Telescope: CRM For Mummies

|February 3, 2014 0

Pratima H

WASHINGTON, USA: The soiree had started at the intended hour – amidst imposing chandeliers, floating caviars, stiff-lipped Dukes, diamond-handcuffed Ladies, wine libations, predictable conversations, unpredictable waltz injuries and the whole enchilada.

General Brand was enjoying the view over a deep-mulled cigar when Duchess Marketing accosted him with a deliberate impish question. “So, everything seems well punctuated here General? Nothing that indulges your qualms at this huge gathering?”

He stubbed the last flicker out of his pipe and graciously escorted her to the ballroom. “Here, this will allow you an appropriate view of this delightful mise-en-scene. Why should I be bothered any longer? My strategy has played out remarkably well. Today, everyone is kind to join us at this Ball. Towards your right is Sir Analytics. Dancing with him, in perfect rhythm as you will surely observe is Lady Mobility. The gentleman standing there in the corner is Mr. Legacy, he is still trying to acclimatize himself with some new friends here but I surmise he will bond about soon. And that pretty girl with Mrs. Digital as the chaperone is Miss Social 2.0. She has apparently just come of age and her parents are keen on distinguished suitors already.”

The Duchess chuckled and enquired, “But I do not see Miss Consumer and her beaux yet. And why are those two knights standing like strangers? Sir CMO and Sir CIO seem a bit frazzled. I can hear scimitars being drawn already.”

The remark had poked General Brand well, as intended. He chose not to accommodate her jibes and continued the rest of the dance rather solemnly. But he had been noticing for quite some time already that the young soldier who had almost saved his life in the last battle was conspicuous by his absence for the last hour. “Why is that chap CRM missing,” he mumbled to himself.

As if, in response to his question, the loyal butler of the family emerged out of nowhere and dashed towards the General. He did not spare any pretended civility as he elbowed him towards a corner and whispered, “My Lord, a rather disturbing situation has presently manifested itself. Your beloved soldier CRM is lying half dead in the balcony. He is vomiting profusely, please expedite.”

The party somehow sensed the turmoil in a matter of minutes and soon smelling salts and vicious guesses were flitting about. Everyone stood dispersed in chaotic huddles until the General arrived in the hall with a grave look and piercing eyes.

A solemn gaze like that was enough to make everyone look guilty of the felony even though only one of them could have perpetrated the odd murder.

“Poor CRM. This was supposed to be his first party after a long ordeal of sorts. And yet someone here bore as much malice towards that young kid as to drug his Scotch viciously. The Apothecary has no doubt that it was done right here and just a few minutes back. I am afraid I will strongly suggest everyone here to not move an inch until a thorough investigation is concluded.”

“That won’t be required though. I know who tried to kill CRM.” Someone interjected with a confident and calm voice.


All heads and eyes turned to this intriguing guest. But Paul Greenberg was busy adjusting his stoic glasses reading a piece of paper and was ignorant of all the attention. His astute demeanor and un-distracted indifference made it hard to guess if he was the illustrious author and expert specialist many knew him as or if he was an ace detective in disguise.

Greenberg was already walking up to the General with a glass of Scotch half full. “General, the killer is right here. May I point this glass in the right direction if you allow now?”

Everyone gasped at his assured footwork and glaring eye-movement. Someone among them had done it. But why? And how? The suspense was asphyxiating some of them already.

Paul answered the puzzle. While legacy IT may accuse digital CIOs who in turn may implicate CMOs for botching up CRM, and all this time Social CRM or mobility keeps slipping out of all these hands like eels, the answer is always right before our eyes. It’s not just about integration flaws, industry battles and handshakes, marketing myopia, or time wasted in chewing some hype Bubble-Gums; it’s about who can kill and who can save CRM (not just any imposter but the real McCoy). Let’s unravel this suspense with Paul Greenberg’s years of wisdom in this interview.

It’s about left brains vs. whole brains, marketers vs. mothers, boundaries vs. deeply welded joints, cold handshakes vs. sincere bear hugs, data vs. stories, stalking vs. engaging and targets vs. consumers; if you can discerp it right.

Yes CRM may still be saved. And no, the killer is not always the butler. Read on.

CRM is enveloped with friends and foes of all shades. How do you see CRM from your glasses? Are marketers, vendors, and even users doing it right? What if it does more harm than good?

CRM is interesting than before. It can personalize an interaction without being personal. This can touch not only products or solutions but also experiences. Automation is not bad if handled appropriately. A customer need not be delighted at all times and this is contrary to what most marketers assume. Around ninety per cent of the time, a customer would be ok with just having things done. This is the area where enquiries, orders, transactions etc happen. Don’t tell her the price or how wonderful she is or what more is possible. Just give her what she wants. Period! This is the operational side of CRM, anticipating needs and getting action. I call CRM as that big science about figuring out human interactions every day. People like to make it complex, but it is not.

