7 biggest CRM pitfalls | Learn here how to avoid them!
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The 7 biggest CRM pitfalls and how to avoid them!

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The right approach to the customer

Customer-oriented business is crucial when it comes to CRM and the proper approach to the customer. Much has been written about customer-oriented business, but actually putting it into practice remains difficult. In this article, Dick Pouw presents the 7 main causes and provides tips on how to deal with it.

By Dick Pouw, Associate Partner with Passionned Group

1. Vision of customer-oriented working is missing

If you want a successful customer-oriented business, it should be clear what you stand for. The client’s vision must be inspiring for employees, customers, and other stakeholders of an organization. This must be the dot on the horizon, where everyone can work towards. Employees, customer-oriented processes, and the supporting systems should be focused on this goal.

People often get no further than generic terms such as: “We want to be the most customer-oriented organization.” This isn’t appealing and is actually meaningless. It is quite difficult to develop a good vision. The danger is that it takes too long or that it becomes an ‘academic process’.

The tip: ask the employees of your contact center, or employees who have daily contact with clients, what vision they have on customer-oriented business. Ask five employees to write a practical vision and develop upon this. This vision will be the first step, which can later be tightened up.

2. There is a lack of inspirational leadership

The best way to get everyone involved in this process is through inspirational leadership. Too often, managers, directors, and administrators are invisible to their employees, while they have to (continuously) provide the appropriate example. They translate the vision into what should actually be done. That is the key to success. Too often, people are busy with internal target setting, such as meeting their own KPIs. How do you obtain inspirational leadership?

Tip: Within every organization you may always find people who are there for the customer. Appoint one of them as client representative and regularly spar with them as a director, administrator, or manager. Take him or her to important meetings and give him/her formal status. Not willing to do that? Then spend 1 hour per week with direct customer contact in your departments, discuss customer issues and resolve them together with the employees!

3. The organization is functionally oriented

Many organizations have traditionally been functionally oriented. Everyone in the organization is doing their own part of the entire customer process. This results in ‘islands’ within organizations with all its consequences for the clients (from pillar to post). It is not easy to change this process. Flipping to a customer-oriented process design sometimes takes years.

Tip: take a specific customer’s problem and make a project out of it. Employees from all departments must be represented in this project. These must be employees who “are there for the customer.” Give them (temporarily) the authority and budget to make structural changes in the organization. To make a customer’s problem really clear, you can have the customers tell the problem themselves. Such a story has a lot more impact than figures showing that in 10% of cases the process goes wrong.

4. A new system is believed to be the solution

Customer-oriented business is often translated to the implementation of a new (CRM) system, a BI tool, or a self service solution on one-to-one basis. All wonderful tools, but, unfortunately, they do not always lead to better customer orientation. It often happens that no customers are involved in such projects. Implementations are often long costly processes where the outcome is disputable.

Tip: ask yourself if the customer is better off from the purchase of a new system, and why your organization should make this investment. Do not follow vendors of such systems, but ask them where you can see this system working. Generally, you learn the most from those who are already using it, and hearing about their experiences is free!

5. Changes are often dealt with too much internally and they are too numerous at the same time

Numerous changes are specific for customer-oriented business. Research* shows that increasing number of changes proportionally decreases the chance of success. With one to four changes, all the changes succeed. With five to ten changes, a maximum of three changes succeed, while with more than 10 changes at the same time, the chance of success is completely lost. This research also shows that there are often 20 or more changes running concurrently in an organization. Many of the changes have no interaction with the customer, so they are internal. Think of merger plans, cuts, restructuring, outsourcing, and internal politics.

Tip: This is simple. With each change, the following question is crucial: “what does the customer gain from this?” If this question cannot be answered adequately, don’t implement the change. This saves the organization a lot of time, money, and energy! This can be used more effectively, for example, by providing customers better service!

6. Employees are “not involved” in customer-oriented business

It is known that involved and happy employees make happy customers. When an organization begins a process of transformation to customer-oriented business, this usually affects the involvement of employees. A small group of (often external) experts prepare such a process for months, and then it takes a few days to disclose and implement it in the organization. This often is followed by firings, uncertainty, and lack of a future expectation for employees, resulting in employee involvement to fall into a downward spiral. This explains why employees are so reluctant when it comes to customer-oriented changing.

Tip: Involve employees into designing this change, even if this is at the expense of jobs. Employees are not “irrational” and can deal with this uncertainty. Give them confidence, then you will see a much greater support for the change and the change will ultimately take place faster.

7. The organization is missing the passion for the customer

There is a lack of real passion for the customer in many organizations! There are often pretty words, being nice on paper, but real putting the customer first takes more than just words. If you ask employees if the company is customer-oriented, then more than 80% would answer positively. Ask this company’s customers the same question and only 8% would say that this is what they experience. Customer-oriented business has a chance only if there is a real passion for serving customers. A striking example of a customer-oriented company is Coolblue, voted the smartest organization in the Netherlands in 2012.

Tip: If the passion for the customer is really missing, then customer-oriented business is not advised for you. Still willing to do it anyway? Then appoint people who have this approach within themselves, such as employees with a background in the hospitality industry.


Should the conclusion be, shouldn’t we start with it? Of course not! Take into account these seven reasons why customer-oriented business is so difficult. Work on this and maybe the provided tips can help. Go for it, because everyone wants to be treated as a customer. That applies to you as an administrator, director, or manager, likewise.

* Steven Covey, 4 disciplines of Execution

Dick Pouw is an Associate Partner at Passionned Group, your sparring partner for CRM issues and customer thinker. He can also be reached via LinkedIn.

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