A lot of organizations have tried executing Customer Relationship Management, and a lot have failed. Here are the pitfalls to avoid.


There are many aspects of Customer Relationship Management but only one origin: The need to service our customers better. Just like the old TV show Cheers, where everyone knew your name, there is something to truly anticipating your customer’s needs. Somewhere where they feel well taken care of and they feel they are getting some value for their money.

About eight years ago, CRM systems were positioned smack in the middle of “The Peak of Inflated Expectations” in Gartner’s hype cycle. Just before it pitched itself into the “Trough of Disillusionment.” As with many technologies, the idea was great, but it always fell down during execution.

The challenge with implementing a successful CRM was that there was a ton of data but no information. Data was all over the place. There was a sales database for instore sales, one for online sales, another database for support, etc. And even the support database was broken up into channels with one for e-mail support, one for phone support, and one for snail mail support. To add additional complexity to an already complex environment, they were all in proprietary databases.

Then when it came to marketing, you had a bunch of marketers saying “trust us, all the money we are spending on mass marketing and pretty graphics is driving sales.” What you had was a department that operated low on the metrics side, but pretty high on the squishy, qualitative side.

Bringing all that data together needed a lot of design work. As time went on, a lot of sophisticated Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) tools hit the market to do all kinds of data merging and data cleansing. Millions of dollars and gallons of sweat later, CRM is now on the “Plateau of Productivity.”  All of the stand-alone CRM packages have been gobbled up by big ERP vendors and many of the advanced ETL functionality has started to migrate into database management tools.

But the question remains, can CRM know that when Norm walks into the bar at Cheers he drinks the full-flavored beer and not that light swill? Not only that, but can CRM know what stool he always sits in? Can it lead the rest of the bar in the “Norm…” chorus when he walks in the door?

In the next few posts, we’ll start looking at where CRM is and discuss some of the main opportunities that will help us truly know “who Norm is.” We’ll explore customer lifetime value, e-mail and snail mail marketing, call center support, e-commerce, order fulfillment, and product development.