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The end of CRM?

By David Tovey

For years I have been less than comfortable what I believe has become an overused term, Client Relationship Management (CRM). Though you might be forgiven for thinking that CRM is new, it certainly isn't, I first came across the term over 25 years ago and it has been in use for far longer than that.

Over the last fifteen years or so I have watched as organisations have launched CRM initiatives and in some cases, developed very expensive computerised systems. They usually do this in order to protect and develop the business they do with clients and customers. Often the aim of such initiatives is to differentiate from competitors. I have seen successes and have seen failures.

Where CRM is seen as a computerised system that will somehow magically manage client relationships, protect them and increase levels of business without attention to what clients actually experience, the initiative usually fails to deliver.
I have a problem with the whole idea of 'managing' a client relationship. 'Things' can be managed, computers, buildings, systems, car fleets, etc, where control of the asset is important. Relationships with people however, tend not to thrive, when one party thinks that the relationship can be managed. Try managing the relationships with your family and those close to you and see how that works!

Think of it from a client's point of view, do you really feel you want to be managed by your suppliers and advisors? Management suggests control.
Just as it has been recognised for years that people can't be managed if we want the best performance from them, then we should not think we can 'manage' relationships. 

The dynamics of relationship are simply too great, and you have no control over your client. I have noticed a tendency for suppliers and advisors to blame the client when they can't be managed in the way that suits the supplier or advisor. Sometimes the customers vote with their feet, take their business elsewhere only to earn the label "stupid client". Clients get moaned about because of their lack of loyalty.

David Tovey is Development Director of Sterling Growth Hub, an international speaker, consultants, coach and author.

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