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 Will Wurtz Transatlantic CRM Similarities and Differences

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 By Will Wurtz

Comparing CRM in Europe and America

Do Europe and the U.S. differ in their approach to Customer Relationship Management and what can be said about differences in user preferences for software solutions? A lot can be said about these questions. This is a modest attempt to start a discussion on transatlantic similarities and differences around CRM.

"CRM is not about systems, it is about business strategy". This maxim has been expressed repeatedly in many forms by experts and experienced business people. Still the strongest connotation of CRM is with technology and information systems. This is true in the U.S. as well in Europe. Already six years ago Bob Thompson changed the name of his international CRM internet portal from CRM Guru to CustomerThink in an attempt to avoid the techie connotation of CRM.

Europe is a follower, rather than a leader in business innovation. For that reason European businesses have often been blinded by U.S. successes such as with sales force automation. User compliance of sales people is always problematic, but in my opinion more so in Europe than in the U.S. At the same time Europe cannot be treated as one homogenous market. My experience is that Germany is more similar to the US in user compliance than say France. This has a lot to do with differences in business culture. In general one could argue that user friendliness of CRM systems is a more important element in Europe than in the US, in order to facilitate adoption.

Although there are many CRM software products of European origin, US products dominate the world market, with the exception of SAP-CRM. Ironically SAP built a strong reputation of delivering software with a steep learning curve and therefore is not really suited at all for European users.

The interpretation of CRM as a business strategy has had a focus on optimizing and maximizing customer value—value from the customer—over the last 15 years. More recently attention has been given to customer experience—value for the customer. The rise of social media is forcing companies to give more attention to "value for the customer" and therefore create a more "social" CRM approach.

One could argue that focus on customer value (financial value of customers) is closely related to the pursuit of shareholder value, which is strongly rooted in the US business culture. Stakeholder thinking (versus one-dimensional shareholder value thinking) is much more rooted in the European business culture.

From a European perspective CRM has always been "social". As an illustration I quote the definition CRM Association NL in the Netherlands as stated back in 2002, "...the implementation of business strategy by which a company or institution seeks to optimize (customer) relationships in terms of customer profitability and customer satisfaction..." This definition and the pursuit of what I would call "customer balance" is maybe a more European approach to CRM and business in general than in the US.

I am curious to hear other persons' opinions and experiences on these transatlantic CRM issues. End

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From a European perspective CRM has always been "social". The pursuit of what I would call "customer balance" may be a more European approach to CRM and business in general than in the U.S.


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