While the customer relationship management (CRM) system has had a monumental impact on sales and driven home the concept of a universal system of record across the enterprise, it is not really a system for knowing or managing the health of any given customer. CRM revolves around sales, plain and simple.
CRM has transformed the “black box” of the sales funnel into a strategic, measurable and scalable process. It has brought accountability and dashboard-enriched precision to the enterprise. Of course, there are still challenges. Even the best organizations struggle with data hygiene, and as a result, many CRM systems suffer from incomplete, and often erroneous, data.
As the CEO of Strikedeck, a customer success automation platform, I have experienced firsthand the challenges many of our customers have when attempting to manage their customers’ journey solely from a CRM. This is because the CRM was built to handle structured data in the present era, while all customer interactions are unstructured -- hence, a mismatch, and a need for companies to redefine the systems needed in order to allow their teams the best chance for success.
With consideration to the many benefits a CRM system offers sales teams, it is not meant to be a single solution for both sales and customer success functions.
1. A CRM is meant for sales-oriented tasks.
A CRM is destination-driven. It revolves around the who, what, where and when of selling a product or service, beginning with an opportunity and continuing toward an eventual sale. With such an explicit focus, the CRM dwells on the people, interactions and features that can lead to the successful close of a deal.
However, a CRM is far more concerned with who will buy a product or service, rather than who will use it. While it generally recognizes that there are influencers and others who affect a successful sales outcome, it puts the emphasis on those responsible for decision making. This could mean that someone in procurement may be of greater importance than someone in the group who will ultimately use the product or service on a day-to-day basis.
2. Collecting customer insights is not the CRM’s job.
Customer success results in happier customers who utilize a product or service more fully, with results that align with their business goals and expectations. Along the sales path, there are crucial insights to be gained. Of course, these insights need to be captured, analyzed and shared.
Single data points of insight become far more urgent and meaningful when compounded with additional instances of similar feedback. One customer’s voice may be important to heed, but numerous customers saying the same thing confirms their validity and affirms the need to take them into serious consideration.
A CRM lacks a platform for dealing with customer insights and experience -- it wasn’t designed to do so! The CRM world revolves around sales objectives, and that focus should not be interrupted.
3. A CRM is not meant to be a master customer record.
Business owners want their customer record to be as comprehensive as possible, with multiple attributes including demographics, firmographics, usage data, financial data, marketing data, interaction data and survey data all in one place. Bringing all the data together is a challenge. Usually, there is a debate around which attributes to prioritize and which to drop. Frequently, there is no true owner of the customer record for the entire organization.
A sales-oriented CRM leaves little or no room to store customer data post-sale, and when people have to collect data from various sources, productivity and accuracy are often compromised. As a result, customer happiness may be affected.
Customer success platforms pick up where CRMs leaves off.
Better headings for the CRM market are data hygiene, analytics, intelligent navigation for the selling effort, dynamic playbooks and other functions that serve and enhance the selling process. Customer success, however, is an entirely different discipline from sales. Rather than focusing on the (hopefully) linear path of selling, it is concerned with long-term relationships and more complete use of a product or service. Customer success is concerned with who uses the product, what value they are trying to gain, the problem or challenge they are trying to solve, what impediments or obstacles might deter them, and how they view success.
Many organizations have a customer success function that can, at least nominally, examine these questions and aspects. Unfortunately, most practices revolve around ensuring a customer’s successful onboarding and instilling a basic proficiency of use. All too often, customer success is treated as a check mark of completion, rather than a vital conduit of information and insight. Few CRM systems are designed or used to record post-sales feedback of any depth beyond the initial deployment. Even fewer have a way to make this insight actionable or even guarantee it reaches the right parties in an organization.
CRM and customer success platforms can work in tandem for maximum results.
While the worlds of CRM and customer success are intricately linked and could both be run by sales or revenue-generation groups, customer success should have its own platform that is oriented around the customer.
The best way to get buy-in for a customer success (CS) platform is not to suggest it should replace the CRM, but rather identify the gaps that a CS platform can fill, and show how both platforms can work conjunctly. This will allow all teams accessing both the CRM and the CS platform to stay up to date on the data and updates relevant to their roles.
The importance of having a CRM for sales and a CS tool for customer success is that these tools are built with the daily operational needs of these teams in mind. They don’t need to be customized or made to perform a function that is not native to their use case. In the era of digital transformation, I believe purpose-built platforms will have a big impact on activities, processes, competencies and models for the customer, as well as sales and marketing teams.