The Evolution From CRM to CMR

This heading is more than just three letter acronym tomfoolery. The long serving business management discipline of Customer Relationship Management is evolving into new territory at a rate of knots, yet how many businesses are even aware of it?

I’ve been talking about CMR for many years, and you may well have worked out that it stands for Customer Managed Relationships. It’s not been written about a lot and when it is, it’s somehow missing the point, but it’s my favourite Three Letter Acronym (TLA) as it epitomises the balance of power shift that we are living through in this century.

The market is no longer driven by the companies and their products, the power now is all with the customer. This change wasn’t brought about by a coup of some sort, it evolved along with the online marketplace, because that had empowered people to make informed decisions. Now don’t get me wrong, the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is more vital than ever, as it enables CMR.

It’s the discipline rather than the system that has evolved. Those businesses who still make it difficult for customers to self-serve and manage their relationship online are and will lose traction in the market on a daily basis.

B2C or B2B?

When I say customers I mean all customers. On more than one occasion I’ve heard, “that’s totally relevant for consumers, but we are B2B so it doesn’t apply.” Wrong. Well you are a business customer, imagine you need a new printer/desk/software system/project manager, where would you look for a supplier? Nine times out of ten B2B people say “I’d ask someone I know for a recommendation.” So let’s examine that.


Your printer has given up the ghost and you have to print some literature for a seminar you are hosting the day after next.

Do you:
(A) Post on FaceBook and LinkedIn that you are looking for a recommendation of someone who sells printers.
(B) Google nearby suppliers to see if they have any in stock that you can pick up the following morning.
(C) Google online suppliers to see who can do next day delivery.

I would choose (C) every time in this scenario. It’s not a massive investment and I don’t need anything extraordinary. If I needed it within hours and couldn’t wait till next day, I’d choose (B).

I should add, the number of times I’ve ever needed something as mundane as a replacement printer “right now” are limited. In fact, regardless of the purchase, the instances where it’s been preferable to get dressed, jump in my car and go to a shop, find the item in question and buy it is probably close to zero, but it’s important to remember that I am not representative of the whole population.

In this scenario, why not choose option (A) ask for recommendations? My guess is it comes down to three factors.
1.The immediacy of the response.
2.The personal impact of the proposed purchase.
3.The sensitivity of the proposed purchase.

For instance, I would look for a personal recommendation for something vitally important that would impact my family (e.g. a new doctor or dog walker) but for a printer? No chance. I, like everyone I know, am always busy so I will take the path of least resistance and google it. That’s not just because it’s quick, well informed and instantly gratifying but also because I control the transaction from start to finish and I won’t buy until I get what I want and when I want it.

Personal Preferences

As much as our work is important to us, most of the decisions we need to make at work hardly impact any part of our home life, therefore they will rarely merit the “phone a friend” contingency options. But that is also down to personal preference, and online is my preference for pretty much every contact I have with the outside world. If the stats are to be believed, I am not alone. So if searching online is common in both B2C and B2B audiences, what does that mean for CMR?

Consider this quotation: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” – Theodore Levitt, Former Harvard Business School marketing Professor.

I like the simplicity of this quote, but it’s not really true. If I needed one hole then yes, it’s spot on. If I am likely to want several holes then I would probably buy the drill. Why? I perceive it to be better value. It’s widely accepted that those who provide the best value solutions win the customer and you’ll get no argument from me. So back in my scenario I have Google open and ready, what am I going to search for? I need a printer specifically for my seminar literature so I guess before I hit return my options would include:

(A) Buy a new printer.
(B) Get my old printer repaired.
(C) Have an online print shop ship me the professionally printed materials.

In order to not limit myself, I might therefore search for “fast print solutions,” and see what comes up. Online is immediately accessible AND has the advantage that it can present a breadth of potential different solutions. However in this scenario, my existing printer is actually a daisy wheel model (not really, I’m exaggerating for effect), so I decide to search for a new printer and I find one pretty quickly that won’t break the bank and seems to do everything I need it to. Brilliant. Or maybe not. It seems to be an ideal solution, but it’s not a brand I’m familiar with.

Do I:
(A) trust the retailer, I know THEIR brand and surely they wouldn‘t sell it if it was junk
(B) check it out by doing a search into the brand, the company, the reviews and the specific model reviews
(C) click on add to basket, check for secure payment https:// and click on checkout without a second thought

The Decisive Type

I am a very decisive person, and once I’ve decided on a course of action I almost immediately become impatient for the next step to happen. My husband says I can go from “look at this gadget, wow” to “darling put your jacket on, we need to drive 250 miles to go and buy this today because I can’t live another day without this in my life,” in about three minutes flat. He’s not wrong, and it seems I’ve now passed that on to him too!

So being that decisive type, I would most readily do (A) but only if the retailer was one who vetted their partners (rather than providing a marketplace platform) or (C) if the purchase was so cheap to be almost throw away and my time was limited and infinitely more valuable. In these steps of my buying process I’ve been the one in charge. I’ve searched for what I need, I’ve looked at the most likely contenders and I’ve decided to buy.

Literally the ONLY Things That Could Stop That Purchase Now Is:

(A) Thanks for adding this to your basket, to pay please call us on 12345 with your card details and to arrange the collection of your item.
(B) Shipping is not from us (the trusted retailer) but direct from the supplier in China and will take up to six weeks.
(C) For next day shipping £40 will be added to your order.

I’m still stunned when I come across any of these online “own goals” but they do still happen quite regularly. In that scenario, any transaction outcome that doesn’t end with “your item will be with you by tomorrow at 5pm” is the sign of a business that still needs to work on its core processes and hasn’t embraced CMR. More importantly, it is the sign of a business who most likely won’t still be trading in five years’ time. And most important of all, my printer warranty will expire in five years so, as my sales contract is with the retailer and not the manufacturer, I’m not buying it from someone that I know will go out of business.

So whilst this has been quite a lengthy scenario, it has demonstrated every step of my “customer transition” or my standard buying process, and whilst I’m perhaps a bit more decisive than most, I’m not uncommon. So how do you move your business from CRM to embracing CMR? I can’t in this short blog go through every aspect of how CMR will affect in your business. Channel Strategy is just the start actually, as it will also affect every single aspect of your core processes.

“When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, but when done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.” – George Westerman, Principal Research Scientist with the MIT Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy.

Where to start? Here is My Starter for Ten:

  • Don’t assume anything ever and don’t imagine everyone is like you.
  • Put yourself in your customer shoes or, better still, find some customers who are willing to talk to you.
  • Try to understand the breadth of customer contact drivers (i.e. reasons why they bought from you that first time).
  • Then back at base try searching for solutions to that scenario yourself, evaluate the search results and decide how to “put your content where the customer is.”

Once they’ve found you:

  • Prepare for every eventuality in the end to end transaction.
  • Make it clear, easy, accessible and fast.
  • Consider shipping charges carefully and ship promptly.
  • Be honest about what data you are storing, why and for how long.
  • Remember after care but don’t bombard the customer.
  • Encourage reviews. People are only really motivated to leave a review when they’re not happy.

Ultimately, get in the mind set that everything about every single business today revolves around customers because the internet has changed the balance of supplier / customer relationships forever. In time, you will appreciate that this is a good thing. For now you just have to accept, and then embrace CMR. Make it your favourite TLA.

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19 November 2020

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