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It's time to face it - CRM is poor at communication design

Rob Daleman
Posted by Rob Daleman VP, Corporate Marketing Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - 20:49

Rob brings over 18 years of industry experience in technology marketing – both direct and channel, to his position at Quadient. Previously, Rob led Marketing at Avaya Canada, go to market for medium businesses at Dell Canada and brings marketing, finance, manufacturing and logistics experience from his time at Maple Leaf Foods. An avid composer and musician, Rob continues to combine digital and social media to drive awareness and consideration in the B2B marketplace. Rob holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business.

Customer Experience Update
Frustrated designer yelling at laptop

I remember being part of many debates back in the early 2000s regarding the value of CRM solutions - and whether organizations really needed them in the technology stack.  Fast forward to 2017 and you 'd be hard pressed to find an enterprise that has not incorporated CRM as a foundational system in their business.  As we saw during last week's blog, has experienced a decade of exponential growth that highlights the continued reliance on CRM as a core technology for businesses today.

In a 2017 survey conducted by CloudCraze, 67% of respondents indicated that their primary purposes for CRM data is to enhance the user experience - indicating that companies understand the value of their current customers and are looking to leverage CRM to create better experiences - promoting cross sell and upsell opportunities that deepen relationships with customers.  

Purposes for referencing CRM Data

But when we examine the results of the benefits that CRM Solutions bring to businesses, the answers have very little to do with customer experience.  According to a 2016 survey by Insightly, the primary benefits are improved efficiency at 73%, and improved productivity at 57%.  

Metrics that would be impacted by a better customer experience - in particular "Happier customers/clients" rated much lower on the list of benefits - coming in at 12% of respondents.  

Ways CRM Improves Overall Business

If CRM solutions are primarily seen as strong drivers of customer experience, why aren't they working?  If we look at the results of a business report from the UK conducted by Wiraya, it appears to be because marketers are targeting the use of CRM data into the wrong channels.  3 of the top 4 channels they leverage are primarily aimed at prospecting for new customers, and not at supporting new customers and customer experience.  Strong customer focused channels, including postal mailing, telemarketing and email rate lower on the overall list of channels.  Why is this the case?

Change in Usage of Select CRM Communication Channels

The ugly truth is that CRM is simply not good at creating and managing customer communications.  In fact, it is the Achilles heel of a CRM-centric organization.  When was the last time you created a beautiful, personalized communication generated directly from a CRM system?

The addition of marketing automation solutions hasn't wholly addressed the issue - as these systems are run, maintained and used by marketers, they are mostly focused on email communications and generally used to target prospects and for outreach to customers to position upsell programs.  In short, these solutions are focused on driving new leads to the business, but fall short of enabling the entire organization to deliver a better customer experience.

Most CRMs offer no native functionality for the creation of customer communications, relying on third party solutions.  Worse - at their core, CRM solutions typically are designed as systems of record for customer data, and are not designed to pull in information from other systems.  While new technologies, such as's Connect offering announced on November 8, 2017 are being offered to address some of these issues - it remains to be seen how a new, untested offering can help enterprises address a legacy systems issue that is decades old.

The result is a disconnect between the data kept in ERP and line of business systems and the CRM - making it difficult for companies to create deeply personalized communications that drive a better customer experience.  Demand Metric reported in 2016 that 59% of marketers do not personalize content because they don't feel they have the technology required, 53% feel they don't have the needed data and 28% find it too difficult.  CRM is letting marketers down by failing to provide the data, technology and processes they require to enable business users to create personalized, on-brand messaging for their customers.

Reason US Marketing Do Not Personalize Content

This concern is echoed by experts across many industries.  The lack of integration capability with core systems is leading to frustration in customer communications for many marketers and business leaders.  Ahmed Elemam, Senior Digital Strategist at Westjet summarized the issue:

“It’s a transitional time. We have a number of solutions, such as our email tool, that are still in the RFP [request for proposal] phase. Our CRM [customer relationship management] system, on the other hand, is historic. There’s so much history in it that we can’t change it. Not every tool that touches digital is part of the cloud, and not everything that’s in the cloud is suitable for us..”

In short, leaders are looking for a digital layer to access the services and data of old system and expose them to digital solutions to create an enterprise service bus to allow the business to leverage new channels.  And those communications need to be easy to create, well format and need to leverage the collective wisdom of the organization.

“Every provider says it has an integrated marketing cloud. The problem is that every provider is strong in the area they started in, whether that’s CRM, content or analytics. As they move into other areas, they are not as strong. So far we have preferred to work with best-of-breed providers. It’s better than going with a single integrated stack, which may have one good layer, but is performed by competitors in other layers.”
—Rishi Dave, Chief Marketing Officer, Dun & Bradstreet

Enterprises that are truly focused on customer experience are extending beyond CRM - because they recognize that great customer experiences involve more than just the sales and marketing teams - it extends across the enterprise to include line of business owners, professional services, finance, legal, support, compliance and more.  Enabling subject matter experts to quickly update and create templated, omnichannel communications is beyond the scope of CRM solutions today - this is the domain of customer communications management (CCM) solutions, which have been handling these requirements for over two decades.

The reason that CCM solutions are so capable in addressing the communications gap is that customer communications is not just a technology or tool to be installed and forgotten - it is a discipline that needs the attention of the organization.  Having a vendor who understands how to best cleanse data, create rules and automation for the creation of documents and properly create templated communications is actually about enabling people across the enterprise to work better together.

Should CCM and CRM co-exist?  Absolutely.  They are both best of breed technologies that are excellent at what they focus on.  

From her 2016 blog post entitled "CCM Is The New Growth Engine!", Marietta Davis does a good job of summarizing the opportunities in front of companies who are looking to integrated CRM and CCM:

"By combining the high-quality customer information contained in CRM solutions with the data used to create transactional documents. CCM solutions are transforming boring, generic output into engaging, rich content across print, computer, tablet and phone devices. It creates a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints that improves the customer experience. But, technology isn’t the only thing that needs to change in order to achieve a Unified Communications Strategy. Business processes need to be aligned with technology capabilities and customer journeys to ensure that the customer remains at the heart of the Target Operating Model."

To discover more - check out these complimentary resources from Quadient:

The Convergence of Customer Communications Management (CCM) and Customer Experience Management (CXM)

eBook: The Future of Customer Experience

The Authoritative Guide to Achieving Customer Experience (CX) Excellence