Is it safe to conjecture that CRM may finally help marketers fill those cracks around cognitive dissonance or psychological layers of a purchase, PLC (Product Life Cycle) issues and the long-wished perfect aperture moment?

Finding the perfect aperture is possible when you can know as much possible about the customer and can tailor your message. A customer is not just a demographic segment or a profession or a geography-description. One person houses so many hobbies, interests, associations, beliefs, followings, ambitions and what not. How can you possibly describe her as just a Sec B housewife, for example! Smart CRM tracks a lot and offers the right answer just when the customer is thinking of the question.

But, human beings are human beings and they have their layers and agendas. A customer behavior and values are not necessarily the same as those of a company. A customer values being valued. Both sides are subjective. As a CEO I may think in profitability terms and that’s now how a customer wants or thinks s/he would be benchmarked. Customers are not quantifiable. Show me that I am not a mere number. That’s what they want. They want to be treated as value. If you delight the customer all the time you will go bankrupt and the funny part is that’s not what they want all the time. If you are shopping for something stylish and go to a nice store and someone assists you in adding something great to your wardrobe, you will feel happy and may revisit the store. But if you are being inundated with offers and promotions all the time, it can be irritating. Being bothered is a different thing, and too much attention has its downsides. The customer would know when s/he is treated as an object and when really been valued. It should not be too less or too much, It should be just right. The problem is businesses can not afford that balance. Too many workflows, processes etc ruin it.

(That reminds me of Mike Boysen’s intriguing remarks in one of his posts – Customers don’t have a relationship with a toothbrush. That’s where I am tempted to ask Paul) Where exactly the element of ‘relationships’ stands in a marketer’s life? Is it possible to regain the old-world charm about them?

A lot of things that we used to do in a certain way have changed because of scale. Digital transformation has affected a lot. There are two ways to look at the change – personalization vs. personal. If you want to reach a rural market or a countryside where bandwidth and last-mile are staple issues, why do you want to use the digital clichés? Why not give the distributors some vacation time if they value that more? Why not use their trucks as vehicles for your messages instead of digital signage just because this is what everyone else is doing everywhere else? Context matters and that’s where we should tweak things. I love the world we are living in right now. It’s so damn cool and amazing. People are good, by and large. You can expect good things from them. I am glad we are living in an era where we can see the results of great ideas. CRM fits this era.

Let’s slide back to an abstract level here. Where does all this leave brands and their so-often criticized transcendence? What about things that evangelists like Naomi Klein argue? What about anti-consumerism and anti-capitalism?

Marketing is a funny thing. Our radar is usually limited to advertising which entails a lot of creativity in ensuring you remember a good ad. The problem is that people start from a suspicion when it comes to marketing and they are wondering ‘all they want to do is sell me something’. Marketing in its traditional times was prized and valued, much more than now, because it was the first line of connection with a customer.

Is it possible for CRM to conk off as a cost centre (when handled the wrong way) in the usually stereotyped revenue centre called marketing function?

Wrong ways of CRM can actually destroy a marketer. Or let me rephrase that. Companies that do it wrong can come to a point so damaging that people look at them and say – what the heck they are doing? They may not necessarily go bankrupt because of it but they may garner wrong attention or lack of right attention. People have to resonate with the message. That does not happen with short-term chases. What you say should be aligned with customer outcomes. Break the mould of saying ‘this is my crap, buy it.’

Is Social CRM really going to be as consequential as it is anticipated to be? How much of an Afflatus effect can it have on big CRM suites and their vendors?

There is nothing hyperbolic about it and it’s high time we stooped distinguishing social CRM from traditional CRM.


I wrote some posts quite early enough on this obsession around the so-called CRM 2.0. There is no choice but to incorporate this part into your strategy and radar. The life and footprint of a young consumer crosses seven different channels today. We have created that distinction around social CRM. It’s no more relevant now. If you look at operational suites of CRM, there are companies that are CRMish and there are those that make customer engagement work. The traditional formats won’t suffice and the world is not s it was five years back and social is not experimental anymore. It is part of the matrix. You should respond to changes with appropriate protocols and etiquettes.

Are you happy to be in this CRM universe the way it is? What trends can you hint at when we look at 2014?

My journey to here has been full of turns and interesting roads. My resolution was to be a good person and make a contribution in an impactful way. It’s a combination of understanding how anomalies work, trying to be a good person and expressing my opinions. Something that makes people remember me as a good man who did what he could. I strongly subscribe to this belief that all human beings are good and there is nothing wrong with being self-entrusted. We all have hopes, dreams, stresses, ideas and every person is a different journey. It is a different road on how to have a happy life but that’s all we want.

We have the right to make that journey the way we want. No one does things they hate. That is what that makes CRM interesting. Can we anticipate behaviors and interactions and do something about making the experience better? Can we go beyond transactions, POS tactics, and data sets? Can we really understand a customer and his/her story? How can we use CRM if we are unable to act upon insights and stories? We will see more peer-to-peer stuff happening this year. I am excited about 2014 and it’s going to be a great time to be alive. Keep your eyes open!

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