critical requirements that should be part of your CRM game plan.


Expand your thinking about customer relationship management to embrace customer experience management and customer-managed relationships. Customers don’t want you to manage their relationships; they do want you to manage their end-to-end experiences with your brand.

What’s the right CRM strategy?

1. Streamline customers’ activities across interaction touchpoints, distribution channels, and functional or product silos to make it easy for customers to do business with you and easy for customers to reach their goals.

2. Maintain and link customers’ information across silos, touchpoints, and distribution channels so that customers can access a comprehensive picture of their transactions and interactions with you and the products and services they’ve purchased and are using.

3. Give customers easy self-service access to the information you have about their accounts, transactions, and interactions with you and your partners.

4. If they opt in to personalized service, make relevant offers to customers based on their context, transactions, and interactions and give them easy opportunities to correct any misinformation or assumptions you are making about their interests or needs.

5. Start by providing customer-critical information and tools to your prospects and customers. Then provide that same information, along with additional value-added services, to the associates and partners who serve those customers.

Where’s the biggest bang for the buck in CRM? Our vote goes to cross-channel customer service. You’ll reduce your costs to serve, you’ll gain valuable customer insights, you’ll improve customer experience, and you’ll increase revenues and profitability.

Make sure to include your customers’ ROI in your ROI calculations. Measure how much time, aggravation, and money you’re saving your customers and prospects as you streamline their access to the information they need in order to manage their relationships with you and your business partners.

This report is an Updated Classic. An earlier version of the report was published on April 1, 2004.


CRM Isn’t the Right Term, But We’re Stuck with It

At some point in the early 2000s, customer relationship management (CRM) became synonymous in many peoples’ minds with sales force automation (SFA). We’re not sure how that came about—perhaps it was due to the mindshare and market share of Siebel Systems in large enterprise accounts. Because of the dominance that Siebel attained, and because Siebel’s original heritage was sales force automation, many people around the world equateed CRM with Siebel and, by association, with SFA.

We, at the Patricia Seybold Group, have never equated CRM primarily with sales force automation or opportunity management. We view CRM as the acronym that most organizations use to describe their customer-centric strategies and the business processes and technology infrastructure they use to support those strategies.

What Does CRM Mean to Your Organization?

In most companies today, the term CRM is used as a catchall for any or all of the following:

•Provide a 360-degree view of our customers to our employees.

•Deliver personalized marketing offers and promotions.

•Increase customer profitability by better targeting our marketing and sales programs.

•Improve customer loyalty.

•Enhance customer satisfaction by not asking customers for information we already (should) have about them.

•Target and acquire new, profitable customers.

•Improve our sales pipeline management.

Notice that, while managing our sales pipeline appears on many companies’ lists of CRM goals, it’s usually not the first thing that comes to mind (except, perhaps, to the EVP of sales). Notice, too, that typically missing from most companies’ lists of strategic CRM objectives is the one that probably impacts your customers the most: Improve cross-channel customer service!

What Would You Like CRM to Mean to Your Organization?

We work every day with business executives and professionals who are passionate customer advocates. They have dedicated their careers to transforming their various enterprises to be more customer-centric and more customer friendly. When they talk about their own goals and objectives, they say...

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