How CRM has gone from a way of acting, to a type of software and back to an ethos.
Ask any business salesperson or manager what CRM is and chances are you will get an answer which makes some reference to a piece of software a company uses to facilitate sales and track calls etc. within the organisation.
The reality is though, that you do not need software of any kind to have management of your Customer Relationships.
Look back to a time before computers (which is easier for some of us than others) and look at your dealings with companies and organisations at that time and you will see there were still management systems in place, right down to your everyday life.
Chances are that you will, at one time or another in your life, regardless of your age, have gotten to know one of the members of staff at your local shop. Nowadays this may simply be the person on the checkout who you exchange regular pleasantries with; asking how your children are, or one of the deli counter staff; who remembers that you prefer a certain cheese.
And it’s specifically this type of relationship which I am referring to.
These people don’t have computer systems or mobile applications to remind the checkout clerk that your child is at the same primary school as theirs. The deli counter doesn’t have a web-enabled PC or tablet allowing quick access to your details to see that you prefer a mild cheddar over a French brie, nor do they need to.
We often hear people harping back to days gone by, when “life was simpler” and where you could “spend an hour talking to the owner of the corner shop without worrying your life was slipping past”. It’s a way of life many people try to recreate, with retro-style shops appearing on the high streets giving that “old-fashioned” service we apparently all crave, helping us reminisce on our youth and an allegedly “better” time.
Back in the day, it may simply have been a notebook out of site behind the counter of the shop which allowed not only information to be stored about key customers (for example, Mrs. Bloom’s birthday is on 7th November). This allowed personalisation to the degree that when Mrs Bloom came in on that date, the shopkeeper could beam a cheery “Happy Birthday” as they would have looked at the book in the morning as part of their daily routine. It also allowed the shopkeeper to keep a tally of how much goods “The Blooms” had on their family “slate” which the shopkeeper knew always got paid at the end of the month, when Mr Bloom would come in to buy his monthly magazine. It also listed Mr Bloom’s particular preference of brand of pipe tobacco; and in these “simpler” times, there was never any worry about the notebooks being stolen and information shared to people we didn’t know. In most cases, the only people who would have been interested in the information in the book probably already knew anyway due to the closeness of the community they lived in.
That, I believe, is where the need changed. As personal transportation came down in price and increased in frequency, so the number of people in our social circles grew. No longer were families restricted to living in the same village for 5 generations. New horizons and opportunities suddenly became closer and the relative size of the world shrank. At that point simply remembering a lot of the information relevant to those we were in contact with became a lot more difficult.
And so we find ourselves in an age where everything happens at such a rate that it becomes difficult to keep up with everything we have to do. Multi-tasking has become the keyword of the last 20 years, another sign that we are doing (or at least thing we’re doing) more in the same amount of time.
As computers, mobile phones and technology advance, it is inevitable that it will become more and more central to our daily lives (I wonder if Henry Ford ever imagined the amount and diversity of transport on our roads back in the early 20th Century) and will continue to integrate themselves deeper into the human evolution.
It becomes obvious then, with this in mind, that a technology-based CRM system is going to be necessary as your organisation moves forward and it is important to ensure that the vendor you choose also has an understanding of what is not only required today, but also allows you to move and evolve the system as your organisation and needs change. More and more companies are realising that being able to have an insight into their customers lives via Social Media and networking is not only a way of understanding their customers better, but also tapping into potential sales markets that already exist which the customer, or potential customer is already talking about.
Finding a CRM solution which allows for this growth and development from the start, as well as including Social Media integration (under the SocialCRM buzzword), will give the possibility to gain access to a knowledgeable resource who can assist in ensuring that this evolution does not leave you with a dinosaur as your primary business resource.