Technology Advice Why CRM is About Your Customer—Not Your Sales DepartmentCustomer relationship management (CRM) has come a long way since its failure rate of 50 percent in 2001. The latest numbers from Gartner estimate the global CRM market will reach $36.4 billion by 2017.

As more tech savvy millennials enter the workforce and developers produce streamlined, cloud-based products that are easier to implement, the discourse on CRM is shifting. Business managers are less concerned about user adoption and more concerned about how to capitalize on their company’s relationships—that is, how to use CRM software for effective customer engagement.

New Customer, New Challenge

The commerce landscape isn’t shifting; the shift has already happened. By harnessing the power of the web, mobile devices, and social media, consumers have taken control of the conversation. They expect instant access to solutions and service. They expect to be engaged where it’s convenient. And they expect businesses to know their needs and identity.

The traditional CRM approach is concerned with leads, conversions, and contract renewals as ends in themselves. This places the sales team center stage and puts the burden of approach and engagement on the customer. Companies that operate under this model will quickly fall short of modern consumer expectations, and ultimately lose out to competitors.

Already, decision-makers are wising up to the new rules. According to the CMO council, seventy-three percent of marketers now think a strong customer focus is critical to the success of their business.

How To Re-Throne The Customer

If the customer is king, then making the customer the focal point of your CRM strategy will be the quickest route to currying their favor. Here are a few tips for doing just that:

1. Sort out your data: In order to understand customers, you’ll obviously need the right information. If you have a lot of customers, then you’re storing a high volume of information, which means you’ll need effective tools for data mining and analysis. Compare CRM software and choose a product that has business intelligence features and built-in social analytics (called “social crm”). This will help build a 360-degree understanding of every customer. The right analytics (and even basic reporting) can help you turn raw data into meaningful insight. Organizations that lead in data-driven marketing are three times more likely to achieve a competitive advantage in customer engagement and loyalty.

2. Use what you learn to personalize the customer experience: The day that every company utilizes effective analytics will be the day that cold-calling dies. If you’re still trying to sell products and services to strangers, let this be a wake-up call (but not a cold one). The IT market is rife with solutions for getting to know prospects before you make first contact. Marketing automation software helps you nurture and educate; web-capture forms tell you about a prospect’s needs and level of interest; social CRM adds a personal touch. By contextualizing your interactions, you add value for the customer before trying to sell them anything. According to a Customer Experience Impact report, 86 percent of customers would pay more for more meaningful customer experience.

3. Consider CRM software with strong case management or integrated Project Management: Some CRM systems are exclusively sales-focused. Others are designed to manage the entire customer journey across sales, marketing, and service departments. Many of these integrated systems offer built-in project management modules or other features for managing service delivery and issue resolution. With these additional tools at your disposal, you can standardize workflows for service consistency and keep your teams accountable to the promises they make—which, in the end, will make your customers happier.


The new demands of customer engagement don’t require you to undercut your bottom line. Successful software adoption and sales performance are still important metrics for your team, but they shouldn’t be the only focus. In fact, when you use CRM software to prioritize your customer’s satisfaction, you’ll see a bigger overall return-on-investment. A mere two percent increase in customer retention can have the same effect as cutting costs by 10 percent.

The greatest profit doesn’t come from profit-centeredness; it comes from engaging and delighting your customers.