Well-intentioned customer relationship management (CRM) efforts that focus on internal processes and objectives have largely failed to serve the most important stakeholder: the customer. Business process professionals characterize CRM as “the business processes for targeting, acquiring, retaining, understanding, and collaborating with customers.” Although CRM leaders and customer experience professionals share goals like extensive customer knowledge and increased service quality, the fundamental approaches of these two disciplines differ vastly. Typical CRM efforts take an inside-out approach that serves specific business needs but does little to improve or manage customer experience. This locks in mediocre customer experiences when CRM focuses on “moments that matter” for companies instead of customers, company perceptions of the relationship that misrepresent customer reality, and technology silver-bullet solutions that support department silos instead of fitting into an ecosystem that serves customers’ needs holistically.

Customer experience professionals need to bring an outside-in perspective to CRM efforts. To do this, they can borrow a typical CRM best practices framework that looks at strategy, process, technology, and people — but follow it from a customer-first perspective. Do this by:

  • Developing a customer experience strategy that defines the intended experience. Firms need to start with a clear vision of the experience they’ll deliver to target customers across the three levels of the customer experience pyramid: meeting customers’ needs, being easy to work with, and being enjoyable to work with. This means understanding key customer needs and how it is that they seek to access that value — which is quite the opposite of the traditional method of defining what’s valuable to the company and how it wants to deliver the value. The strategy needs to specify the kinds of activities, processes, and resources required to meet or exceed customers’ expectations across these levels.
  • Understanding customers and their processes. Customer experience management (CEM) requires a shared understanding of customers. This means knowing their perceptions, aspirations, behaviors, and the journeys they take with a company to achieve their goals. Experience design tools like personas, journey maps, and voice of the customer (VoC) programs create this shared understanding of what matters to customers and how they want to interact with a firm across business process silos. Again, this activity is very different from the typical approach of mapping internal business processes to look for efficiency. Mature firms identify key “moments of truth” in customer journeys and then align internal systems and business processes to meet, if not exceed, expectations at those critical junctures.
  • Having a technology and data ecosystem that enables desired experiences. Customer experience professionals need to focus technology efforts on the data integration and governance needed to get employees the customer-centric insight they need. While most often, companies shopping for CRM systems are accosted with solutions that promise a 360-degree view of customers across marketing, sales, and service. The reality is that the customer experience is far broader than that . . . and so is the ecosystem of technologies required to support them. Customer experience professionals need to turn discussions away from specific software systems and instead focus on taking ownership of master data management (MDM) and governance for the key customer processes outlined above. To orchestrate the data ecosystem required for key customer interactions, leaders need to use their journey maps to align data and systems to moments of truth, scout for and resolve conflicts that occur across departmental silos, and include IT and data architecture at the customer experience governance table.
  • Developing a customer-centric culture that guides employee decisions. The success or failure of long-term differentiation based on CEM depends on a culture that influences the day-to-day decisions of everyone in the company. Leaders build this culture by infusing customer-focused values and behavioral norms through hiring practices, socialization activities, and rewards systems. This is much larger than simply training people to use a particular tool. It’s about hiring and training the right people who can deliver the intended experience and empowering and rewarding them to do so.

If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to check out my Forrester report, “Beyond CRM: Manage Customer Experiences."