CRM Is Dead! Long Live CX!

CRM Is Dead! Long Live CX!

I was listening today to one of my favorite industry podcasts called CRM Playaz, hosted by two intelligent dudes, Paul Greenberg and Brent Leary. Their guest was Ed Thompson, another smart dude and leading analyst at Gartner, the IT research company. At the front end of the show, they debated the topic of “is it CRM or CX?” There was some healthy discussion that made me want to write down my thoughts on the matter.

Here’s the gist of the debate. Many in the (legacy) CRM industry have recast the sector as the CX industry. Like us! However, Ed, Paul, and Brent aren’t big fans of the idea. The main point that they put forth is that CX is a company’s strategy for delivering a memorable and exceptional experience to their customers. And they say CRM is the software that enables you to do that.

I used to agree with that. I don’t any longer. And yeah, you have to be a real CRM … err, CX nerd to care.

Suppose you’ve been around the CRM industry. In that case, you’ll know that several key trends have marked the passage of time and the advances of technology within customer relationship management. Client-server, email, web, open-source, cloud, mobile, social, AI are all technology trends that have dramatically transformed the way companies and their customers interact and how they manage their customers. That’s 30 years of tech in one short sentence. Along the way, we have seen the term “CRM” change and grow to include many concepts like sales force automation, customer service automation, marketing automation, and many, many other related software categories.

 technology trends transform customer interaction

Take a moment to reflect on the evolution that CRM technology has gone through. Thirty years ago, CRM software meant tracking contacts and sales deals on your laptop with Act, Goldmine, or Siebel. Customer service software was a distinct software category with companies like Scopus and eGain. Sales software didn’t talk with service software at all. Then came the advent of spam in your Hotmail inbox, which spawned the marketing automation category with companies like Epiphany. Yet another category!

It was in the early 2000’s that analysts took a step back and recast “CRM” as the higher-level umbrella term for the market category, including sales force automation (SFA), marketing automation platforms (MAP), and customer service and support (CS&S) software. Fast forward 15 years and analysts add in e-commerce software. It’s a big software category with over $80B (yeah, that’s a $B) in spending in 2021 by companies like you.

So all that is telling you is that, according to the analysts, CRM is no longer just sales software. It encompasses over 100 different software subcategories, according to Ed and his friends at Gartner.

CRM is no longer sales software but encompasses over 100 different software subcategories

But here’s the rub. You probably still call your sales software “CRM.” Even when you think of Sugar’s CRM, you probably think of CRM for your sales team. Even though when we originally named the company SugarCRM, we meant “sales, marketing, and service software,” the name mostly means “sales software” to most people. Most people frankly associate us still with sales software because of the CRM part in our name.

Here’s my main point. It’s time for a new name for this software category. It’s time to call this software something that evokes what we help you do in this modern digital era. We help you manage your customers’ journey across every stage of researching, buying, and using. We help you market, sell, and provide service. It depends on which side of the till you stand at. And that’s what CX (customer experience) is.

Have a great day, and enjoy creating some new customers today and keeping your current ones happy.

This article was originally published on the SugarClub Leadership Lounge, where Sugar’s leadership team discusses what’s on their minds and welcomes the SugarClub community to ask any questions or share insights about customer experience, CRM, technology, building companies, or anything else!

Clint Oram
Clint Oram Clint helped found SugarCRM in 2004 with the goal of enabling companies around the world to turn their customers into loyal fans. Today, he leads strategy and acquisitions for the company. Clint was one of the original architects and developers of the Sugar application and has focused on building out the product, company, partners and community in a variety of executive roles. Prior to co-founding SugarCRM, Clint held senior roles in the development, professional services and product management organizations at Epiphany, Octane Software and Hewlett Packard. He has 20 years of experience in the enterprise software industry and over 15 years designing and building award-winning CRM software solutions. Clint holds a BS in computer science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and is the co-author of multiple CRM software patents. Clint enjoys traveling and speaking at conferences on a variety of customer experience and entrepreneurship topics, and has visited SugarCRM customers and partners in over 25 countries.

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