As I reflect over the past three decades, the time I’ve tried various means to bring companies and customers closer together, I have more than a bit of sadness over what’s happened to all the noble purposed “movements” towards more customer-centric business that have come – and not gone, but evolved into the next “new thing.” We went from a generic form of “solution selling” plus “field marketing” in the 1970s; to “database marketing” and “micromarketing” and “relationship marketing” in the 1980’s; to “drip marketing,” “one-to-one” marketing” and “SFA” in the early nineties; to “CRM” and “Marketing Analytics” in the late 1990s, to “nurture marketing” and “CEM” and “customer-centricity” today. And there will be a “next new thing,” to be sure.
I just hope what’s happened to all the previous movements, and CRM most of all, doesn’t happen to the next.
And what terrible thing is that? Being hijacked by people and companies with near total disregard for “purpose” and near total addiction to “profits.” Sounds pretty naive doesn’t it? Of course concepts will be commercialized. Just look at the business process side of our practice where Six Sigma, Lean and Balanced Scorecard have all been twisted beyond recognition into money-making opportunities. Further, I can’t really call people violating the very concepts they’re making money from “unscrupulous” or “greedy opportunists” without calling out folks everywhere working a trend to make money, which we all have to make.
But I can call them “their own worst enemy.” I can call them that because abuse of CRM principles in order to make a quick buck (or Euro, or …) – not just by software vendors, but by many consultants as well – almost killed the goose that laid the golden egg. And did leave it crippled. If these “strike while the concept is hot” folks had shown a bit of patience and not marketed and sold stuff they didn’t understand and couldn’t make work, the core concept of CRM would have taken much stronger and deeper root in business thinking, instead of falling into near disrepute. But these profiteers foolishly robbed themselves of what otherwise would have been a much larger opportunity.
I feel not the slightest pity for the perpetrators. They did it to themselves. But I do deeply regret that the CRM movement never reached its potential to unite companies and customers. Instead, we now have customers leading the charge for customer-centricity with companies stumbling along far behind. “Would have been…, could have been…” Really ticks me off, especially when I put on my customer hat.