VRM, CRM, and sad hands

The last six months of my cubicle career were made miserable by a CRM program. It was likely one of the most aggravating experiences of my life.

I’m not exaggerating. That’s actually a very mild, middle of the road interpretation of the experience. Only I can’t blame it entirely on the software program. There were other issues. Still, it’s been sweet, poetic justice to read about the slow uprising against CRM. This week, the Social Customer Manifesto made it a little sweeter again.

“One of the latest solutions to the problem of marketing without wasting loads of money is CRM. Companies collect loads of data about their customers and potential customers and then target their marketing efforts at segments of those groups. CRM is ‘lame and bad’, though, because it isn’t about relationships at all…”

The post goes on to explain the theory, and yet-to-be-developed product, behind VRM. It’s basically CRM inverted. Where CRM collected mass amounts of data about customers and disguised communications and touchpoints as “personal,” VRM lets people put out personal information to help them find the products they need.

Where CRM forces a relationship, VRM allows people to choose who they want to work with. It will work much like tagging in blog posts. These tags will provide specific information about what a person is looking for. VRM then goes out and finds the compatability between the product and a person, so a conversation, not an intrusion, can begin between the two.

You’ll find a much better summary in the article.

My hands-on, unhappy experience, was with CRM. My job was to dip in daily and report the number of people who signed up to receive a free sample of our product. Only it had so many other flaws and I fear I’m ruined forever in believing that CRM is worth the cost. And it costs.

Trouble number one: Poor training. I think some key folks made the assumption that employees could just “figure it out” and learn to manage this complicated program on their own. The Microsoft CRM product we were using had a user interface best suited for someone who was probably a Software Developer, not a senior writer in the marketing department.

Trouble number two: “Leads” weren’t date stamped, so you couldn’t determine the chronology, or the age of leads. You never knew what was new, or what was old. And leads came in through various points of entry, making data collection a confusing and complicated process when it came time to send emails and honor the relationship via emails.

Trouble number three: Impersonal emails. The whole point of the thing was to send out “personalized” emails to a group of people. Only, we couldn’t remove a serial number from the subject line. For example: “It’s so good to hear from you: CRM:29849385793.” Now THAT’s how you make people feel special.

Trouble number four: Eating leads. 
Like Charlie Brown and his famous kite-eating tree, CRM would spontaneously eat leads, then spit them out in random places. The result, is you look like a total lackey and asshole in the eyes of your manager for not being able to manage a program that was beyond your comprehension or control.