Customer Relationship Management, or “CRM” as most people know it, is that dirty little acronym that loosely brands a wide array of software packages under the same, very large umbrella. The watered down “CRM” category is comfortably applied to a wide range of business applications which can range from call center management software, to e-commerce storefronts, and even artificial intelligence packages that hone in on consumer buying habits.
“Front Office” CRM is the more classic depiction of CRM and one most familiar to the majority of businesses as it’s primarily focused on addressing the sales, marketing and service objectives required by many companies. When “Front Office” CRM was unveiled to the business market it was an epiphany for many businesses. After all, it’s predecessors were Contact Managers, which subsequently evolved into Sales Force Automation (SFA) applications; both of which were oftentimes not accessible from the internet and required some mechanism of synchronization (that rarely worked) for offline use of CRM data – aspects that were very counterproductive for salespeople.
The concept of “Front Office” CRM has served many businesses very well, but it has also failed many organizations resulting in costly implementations and the all too common negative return on investment. Like most new technologies, this market has expanded rapidly and evolved with the age of the Internet, overall market maturity and lessons learned.
A New Era of CRM
A new era of CRM has emerged; one where businesses define the relationships that are most important to them and mold the application to their specific needs. Gone are the days of being force fed the cookie cutter sales, marketing and service aspects often found in “Front Office” CRM. Now businesses can configure an application that works for them and without a degree in Computer Science.
This new era of CRM is focused on relationship management. Some in the industry call it “XRM” because the X factor can mean any relationship important for a business to manage information around. After all, isn’t every business characterized and defined as the interactions between people, products, services and money? Yes, the customer is the pinnacle aspect for every business, the ultimate brass ring; and no one is arguing this will ever change. But if a business is unable to efficiently manage the information and interactions between the people, products, services and money it will be much more difficult to acquire and retain the ultimate goal; the customer.
This paradigm shift from CRM to XRM takes the focus away from the software application and straight to the underlying foundation of the application; the software platform. Businesses can define the people, money and things that matter most to them and define the interactions between these relationships. More importantly, they invest in a software platform and define the underpinnings for an application that works the way their business works, streamlines their operational workflow, and manages the specific relationships pertinent to their business.
In this new era of relationship management, the CRM software vendors that once reveled in the days of “Front Office” CRM applications are quickly disappearing from the CRM landscape.
Only a very few software vendors will emerge as the leaders in the XRM or relationship management space. Success will come to those who have always been focused on the software platform but have also served as leaders in the application space as well.
Microsoft is one of the few software vendors that re-focused their CRM application strategy back toward the software platform, specifically for their line of business management solutions for financial, supply chain and customer relationship management, the latter referring to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM product.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM embodies the concept of XRM since it’s ultimately a development platform with shrink wrapped CRM functionality for Sales, Service, Marketing and Analytics. But it’s the platform which allows businesses to define their own X factor.
- An Insurance agency focused on providing employee benefit plans would need to manage the relationships between clients, quotes, policies, carriers, policy rates, producers and commissions.
- A Christmas tree broker would need to manage the relationships between farms, trees, truck distributors, retail locations and orders.
- A Wealth Management company might need to manage relationships between clients, portfolio accounts, legal instruments and family relationships.
These examples are just a testament to the value of investing in a flexible XRM platform for any business or organization. And now that businesses are able to configure a rich application in line with their own specific needs, nomenclature, and workflow the return on investment can be companywide and not just focused on specific department silos.
In the case of Microsoft, its platform allows for the seamless integration with Microsoft Outlook and the other Office applications, is accessible from the internet, can work offline in the same way Outlook works offline and employs a powerful workflow engine. Even though it comes with the traditional pre-packaged CRM bells and whistles, it’s the platform it sits on top of that businesses are investing in. It’s the platform that businesses use as the foundation for configuring a relationship management solution with their X factors in mind. This is a game changer in the world of traditional CRM.