CRM Idol — A Missed Opportunity to Show CRM Really is a Strategy


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Over the years we’ve had a lot of great debates about CRM. What it is, how it’s practiced, and so on.

A few years ago I came to the conclusion that the most common real-world definition of CRM was simply the use of technology to automate customer information, for the company’s benefit. A necessary and important part of running an enterprise, to be sure, but not very customer-centric.

Now, I realize this is annoying to those that continue to promote CRM as a business strategy. And to companies that managed to break out of the automation paradigm and treat CRM as more of a win/win business strategy. But unfortunately the majority of the market has not adopted this way of thinking, which is one of the reasons why Customer Experience Management (CEM) is on the rise.

Anyway, what prompted this post was the recent announcement of the “CRM Idol” program by Paul Greenberg. Of course, Paul is a good friend and industry colleague, and one of the thought leaders continuing to promote CRM as more of a customer-centric approach to business, where technology is not necessarily required.

So my first reaction was “CRM Idol — what a great idea!” Now we have an awards program to show how CRM is really all about the customer!

Or so I thought, until I read the details. Instead of focusing on customer-centric success stories, CRM Idol is all about technology. It’s a program designed to recognize 60 software vendors in 17 categories ranging from CRM suites to innovation management.

On the one hand, I applaud Paul and his supporters for giving some visibility to smaller vendors that might otherwise go unnoticed. I do encourage vendors to learn about CRM Idol and submit their entries.

But this seems like another missed opportunity to showcase CRM as a customer-centric business strategy. Instead, CRM Idol will further cement the CRM=technology paradigm that already exists in the market.

To me, this is like tuning into American Idol and finding out that it’s about the vendors of microphones, instruments and other tools of the music profession — and not the performers. What a shame.


  1. Hello Bob
    Many of us who started out in ‘CRM as a business philosopy’ or ‘CRM as a business strategy’ do not refer to ourselves as CRM folks.

    We got that CRM in business means either a simply contact manager or a big expensive, hard to use enterprise system which is brother to the ERP system. Or if ‘CRM’ is mentioned by the marketing folks it means database driven direct marketing.

    So when I look at the CRM Idol situation I see Paul Greenberg validating ‘what is so’. Us insisting on CRM as strategy is rather like insisting that people stop using the world ‘gay’ to mean homosexual and use it to mean ‘happy, lively’ – the original meaning. It is not going to happen anytime soon.


  2. We are one of the participating companies in CRM Idol and are excited to have this chance to show our technology to important influencers. While it is true that this seems to focus only on technology it will also give many smaller CRM-ish vendors a chance to get the word out about their products and provide thought leadership and guidance about customer-centricity.

    Many of us in this industry work hard to get information out about customer experience, customer service and customer support best practices outside of just using the technology and how to use the technology as a tool to enhance the customer experience. We do this through white papers, blogs, articles, forums, and other social media.

    CRM Idol is promoting the chance for us smaller companies to reach a larger audience with our message about service and support as well as about our particular products. We want small business to know that CRM is not just for the big companies but that there are solutions out there for them to help connect and interact with their customers. Plus since many small businesses are new businesses this is their chance to become educated about customer experience.

  3. Jody, thanks for your comments. As I said in my post, I think the CRM Idol program will help bring exposure to technology providers. That’s a good thing.

    However, the problem is that many of the people participating in the award program continue to claim that CRM is a strategy, yet this program will tell the market that to become a “CRM Idol” you need to be a software company.

    My point is simply that the real “idols” should be the companies delivering great experiences — like some of your customers! That’s the missed opportunity I wrote about.

  4. This is true. I believe American Business Awards has several categories as do groups that emphasize customer service. But I can see where it would be nice if these influencers set up something similar for companies excelling in customer service.

  5. Hi Bob:

    The CRMIdol event makes no pretenses that it is anything more than providing exposure for smaller software companies around the CRM space. It will only provide high-level assessments of software solutions and is not intended to be a software evaluation or an evaluation of the solution's true and proven value.

    I am sure that part of what each contestant speaks to will include real-world implementations that show proven stakeholder value, but that clearly will not be the primary focus.

    Maybe you should consider creating another event where companies tout success stories that are scrutinized and assessed for the real value provided. Way too much software is still sold on hype like "be where your customers are” rather than demonstrating real value to meet stakeholder's actual needs and a contest of this type would help separate technologies with substance from those with just a lot of sizzle!

    Kind regards, Chuck Van Court

    P.S. An amazing amount of work has gone into and will go into the CRMIdol event and our FuzeDigital team is appreciative of everyone's efforts. Thanks!

  6. Thanks for your comments, Chuck. I agree it’s an excellent event to showcase CRM technology. It should help people understand that to practice great CRM, you need great tools.


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