Multiple Conversations Taking Place At a Corporate Event

“We manage” doesn’t inspire much confidence, does it? Take the following interaction, for instance:

Question: How do you attract and engage new clients while making sure your existing clients are happy?

Answer: Oh, we manage.

Sure, you won’t find many executives who would respond this candidly. You will, however, find plenty of companies that take the “we manage” approach with one of its most valuable assets: relationships.

In her post, Customer Relationship Automation Is the New CRM, Harvard Business Review contributor Clara Shih explains the limitations of traditional CRM.

“I run an enterprise technology company, and we’ve seen just how consistently data can be used to help improve sales,” says Shih. “But for all its good intentions to provide sales managers with a way to monitor pipeline and sales activity, we all know that CRM is still hugely inefficient. Reps are required to spend time manually entering data, and then spend more time searching through it. While senior management clearly values the ability to monitor reps through CRM, the vast majority of sales people dislike the extra work and overhead it creates and generally use CRM begrudgingly – and rarely to its full potential.”

CRM still misses end user expectations
As someone dedicated to helping companies overcome CRM adoption struggles, Shih’s thoughts on CRM represent an all-too-common refrain from the end-user side of the equation. The fact is, sales and business development teams, for the most part, have always seen the CRM as a management device. The value flows one way. And when you consider that revenue generators already only spend a fraction of their time on actual revenue-generating activities, it’s no wonder why CRMs get neglected – it’s no wonder why CRMs don’t fulfill their initial promise of making companies smarter and more efficient.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that CRM hasn’t served a specific, much-needed purpose: record management. It’s just that CRM buyers expected much more than a cloud-based contact repository with integration capabilities and better UX than a spreadsheet. They expected relationship intelligence. (Note: your company may refer to it as relationship data, customer relationship intelligence, or client relationship intelligence).

The management problem of customer relationship management
Let’s get back to record management for a moment. By definition, managing something takes time and effort. It’s why companies hire “managers” and pay them for the sole function of “managing.” So with CRM, you’re asking revenue producers to manage records. That takes time and costs your company in hard dollars and opportunity lost. Then, to get value from CRM, sales and business development reps need to search for the information. That also takes time.

Without wide-scale adoption, there’s only so much value that can be derived from CRM, which creates a perpetual loop of record mismanagement – doing just enough to satisfy the demands of superiors, but not enough to create a smarter organization where predictive analytics and collaboration can exist.

This perpetual loop is solved when customer relationship management (CRM) becomes customer relationship automation (CRA).

  1. With customer relationship automation, the company’s revenue producers finally realize benefits of CRM in three distinct ways:
    They spend very little time managing contact and account records. It’s done for them.
  2. Because CRM adoption is essentially automated, the data becomes timelier and more comprehensive. Reps can actually use this data to change how clients think and act.
  3. They don’t have to dig for relationship data. It’s automatically delivered before they need it. Sales and business development reps only need to open an email to be “data-driven.”

Now that we’ve covered the transition from CRM to CRA that allows true relationship intelligence to exist, let’s examine the four traits of relationship intelligence:

It’s automated. Automation removes human error and apathy from the equation so that relevant contact and account information is captured from both internal and external sources.

It’s packaged. It’s designed so that end users can easily understand the relationship data and use it to accomplish objectives. After all, what good is unintelligible intelligence?

It’s delivered. It gets used because end users do not need to spend time searching for relationship data. It’s delivered in customizable formats via preferred, ubiquitous platforms such as email and mobile.

It’s predictive. It answers the most important question for end users: Is this relationship moving in the right direction? If not, and if a client is at risk, relationship intelligence warns end users before it’s too late, and provides the intelligence needed to take corrective action for a specific contact or account.