Why Head Office Loves CRM... and the Sales Floor Doesn't


photo by Christiann Koepke

“The customer is king, the customer is always right, all customers are created

equal …..”


The days when all customers were labeled in one bucket as “the customer” are history. Modern consumers want brands to respect their heterogeneity in all areas from gender to size to race and values. In other words, each person is unique and should be treated differently.

To understand today’s consumer behavior many brands are betting big on Customer Relationship Management platforms – the most common technology used by high-performing companies to manage marketing data. Worldwide spending on CRM is expected to reach $114 billion by 2027.


CRM software works by collecting data such as client names, emails, phone and social media data across multiple channels as well as purchase history and browsing history on e-commerce websites. The promise: a 360 degree view of customers.


Yet by some estimates, 70 percent of companies who put CRM into place eventually find their efforts fail. Many of the teams who want to use data have not been on the sales floor or in direct personal contact with a customer. This disconnects what CRM can do compared to what brands genuinely need to improve and personalize the customer experience. At BSPK, we advance the data that CRM collects. We believe CRM alone is not sufficient: getting to know your customer by more than their name, purchase history and email address is important to build loyalty. Here’s why:


First: CRM collects data globally across millions of records to create a strategy. In the hands of sales advisors, when they are face to face with a customer, such data offers limited sales value. It won’t help remember to check in with a client about how their job interview went, for example, or whether a gift a customer just purchased was appreciated.


Second: CRM data primarily includes purchase history based on SKUs. By using past purchase history alone, brands miss the signals in customers' evolving expectations.


Third: authentic customer relationships thrive on human interaction, online or off. When companies prioritize human touch in interacting with their customers, these customers perceive the brand to be “operating with intentional purpose, working harder, and acting authentically, all of which create meaning in the minds of consumers,” according to Adam Waytz, a psychologist and associate professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.


In his seminal book Customer Centricity, Wharton Professor Peter Fader says that often companies’ “goals are just to implement CRM, a one-size-fits-all across the company without focusing on customer heterogeneity and customer lifetime value” which is an expectation of value of the customer going forward.


Retail companies have been late to CRM in comparison with banking and insurance industries. In playing catch-up, brand decision makers must not lose sight of the emotional intelligence that sets their industry apart from all others.


Living a story has become more important than storytelling, according to Nathalie Rozborski, director general of creative consultant Nelly Rodi in Paris. This means there is renewed focus on the sales advisor. She says “2020 was the year of winners and losers – transform or die” and that old luxury “transitioned towards a more inclusive and accessible luxury, not in terms of price but in terms of storytelling and perception.”


Customers are people first and so are company employees. Professor Waytz says human contact has an almost magical power. We agree.