What Is The Single Most Critical Factor in CRM / CX / Digital Success?


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Recently I was pitching for new work and the question that keeps coming up came up. This question is alway some form of “What is the single most critical factor in ……..?”   Examples include:

  • What is the single most critical factor in coming up with a great strategy?
  • What is the single most critical factor in CRM / marketing automation success?
  • What is the single most critical factor in customer experience success?
  • What is the single most critical factor in making a success transition into a digital business?
  • What is the single most critical factor in effecting organisational change?
  • What is the single most critical factor in managing CRM projects and programmes?
  • What is the single most critical factor in getting folks to adopt new systems?

You get the idea.  No matter the domain, sooner or later a client will want to know what is the single most critical factor to success.

If find it interesting how it is that intelligent folks ask such a stupid question – with no awareness as to what makes this a stupid question. Do you get what it is that makes this question stupid?

The assumption behind this question is that the world, in which we find ourselves, is simple, silo’d, and linear.  It assumes that the when it comes to dealing with challenges (and creating new futures) you can identify, isolate, work on one key factor – and this will ensure the desired outcome.  It assumes that this factor is invariant across time – that it is always the same one thing that matters most irrespective of time, situation, context…

What if the challenge that we face is similar to the challenge that the juggler faces? The very nature of juggling involves juggling many balls at the same time. As such, does it not involve competence in using a wide angle lens to keep track of all the balls? And at the same time, focusing on the one or two balls which are at the forefront at the moment in time? And at the same time keeping one’s attention over the environment in which one finds oneself in: the audience, the surroundings, the weather….?

I say to you that what makes CRM, customer experience, digital marketing, digital business, marketing-sales-service effectiveness challenging is that there is no single factor that is critical to success!  I say to you that no ‘guru’, no consultancy, no vendor has the magical recipe that takes the messiness out of life and guarantees a quick-easy journey to success.

So what is it that you have to put into the CRM, CX, Digital game?  You have to start working on that which needs work. You have to attract the right folks to work with you on your challenge / desired outcome. You have to get hold of the necessary resources. You have to be attuned to that which is going on within and around you. You have to accept-embrace failures. You have to fail your way to success by keenly attuned to the visible and the invisible and making the necessary corrections as and when these are called for.  You have to give up the stupid notion that there is one single most critical factor to success. And you have to continuously free yourself (and others) from the addiction to the short-cut.

I say to you that it is foolish to search for and focus on that one most critical success factor. I say to you even more foolish than this foolishness, is the foolishness of searching for and fixating on some magical potion: approach, methodology, technique, technology… I say to you that any person that offers you a single most critical success factor or magical potion is either a fool or a charlatan.

I invite you to consider that there is no single most critical factor in CRM / CX / Digital success!  Enough for today, I thank you for listening.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


  1. Great point, Maz! When my wife and I celebrated our 40th anniversary someone at the party asked my wife the all too familiar “single most important ingredient for a great marriage” question. She calmly and coyly replied, “Realizing that a great marriage takes way more than a single anything.” I think the Lone Ranger got the last silver bullet! Were organizations simple today, we might get away with a quick-fix miracle. But, even the mom and pop retail store is made complex by customers with diverse needs, tedious rules governing its operation, and a myriad of other pressures that take simple out of the equation. In addition to the multitude of components you outline in your great post is the fact they every organization is a living organism made up of unique people. Therefore change management requires work and leadership more akin to an inventive chef than a “just follow the recipe” cook.

  2. Agreed that there is no single factor which drives strong, effective, and sustaining CE. There is certainly trial and error involved, and there is no Holy Grail or magic Philosopher’s Stone to achieve success. That said, we find that building and maintaining trust, the relationship authenticity and transparency which has a foundation of positive emotion and memory, is a keystone element:




  3. I would say that mind-set, attitude are very important for success. Failure happens because of the lack of these

  4. Lovely post Maz – you lay out a very well rounded argument that I very much agree with. At the end of the day, Customer Experience is not a black and white science. Every organisation is different – the challenge is to identify what is right for you, your people and your customers.

    It is vital that businesses focus on clarifying and connecting the reason they exist with the experiences they want both customers and employees to have. Ultimately, whilst many succeed in creating very well thought out business strategies, they often forget to add the key piece of the jigsaw to connect those strategies with the customer experience and their employees – the customer strategy!

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts – well worth listening to.

  5. Thanks for posting this, Maz. Agree that there’s no “one thing” that drives success on its own, because businesses and people are complex, living organisms.

    Another question that I’ve seen debated quite a bit: Which is more important, the customer or the employee? Some say the the customer comes first, others the employee. And they can point to examples of leaders saying one thing or the other, so there’s the “proof.”

    The implication is that somehow you can just focus on that “one thing” and the ignore the rest.

    These are all forms of the “false choice” fallacy, also known as the “false dichotomy.” To those asking these questions, I say, “Which is your most important body part?” Or, is your right arm more important than your left arm?

    All that said, I think it’s the passion of the organization’s leader that is the root cause of success and failure. But, if the leader doesn’t translate that passion into organizational behaviors, it’s all for naught. So while leadership may be the most important thing, it’s not the only thing.

    It’s for all these reasons my recent book was about the five habits of customer-centric leaders, not one!


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