Lucy Barrett is quite correct in her observation that very few companies are actually managing to squeeze any return out of their (often quite sizeable) investment in CRM (MW February 7). However, she misses one vital point; investment has to be commensurate with opportunity, but opportunity can vary widely from one sector or company to another.
CRM is not a “one size fits all” solution, in spite of what the software providers might say. At a basic level, the complexity or importance of the purchase decision to the customer should dictate the level and type of relationship a company wants to have with them. For many companies, a simple relationship mailing programme can be far more effective – albeit far less impressive when presenting to the board – than full-scale multichannel management.
I would also advise any company to discriminate within its customer base; most sectors will demonstrate some approximation of Pareto’s curve in terms of customer profitability and so considering how to manage non-profitable customers can be as important as managing your most profitable.
There is a real danger that we spend so much time getting the technology right that we forget about the consumer and the qualitative benefits of CRM in building emotional affinity. Poorly conceived and inappropriate CRM programmes can cost more than wasted investment; they can also cost you the loyalty of valuable customers and prospects.