What is CRM?

CRM is Customer Relationship Management. In other words, it means treating your customers like friends or royalty.

At the core of the traditional CRM discipline is making sure all customer data can be accessed at any touch point. Whether you call my customer support, visit my retail store, or browse my website, your data – previous purchases, browsing history, location, channel preference, etc. – will be used to anticipate your needs, customize your offers, and serve you relevant content. It is not difficult to implement CRM in social, either – advertising has never been more targeted, albeit demographically, than at Facebook – and measuring its direct impact on sales just means tracking clicks from social properties to your website. Social CRM is also about conversations: there are a million people talking about your product or industry right now; all you’ve got to do is jump into that dialogue and add value. Over time, people will recognize your commitment to the community, your expertise, etc., and will reward you accordingly.

Infrastructure-wise, CRM is easy enough to implement – in fact I built a system in 2005 designed to store every customer action in a SQL database that powers post-purchase recommendations, dynamic/automated “new release” emails, and a learning podcast that is unique to each visitor – but most large organizations store data across many servers, so one has to tap numerous resources and cross firewalls to leverage information from often incompatible sources.

Many preexisting applications, for sale or rent, can facilitate CRM capabilities across consumer touch points, but I’ve yet to find one that doesn’t run on a proprietary database, which adds an additional layer of complexity to the organization’s data structure. Because of this, companies need to plan their data strategy with an eye toward long-term scalability and simplicity. Fewer databases is always preferable, and will allow easier access to a more holistic view of the customer.