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I Was Promised a 360’ View of My Customers With CRM

Updated: Feb 14, 2021


Frequently I hear an executive or IT professional tell me that CRM is or was supposed to provide a 360’ view of the customer…so they are either turned off by more customer-enabling investments or they are disappointed in the false promise of CRM. And every time I hear this, I grit my teeth and—if not in front of people or camera, I roll my eyes. Maybe twitch.


Because a CRM is a significant business system to manage everyday business interactions. It tackles the job for those who are in the front line of your business. It is transactional in nature, not analytical. It is the system of record to define your customers and contacts; and track your interactions, goals, and commercial orientation. But if you are asking it to digest large transactional data from many other systems of record and edge applications, and then derive meaningful metrics to actually give the omni-dimensional “360’ view” you seek, well… it won’t work. You’re asking too much. A CRM is a CRM, not a CDP.

(Fade to Marlin, Nemo’s father in the movie Finding Nemo: “You think you can do these things Nemo, but you just can’t”. Call me over-protective, but unless you want to go on a risky journey to Sidney… Well, you get the point)

We have nobody to blame but ourselves. We’ve all used that hackneyed buzzword “360’ view” or variations of it to describe the mission of CRM. Let’s put out the quarter jar and pledge to stop saying that. CRM can certainly be the UI of record for exposing and presenting the 360’ nature of any customer, and it certainly is the essential foundation for the definition of a customer (or it should be), but don’t therefore try to plumb all big data into it and make it collate and compile that information for recent & relevant measures, scores, segments, trends, and predictions, that satisfy any reasonable definition of 360’ view (here’s my quarter).

Perhaps this news is annoying. We are now being told we need to invest in another system to give us the elusive 360’ view (quarter)? At Ascendant, we believe that is correct. You need to make this modest investment; and doing so will deliver incredible results.

It’s going to boil down to 4 options: either:

Do Nothing: Don’t gather, compile and present full prospect and customer context when and where it is needed. Keep information in various systems and refer to them, maintaining customer context in the heads of your line-of-business team, or in spreadsheets.

o If business as usual is OK for now, then punt. Contact us for continued learning and at the right time we’ll help you launch.

CRM as CDP: Integrate all customer-participating systems to your CRM and make it digest all that data

We really want to earn your trust and the right to professionally challenge this approach. For most mid-market businesses, this is simply impractical and unwise.

DW as CDP: DW’s are notoriously expensive, latent and far more abstract than is needed for this job. DW’s are more like archives for BI, but they don’t usually recirculate the data back to the source systems like an ODS. See our blog Transcending the Data Warehouse.

A CDP: bring the data into a properly normalized marketplace model in a data facility that has the tools needed to aggregate disparate data and specific functions to, amend, standardize and enrich disorganized data; and use this system to continually refresh, recalculate and present rich, accurate data about each customer, segment, geography, and category of your business. Contact us for a demo or presentation on our CDP offering, Customer Insights.

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