When Siebel Systems first pioneered Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software in 1997, it was a noble effort. The premise was simple, and, similar to other mid-90’s tech innovations like PalmPilots and DVD players, it evolved quickly over time.

Thomas Siebel’s goal was to create a single, centralized location that contains all of your customer information. This would enable your employees to access the CRM and become more productive, efficient and able to answer questions more accurately based on real-time information.

It was a noble effort in that it allowed businesses to move beyond individual spreadsheets or finally be free of file cabinets and paper records.

Quick adoption of a pure CRM resulted in many companies creating little more than a glorified centralized spreadsheet. It tracked and stored the data that employees would manually enter. It would occasionally provide some basic calculations or actions that could be automated to save employees time.

A Missed Opportunity

The original premise of the CRM was not just employee efficiency. It was built for automation of marketing efforts and sales functions and – ultimately – to improve the customer’s experience.

During my time at Apple, leadership would share a favorite customer experience story to spurn cultural adoption. The story was about The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, which is known for its gold-standard customer experiences. It was a tale about storing customer information that could be easily recalled for future visits.

A customer staying in a New York property identified that they liked pink roses. A quick-thinking Ritz employee noted it in their account. On their next stay in the Ritz’s Los Angeles hotel, that customer automatically found pink roses waiting in their room. This basic example illustrates how collecting customer preferences can “surprise and delight” using data and technology.

In pursuit of this superior customer experience, companies have spent millions adopting CRM platforms of their own. The love affair has worn off. Sort of like that Nintendo 64 gathering dust in your garage.

Which is why it’s time to change the conversation to CXM: Customer Experience Management.

Don’t Lose Sight of What Matters Most: Your Customer

Adopting a CRM alone doesn’t improve your customer experience. The tendency is to over-engineer, over-complicate and get so excited about the technology that you lose sight of the original goal. Without the human touch at the center of it, it’s just cold, emotionless data.

In the fourth quarter of FY2020, Salesforce booked professional services revenue of $288 million, up 26% year over year. That is more than $1 billion generated annually on doing nothing more than configuring an “easy-to-use” platform to meet individual business specifications. This ignores the ongoing costs of maintaining these customized configurations while also ensuring they play nice with all future releases. (Hint: They rarely do.)

What gets lost is the customer interaction. The customer should be the center point of any solution aimed at improving their experience.

The CXM Game Changer

Very few if any traditional CRMs include a customer-facing portal. They rely simply on bespoke messages, reminders and notifications to maintain some level of customer engagement, but no centralized command center.

It’s important to note: Centralizing all tools and customer-impacting services into one system delivers great efficiencies for the business. However, enabling your customers to have the same experience with you in real-time is the difference between a CRM and CXM.

When customers have the ability to book appointments on your website, log-in to reschedule, ask questions, make payments, download historical receipts, read and share documents and more, only then have you moved toward actually improving your customer’s experience.

When customers can directly engage with you using the same technology your business uses, your data will be more accurate and more timely. A customer inquiry will instantly reflect real-time behavior and status. This enables your employees to give more accurate and helpful assistance.

Bonus: It will also help your salespeople close more deals, and it will generate the positive reputation required to grow.

If you’re using multiple systems, or you are just storing customer data but aren’t able to make it actionable, then it’s time to ditch your current strategy and take a CXM for a spin.