Put Some CEx Into Your CRM – The Job to be Done in my Pantry


Share on LinkedIn

For as long as I’ve been involved with sales force automation (SFA) and then customer relationship management (CRM), there have been so many easy stories to tell. The kind of stories that customers used to gobble up, and required very little intellectual muscle on our part (the resellers). Stories like “sales force automation will enable your worst sales person to sell more! ” eventually evolving into “a 360 degree view of your customer will enable your customer facing employees to know exactly what to cross-sell and up-sell!

I’ve also heard desperate, or confused, messaging in the sales process, marketing and other presentations suggesting that research shows a significant increase in top line revenue across all companies that have implemented CRM, and almost in the same breath differentiate themselves by quoting analyst firms, such as Gartner, that somewhere between 50-70% of CRM implementations fail to generate sufficient returns. Now, how can that be if all these companies are seeing magic numbers like 25% top line growth from CRM?

To further demonstrate the simple-mindedness of this industry, most consultants and practitioners will tell you that CRM involves marketing, sales and customer service since these are the customer facing areas of most businesses. They are also a thing you can point to in one software package or another. While, the results of most CRM implementations tend to demonstrate an integrated set of existing data, they exhibit a) no plan for collecting any new kinds of customer data and b) no unification of efforts, messaging and actions related to the collection of customer data. They are all doing their own thing, still, to varying degrees.

The Emergence of Customer Experience

On the flipside of the coin, there has been a rise in the number of customer experience personalities in the social media channels as well as board rooms. I like what they have to say, but they are operating in their own conceptual silos, for the most part. As with many other jobs involving your customers, a coordinated effort is required to complete the CRM picture. These customer-related jobs , when stitched together properly, and executed reliably over time , are what create a great customer experience, increased customer value and ultimately translate into increased shareholder value. At the end of the day, this is what we are seeking, not just successfully installing CRM software, correct?

Customer experience is one of the critical domains of CRM. There are others as well, but you will hear very little about them, or very little substance regarding them, from your neighborhood software guy. Let’s face it, many of them are simply re-packaged IT professionals, not business-driver focused consultants. CRM software certainly could be leveraged to make part of the customer journey better, if capabilities exist to do so. However, your customer’s experience extends well beyond it, and beyond your personal involvement with them. That doesn’t mean you can’t help make it better.

The Narrow View of a Customer Journey

I was sifting through one of my two pantries this morning complaining to myself about the experience. And an interesting thing happened. I began thinking about the things in the pantry, what I was looking for, where I purchased them and where the supposed innovation was happening around the customer experience in grocery stores. Before I get into a more comprehensive journey, I’d like to take a quick look at some of the things grocery stores, and partners, are doing to make my experience better:

  • They provide me discounts by simply scanning my loyalty card
  • My loyalty card also gets me discounts on gas; which I can buy on the same trip.
  • They have installed self-checkout lanes to speed the payment experience up
  • They are experimenting with alternative forms of payment with your smart phone, and some are even keeping track of what’s in your cart so you can just walk right out the door.

Are these really making my entire customer experience better? The answer to that is no. In fact, so much talk goes into the innovative technology like Google Wallet, or Square, that the importance of business model innovation is lost in a sea of technology improvements. Self checkout lanes are actually being removed from stores because they don’t speed up checkout times. While it may seem cool to wave your phone instead of swiping a card, that certainly does not make my entire experience better either.

Maybe the most frustrating piece of this reality is that very few people talk about optimizing the entire customer experience from awareness of need ,all the way through the use of your product or service, and right up to disposal/replacement. Isn’t this critical for customer relationship management?

A Broader View of a Customer’s Journey

The reason I was sifting through the pantry this morning was twofold. First, my wife is having a girl-party tonight and asked me if I had any poppy seeds. I knew I did, but I also knew they would be deeply buried in there. Maybe I wasn’t really that sure. I also realized that I probably needed to restock some things I used regularly, but couldn’t easily tell what. This is the hand I’ve been dealt by my grocery-related experience. Once I’m out the door, it becomes each customer’s job to figure out how best to manage their inventory and reconcile it with changing patterns in their lives. Lost opportunities to create value with your customers are a waste. Waste destroys value: it’s either created, or it’s destroyed. It simply can’t be neither.

As I began thinking about my journey as a grocery consumer and the various jobs I had to do that related to groceries somehow, I began taking note of some places where value could be created, but is currently a wasted opportunity.

  • Grocery list apps are nice at first glance, but a waste when you think about it. I need a phone that tells me what I need based on purchase frequency, recency, and what it knows I’m short on.
  • My phone should be able to map these suggestions out within the store. I’m willing to shop at a single store if this can work well.
  • The store should be in-tune with my app (their app) so they can provide the appropriate incentives for purchase on this trip, versus the next trip. The standard one-size fits all loyalty discount is so last millennium.
  • The app should recommend alternatives to my usual brand on attributes I set; such as price or ingredients
  • The app should know what I have placed in my cart.
  • The app should arrange for payment through my preferred method.
  • The app should know (or guess) what I have in inventory once I get the items home. Good enough for me would be just knowing what I have, if I did a search on my phone. There is nothing more irritating than giving up too quickly and purchasing another 5 years supply of black pepper just because I didn’t see it. That money could be put to much better use. Sure, I might be interested in a mechanical inventory appliance at some point, but right now, I just want to Google my pantry, so to speak.
  • My app should help me find recipes and reconcile their ingredients with my current pantry inventory (and fridge I guess). If I don’t have something, I’d like to know. If I don’t have enough of something, I’d like to know that as well.
  • Let’s not limit this to food items. What about baby diapers, paper towels, etc.? My historical buying frequency should be a solid indicator that I’m about to run out. Please remind me so I don’t have to construct repetitive shopping lists manually.
  • My app should know if something I need is out of stock at the store. In a complete reversal from earlier statement about a single store, at a minimum, chains like Kroger should be able to recommend another location if it can provide everything I need during my visit today. They should also incent me not to go to a closer competitor by doing something else for me, and letting me know (Everyone has different triggers – do the hard work to find out what the are, stores).

