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Where are you on the CRM adoption ladder?

Published: 12th December 2019
by: Glenn Hewson

It’s a serious question, really. Recently I was speaking about using your CRM to improve customer experience at a Marketing event. As part of finding out who the audience was, I asked the question ‘how many people here use their CRM just for contacts, opportunities and calendaring (?)’. I was (and maybe I wasn’t) surprised to find out that nearly everyone was using their CRM in that way.

Today’s customer wants to buy an experience, not just products and services. A modern CRM implementation with its single view of the customer - whether from a sales, marketing or customer support view - is the key to positive customer experience.

This is the decade of the experience economy. This begs the question: what decade is your CRM living in? Have a look at the descriptions below and give yourself an honest assessment:

1970s: The Rolodex

Customer information is kept by writing on business cards or using paper and pencil. Today this would be the equivalent of keeping your customer records on a spreadsheet. Check your GDPR compliance on that.

1980s: Contact Management

Before Outlook, before the internet, before MS Windows there were DOS-based contact managers. These were database marketing tools that ran on a PC and allowed you to collect and track basic information and contact history on a customer as well as to be able to print labels to attach to envelopes to be posted.

Initially these were single user systems but eventually became multi-user so that sales reps could share information and sales managers could view the activities of their sales reps.

Today this would be the equivalent of using shared Outlook contacts, and calendars

1990s: Salesforce Automation

There are a lot of CRM solutions out there that tout ‘designed by sales for sales’. Welcome to the 90s. Basically, these systems go beyond contact management and add task management, sales stages, forecasting, and sometimes a library for storing and sending documents. In the mid-90s with the adoption of inter-company email, you were able to communicate electronically and store the email sent in the contact history. This enabled sales managers to have a documented continuity of a prospect/customer that was invaluable during sales rep turnover.

Late in the decade the category CRM was born and it became one of the first cloud-based applications.

Today this would be the equivalent of Outlook Plus. That is using Outlook with the addition of some custom fields in the contact record for sales stage. This is also the decade that the ‘free forever’ CRMs are in.

2000s: Sales and Marketing team up

As direct mail turned into email marketers discovered that email opens, clicks and related content engagement was easy to do and inexpensive to measure. Email marketing companies were born. Though Marketing got their mailing lists out of the CRM, the results from mailings (opens, clicks, further engagement) rarely did.

In the late 2000s marketing automation came to be (and along with it eventually… GDPR). This allowed marketing organisations to track people on websites, set up automated email marketing campaigns and to track and score engagement even before prospects identified themselves. These tools were and are very expensive but with the benefit being that sales could see a prospect’s level of engagement and interest before reaching out.

Because of the expense, today most companies still use simple email tools integrated with their CRM. The advanced ones with the budget have integrated Marketing Automation tools as well.

2010: The age of customer experience

Today, we as customers expect to have a conversation with anyone in a company, at anytime, via any means (text, chat, email, social, phone) and expect everyone in the company to know why we are reaching out.

All of this interaction is data-driven and that data should therefore be stored in one customer-facing system. This is causing customer service teams to rethink their point solutions, and instead adopt the customer support personas of their CRM.

What does a customer engagement-oriented CRM look like? It looks like a single application that works to identify suspects, turn them into prospects, into customers and finally into cheerleaders for your company whether you are large or small. It marries together the marketing, sales and customer support departments and ties them into stock and accounts data in order to make every customer interaction a positive one.

So where do you come out on the above? Where do you want to be in 2020? Let me know at

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