Do You Need CRM to Deliver Superior Customer Service?

Businesses today are grappling with figuring out how their brick and mortar stores fit into their digital strategies. And, the challenge is very real. Consider this from McKinsey: “It is essential for stores to digitize in order to meet the increased customer expectations now a reality in an always-on, whatever-you-want world. More than 60 percent of Americans have a smartphone and 80 percent of these consumers are “smartphone shoppers” – they use their phones to help them shop while in a store, most often to research product reviews, specifications and compare prices.”  The sectors feeling this challenge most acutely are what 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.  
Many business leaders think their companies need a CRM before they can tackle this challenge head on. So why is the C-suite 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 companies would think a CRM would be essential to centralize customer information.

Exploring the Need for CRM

Let’s explore this issue. Assume a company buys a license for a traditional CRM. How does data get into the system?  All traditional (aka B2B) CRMs are built around the model of having the in-house sales person enter data. The company now has its traditional CRM and has likely 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, consumer-facing (or 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. Companies may not need a sales funnel, but they do need to centralize customer information and do so in a way that enables real-time visibility into the customer lifecycle or journey.  Unfortunately, going down the path of implementing a traditional CRM to solve this problem will only create yet another back office database of contact records that requires synchronization.
So, the answer is that a business doesn’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 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.

David Trice is co-founder and CEO of, the leading experience-driven CRM for enterprise. Prior to launching Trice was VP of CRM at Oracle, where he led the launch of Oracle’s Fusion CRM.
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