If Consumer is King, why is ERP still Queen?

When I graduated from university in the early 2000’s, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems were considered the bee’s knees.  Companies were investing significant funding to achieve the nirvana of streamlined business processes across product planning and development, service delivery, marketing, sales, inventory management, shipping and payment.  And when I say significant, I mean “Holy crap – you spent how much?”  Projects were expensive, long, and often ended in very public failures when a company’s existing business processes deviated too far from what was considered best practice and built into the platform – exhaustive customisations were the killer.

Originating from the early 60s, ERP started in its infancy as automation for individual functions like financial accounting or inventory management.  By the 90s, capabilities had grown to include planning and delivery, and used a single database to run the organisation smoothly – ensuring visibility, accessibility and consistency across all business functions.

ERP was essentially designed to maximise the use of resources across the organisation – assets, time, money, employees – and rightly focused on “doing more with less” during a time where economies were challenging and money was tight.

ERP was fast becoming the heartbeat of the organisation, and solutions such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) were selected to compliment the chosen ERP strategy.  After all, a CRM solution had the sole focus on improving relationships with customers – just one of the many capabilities across the organisation that had to be streamlined for efficiency.

But that was a time when companies decided what products and services to sell, and how their brand was positioned in the market.  That was a time when consumers had less choice and relied on sales reps to educate them on the benefits of various products and services.  That was a time when disgruntled customers quietly moved along and product recalls were executed in silence.

This is not that time.

We live in a world where the consumer is King.  Where customers have control over how your brand is perceived in the market.  Where disgruntled customers have a voice, and product recalls hit the top of every social media feed and review site.  Where customers have a greater say in which new products and services will succeed and fail, and help each other make product choices without ever having to speak to a brand or sales rep.  A time where customers have disposable income and no time to spend it – where customer service is on their terms, when and how they want it, and when not delivered to their expectation, is the trigger to churn and take their social networks with them.

In the Age of the Customer, Consumer is King, and CRM is your key to the kingdom.  

The ability to know and understand your customer, to provide exceptional service throughout the customer lifecycle, to encourage and nurture customer communities, is critical to surviving, nay…thriving, in the new world.

So why is it that so many companies still base their decision for what is arguably the most important business technology investment today, on a platform that serves an entirely different purpose?

In order to survive, Forrester Research talks about the need for companies today to make a shift from Customer Aware to Customer Obsessed.  From Data Rich to Insights Driven.  From Perfect to Fast.  From Siloed to Connected.

But the greatest shift necessary to succeed, is one that sits at the heart of the organisation – the shift to put the customer at the centre of your business – not just from a business perspective, but from a technology perspective as well.

In a world where customers are the driving force behind business processes, it is CRM – the system of engagement – that sits at the heart of the organisation and should never be compromised by auxiliary investments.


It is CRM that will help make your customers love you.  That will allow you to treat all of your customers as if they were your only customer. To understand your customers better through their personal preferences, solve any problem faster with access to past customer interactions, and even identify new sales opportunities by analysing your best customers’ purchase histories.

It is CRM that will help you find more leads, close more deals, and get more done faster.  That will boost customer satisfaction and loyalty with personalised help.  That will connect you with your customers individually via social, mobile and emerging technologies.

It is CRM that will help you predict customer wants and needs based on past behaviour, and help you monitor and manage your customer-obsessed business from any mobile device.

And it is your choice in CRM, not ERP, that will determine how successfully you survive or thrive while the Customer is King.  

When evaluating your customer strategy, here’s a few things to consider:

  • Are you defaulting your technology decision for CRM based on an incumbent ERP?  The nirvana of a single vendor for both can be enticing – with the vision of an integrated platform and “one butt to kick” when things go wrong.  The reality is, many vendors fail to deliver on the promise of integrated solutions due to silo’ed product development teams that struggle to maintain compatibility across product releases and upgrades within their own portfolio, least of all with external providers.  And wouldn’t you rather not to have to kick anyone’s butt, and simply invest in technology that actually works?  Look for a CRM that provides open integration, and a proven track record of delivering on customer success.
  • Are you sinking more money into an existing CRM that has failed to deliver value to the business?  Not all CRM solutions are created equal.  The old saying “crap in – crap out” is particularly true when it comes to CRM – I’ve worked for organisations that have failed to realise benefit because the usability of the system is so poor, employees simply don’t use it.  Or worse, they put crap data in because they are forced to, and create a false understanding of business performance.  Look for a CRM that makes it easy and intuitive for employees, partners and customers to find the information they need and capture customer experiences, how- and when- it’s convenient for them.  A seamless mobile experience is a must.
  • Are you questioning whether CRM is just a glorified contact list and not relevant to engaging with today’s customers?  A good CRM solution is so much more than just a place to capture customer contact information.  It’s a platform for driving customer engagement – that puts the customer at the centre of marketing, sales and service, and delivers personalisation across a range of different channels.  Look for a CRM that drives customer success above all else.

When it comes to CRM, you must choose wisely – after all, your business depends on it!!!