5 (More) CRM Myths—Busted

Last year, we shook things up a bit in the CRM industry by busting five common CRM myths. It was a good manual to help organizations be aware (and more skeptical) of the rhetoric of bloated traditional CRM vendors.

However, as the CRM industry changes quickly, more CRM myths have popped up. The myth machine rumbles on, riding the coattails of the latest technology trends like artificial intelligence (AI), and drawing on old, archaic beliefs that have pervaded the CRM industry since its beginning. So I’m here to debunk five more myths in an effort to help organizations better recognize how CRM can help grow their business.

Myth No. 1: Artificial intelligence (AI) is a quintessential factor for the future of CRM.

AI is the buzzword du jour and everyone in every industry is jumping aboard the AI train. CRM vendors are no different: Over the past year, numerous CRM vendors (full disclosure: including SugarCRM) have introduced AI components into their product offerings.

Sure, AI-related technologies will play a big role in the future of CRM. But this idea that AI is the be-all, end-all for CRM is more a message of clever marketers than a reality today. More precisely, AI’s role in CRM is one of more subtle influence, where it augments and complements business operations and a human’s skills so that the end product—the customer or user experience—is improved. I’ll put it this way: You won’t go out and buy AI. Instead, your current (or new) CRM vendor will slowly start to integrate AI features into its offerings. Be wary of anyone trying to oversell AI right now.

Myth No. 2: Automated bots will replace humans in customer-facing scenarios.

This myth has played on our fears for years, but the prospect of automation completely replacing humans in customer interactions would actually do more harm than good. Take, for instance, the use of interactive voice response. Who hasn’t grumbled when a customer service line is answered by a digital voice rather than a real person? Can you see how this would affect a brand’s ability to create or strengthen its customer relationships?

Because humans are good at interacting with each other and still believe in the value of person-to-person communication, chatbots completely replacing humans in customer-facing situations shouldn’t happen anytime soon. But getting bots and humans to work together is important. For example, automated interactions (including self-service) can accomplish many mundane tasks, while humans can lend context to the tasks. At the same time, the automated and human components must remain intertwined so the customer interaction progresses, uninterrupted.

Myth No. 3: CRM is most useful as a kind of “Big Brother” serving the VP of sales.

This myth has some roots in reality—in CRM’s early years, it was predominantly a tool for managers to keep track of what their salespeople were working on. Modern CRM, however, has evolved to become the backbone of a strategy for building better customer relationships.

Now CRM systems bring together customer data from a multitude of different sources, delivering it to all customer-facing employees to provide a complete picture of each customer across all departments. And this includes Big Data from the social web and other system data CRM normally didn’t consume. In the end, CRM should be about driving insights to the user—not about enforcing burdensome tasks from management.

Myth No. 4: Software-as-a-service (SaaS) and the cloud are the same.

This myth has been perpetuated by, surprise, CRM providers that only sell their products as SaaS offerings. By spending lots of time and money convincing people that SaaS = Cloud, these vendors have done the industry a significant disservice.

The reality is, cloud CRM takes on many delivery and access paradigms: private cloud, self-managed public cloud, partner-managed dedicated cloud, multi-instance vendor-managed, and the now “traditional” multi-tenant SaaS models. The good news is that cloud means more choices for customers, meaning there is a cloud option that both reduces IT overhead while also allowing for differing levels of data security and control, to better comply with industry and government mandates around the world.

Myth No. 5: CRM is only for salespeople to forecast and close deals.

Again, the CRM of yesteryear was a sales tool. Today’s modern CRM can synthesize customer information gathered across channels and platforms and turn it into insights that can be translated into actions. Having these insights at the disposal of any customer-facing employee (sales, support, marketing, etc.) empowers a business to build deeper relationships with its customers. It also supports the business’s growth through improved sales and service operations.

CRM has much broader applications than ever before. It can now not only track deals through the sales cycle but also leverage machine learning to deliver detailed, pertinent information about a customer or prospect; automate previously manual processes; and ensure streamlined communications with a customer or prospect across all channels.

Outdated beliefs combined with new marketing hype from some of the big CRM players continue to fuel the CRM machine. By debunking these beliefs, we are hoping to save CRM customers the expense and disappointment of investing in a CRM system that “solves myths” but does nothing to improve the real CRM objective: to improve the user and customer experience.

Larry Augustin is CEO of SugarCRM. Prior to SugarCRM, he spent five years as an angel investor and adviser to early-stage technology companies, including JBoss (acquired by Red Hat), XenSource (acquired by Citrix), DeviceVM, Fonality, Hyperic, Pentaho, and SpringSource (acquired by VMWare). He currently serves on the boards of directors of Appcelerator and DotNetNuke. He is a director of the industry association The Linux Foundation, and has previously served as a director of several other industry associations, including Linux International (LI), Open Source Development Lab (OSDL), and the Free Standards Group (FSG).

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