Once a month I hear someone use the “50% of CRM implementations fail” quote. It is amazing that a statement made about technology implementation, in general, has become so synonymous with CRM technology implementation failure specifically. The most current report I found on CRM implementation failure goes back to July 2013, attesting a 63% implementation rate. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a more recent study (I encourage you to share on this post if you have). That has not prevented the continued use of the “CRM fails” mantra. What I did find, however, was a series of posts about the top 3, 5, and 10, and 12 reasons why CRM implementations fail. And while all the articles provide great insight into implementation failures (mismanaging the project, lack of executive buy-in, etc.) the real reason CRM fails is very simple. CRM implementations fail because we are not implementing CRM at all. We are, instead, implementing contact management, case management, marketing automation, salesforce automation, and process flow improvement tools. What you call CRM (this software you implemented with unrealistic expectations of immediate success) is not managing (skillfully directing) relationships for your company. At all!

Ask your most successful salespeople and best service agents what it takes to manage a “customer relationship” and you will immediately see what I mean. Great sales and service people know that relationships take work and follow specific patterns of establishment, management, growth, and deterioration that can be managed (and which they skillfully manage). But ask them if their CRM system takes these patterns into account and most will tell you this is not even a consideration at their company. Then ask about customer experience (Cx) efforts in the same company and you will learn that most Cx efforts do not get enough information from CRM systems because CRM was not designed to collect it at the customer interaction level. It does not surprise me that so many companies are trying to replace the use of the CRM acronym with “Cx” since the need for intentional management and tending of our relationships with customers is not happening in CRM and the Cx movement has picked up much of that responsibility.

Imagine what would happen if I announced a new software I am calling “Children Relationship Management.” The software is designed to keep all the important information about your kids in a central, secured, cloud location accessible via mobile phone. If your spouse needs to take your child to the doctor, put it in the CRM (remember, this is CHILDREN relationship management now). That way you know when it happened and can read the notes about what happened (which your spouse has carefully added to the appointment). Of course, you also use CRM, so you do the same about taking the same child to soccer practice. Better still, the child’s teacher also uses CRM. So does her piano teacher, her soccer coach, and the people with whom she interacts at home, school, sports, church, and on social media. Congratulations on building a tool that hopefully gives you a 360-degree view of your child. Good luck on getting everyone to use it. Because until everyone sees this tool as a unified approach of collaborating on the welfare, safety, and betterment of that child, this is just software. People will get busy and forget to update information. Eventually, everyone will go back to the old system called “ask mom.”

What would make your children relationship management system effective, is that you use it to manage how the relationship grows and succeeds. It has to influence the types of activities that lead to the betterment of that child, without harming the health of the family, and with the cooperation of all the stakeholders who influence the child’s life. The “child” is the focus. The “relationship” is the goal. The “management” is the process to skillfully and knowledgeably do that. The tool is the vehicle to efficiency, effectiveness, collaboration, and innovation in relationship development.

But this is not a post about children, and I am not comparing customers to children. I am, however, compelling you to think about the way customer RELATIONSHIP management tools must empower your company to focus on the customer, make relationships your goal, and help you become a better manager of the processes that increase loyalty, reduce risk, and engage all the stakeholders in the process.

About the author: JC writes about interpersonal and business relationships and the technology that improves them. His books are available on Amazon and other major retailers.