About twenty years ago, in a movement that arose from pressure by technology companies pressure, the CRM acronym – Customer Relationship Management – began to appear as a management strategy. This strategy became associated with a consolidation of applications whose concepts had already existed for some time: marketing automation, sales automation and service automation.
In most organizations, marketing, sales, and service areas are still specialty compartments, the applications, although integrated, are still seen as separate pieces of the same puzzle. It is possible that, for this reason, CRM has still not yet taken its place as a management strategy and growth model and continues to be operated in specialty areas such as specific departments or directories, instead of permeating the entire company’s value chain, from engagement to customers’ portfolio profitability.
You are probably thinking, “Okay! Here comes another set of names and definitions to present more of the same thing.” You are partially correct. There is a tendency, coming almost always from technology suppliers, to redefine terms to introduce new solutions or products. And what happened to the old ones that you have just (or not even yet!) set into production? It’s time to stop and think before you continue investing in “more of the same thing.”
Even at the risk of boldness or of being considered pretentious, I dare say that CRM, as it was designed, is about to end. This is not about version changes – CRM 2.0 or 3.0 – but a breakthrough in concepts, a step beyond customer relationship. As a star contracts, it turns into a supernova and explodes emitting a light so intense that it illuminates the space, CRM has established itself as technology and now explodes into a series of integrated competencies that add value and bring tangible results to businesses through strategies and business processes built from them.
The big change refers to transforming departmental relationship processes into integrated strategies, tactics and execution plans that are inserted in organization’s value chain. Customer’s life cycle is no longer departmentally managed and passed from hand to hand through marketing, sales and services campaigns, it becomes part of the company’s engagement, growth and profitability strategy.
Engagement and involvement strategies lead to a spiral where simple knowledge and demand generation is replaced by brand admiration. These are processes that lead individuals, from simple interactions, to the formation of communities that have brand affinity and, consequently, for what that brand offers. Apple, Starbucks, and Google are great examples of this strategy application. Once engaged it is necessary to transform this community loyalty into tangible revenues. The assertiveness and effective conversion challenge emerge. Companies don’t grow unless they have consistent conversion strategies (sales).
Finally, customer-base monetizing strategies, ones that operate through aftermarket and loyalty strategies, transform brand loyalty and those first purchases into a recurring revenue stream where each client or community is a safe and predictable revenue source.
It is a no-going-back movement. After decades confined to “expert bunkers” of specific sales and marketing and service directories, the total customer relationship definitely turns into the company’s growth and profitability strategy.