In a nutshell, my journey starts near my refrigerator or pantry, operates in and around my refrigerator or pantry, and ends at my refrigerator or pantry. So, why don’t grocery stores understand the job I have to do? I don’t want to buy groceries at the best price. I want to plan meals for my family, plan parties for my friends, and manage my personal inventory of home goods better than I can today. I’ve got other things to do!

Do your customers think like this? Maybe they don’t outwardly express these kinds of frustrations, but do you really think hiring a new sales manager, or implementing CRM software will result in the innovations in customer experience you need to increase the long-term value of your customers? Designing great customer experiences for the job(s) they are trying to get done is a critical capability you need to develop as a part of your CRM strategy. CRM is not simply about the next incremental sale of your product. It’s about creating both short term value and long term value in your customer portfolio. Personalities don’t do it. Gimmicks don’t do it. Marketing 101 definitely won’t do it, oh, and that is so common today. Make your brains sweat a little bit and you’ll create higher probabilities of CRM success and fewer wasted capital investments.

CRM does fail quite often. As with anything you build, it requires a solid foundation to minimize risk and maximize opportunity. CRM has a number of foundational pillars that are required in order to achieve the increases in shareholder value every business seeks. A failure to develop internal capabilities around customer experience design means you’re leaving out one of the foundational pillars of CRM, and missing opportunities to create value – meaning your likely destroying value to varying degrees. If CRM software is your only pillar…well, it’s not a pillar, it’s just an under-utilized toolset.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Nice article, Mike. Its actually a good link to a discussion Bob, Dave Brock, and I were having in regard to one of Dave’s posts on Marketing and Sales alignment (its also on customerthink).

    As I read your article, I was struck by the tight association of CX with CRM (or CRM sellers talking a CX story). If you jump over the CMSWire, you’ll find that, in their world, CX is all about content and digital marketing strategies. Its all about frame of reference.

    I, among others, agree with you, it starts with a customer focused strategy (that your org may not be structured to support—the discussion mentioned above) and works backwards toward processes and software to implement that strategy. That may be CRM or it may be content management or digital marketing or even business process management.

    More likely, it will be a combination of all these things, which like org silos, won’t work if they are implemented from a siloed perspective with a hope of integration.


  2. Gartner’s 8 building blocks for CRM, developed around 10 years ago, included CX as one of the blocks.

    So one might think that CEM was always part of CRM. I asked Gartner’s Ed Thompson recently and he said that CEM and CRM are overlapping but different.

    I’ve seen a lot more commentary in recent months from CRM vendors and consultants about CX/CEM. That’s a good thing, provided it’s not just another marketing campaign to sell software, or the services behind the software.

    In my view, neither CRM or CEM are really business strategies. You can tell simply by looking at the last letter. Management is not strategy, it’s the execution of a strategy.

    CRM and CEM are both driven by something. What is that something? In some cases it’s a customer-centric strategy — designed to increase loyalty by delivering more value (such as a better experience, product, etc.). In others, they’re driven by a focus on internal goals — extracting more value from customers, cutting costs, etc.

    In the end, if customer loyalty is the goal, only the customer’s perception matters. Clearly, there’s a long way to go to help Mike with his pantry!

  3. Hank,

    Thanks for taking the time to read my post. As I mentioned, customer experience seems to operate in it’s own silo. I believe there are a number of disciplines which need to be pulled together to redefine what this market is really all about…more than just an application suite for sales and marketing people

  4. In reply to Bob Thompson:

    Customer loyalty doesn’t always equate to profitability for the business. I know it’s been said before that loyal customers are better at gaming the system. I like to start by determining how to create shareholder value and working backwards to (co) creating value with customers. Thus, the experience (journey) tie-in.

    Loyalty is not the goal. I don’t even like it much as a metric, if it can be defined or measured. Customers measure value in a variety of ways, including the experience (emotional job to be done). Businesses can derive value by creating it for customers, through which they receive a benefit from the typical new customers, cross-up selling, retention and referrals. However, they can also create value for themselves by learning from their customers throughout the experience; to be converted to cash later through improved ways to deliver value to customers 🙂

  5. Right you are, Mike. You can have loyal/retained customers and go out of business delighting them. But, assuming that customers are profitable, increasing genuine loyalty (functional and emotional) is the right goal for most companies.

    Loyalty metrics are simply a reflection of value delivery. But they don’t account for customer profitability or business model problems.

    There’s a lesson to be learned from CRM — focus on customers that make the company money.

    But also one from CEM — deliver experiences that create an emotional bond.

    And let’s not forget about those boring old products. I’ll bet if you looked through your pantry, at least some of the items there were purchased because your family liked the taste!

    In my recent story of my barbeque grill buying experience, I noted that the grill (an innovative design from Weber) was the most important factor in the product I chose.

    There a place for both outside-in and inside-out thinking in good business. Companies get into trouble when they get them out of balance.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here