The Real Meaning of CRM

November 11, 2015

human and robot hands

Credit: Phillipedia Files

I often joke with clients and audiences that the acronym CRM may be widely accepted as shorthand for “Customer Relationship Management”, but we know what it really stands for: “Can’t Remember Much”.

Before you dash away from this article thinking it’s all jokes, let’s analyze the kernel of truth behind that chuckle.

Some parts of your work could be automated.  CRM is just one tool. That’s the good news. Implemented well, CRM can free you to spend more time applying your expertise on more creative work and expediting decisions on exceptional cases instead of tedious, rote activities like cataloging and retrieving information.

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The main challenge is human adaptability. It is natural to find comfort in routine, but when that same routine becomes unnecessary or a competitive disadvantage, you must adapt or face potential loss. Buggy whips, anyone?

To be sure, the economic benefits of automation include labor savings, but nobody is suggesting that all human-involved work goes away. Instead, your work might become more cerebral in nature. Amazon’s Kiva warehouse robots can stock shelves and fulfill shipment orders far faster and commit fewer errors, and Quill can produce narrative reports from raw data whose resulting output is hard to distinguish from a human-authored prose piece, but they are not existential threats.  Your ability to create, decide, interpret and act on information is a product of your judgment and experience; analyzing the risk and opportunity inherent in any decision is downright, intuitively messy. And we humans are surprisingly, inimitably good at it.  We just need our CRM solution to have proper care and feeding, including clean, accurate, relevant data.

It’s not just low skill, low wage work that could be automated. Many highly skilled types of work could have aspects of certain work processes delegated to automation. Scheduling, producing reports and aggregating data can be automated to synthesize new discoveries, flag exceptions and highlight decision options directly at their point of use – – the factory floor or the boardroom – where a judgmental human can use discretion to suit the desires and needs of a customer.

What does this mean to the business leader? It means we need to use our creativity and judgment to study developments in new automation solutions and assess how and when we might sensibly adopt them to maintain a competitive edge, or perhaps or discover a new one.

Technology of any kind is usually only a temporary advantage, but human creativity and productivity are hard to beat. You definitely want more creative humans on your team – especially creative ones who can interpret your needs and help you find the automation solutions to fill them. That’s where a CRM expert comes in. Shameless plug alert: luckily, you found us.

Additional Resources

Four fundamentals of workplace automation (McKinsey)


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