Edwin BestEdwin BestMarch 6, 2020


This article is co-authored by Edwin Best (below left), founder of The Best CRM, and Joost Kerkhofs (right), an entrepreneur and author specialising in Organisational Behavior Management (OBM), and the co-founder of OBM Dynamics, which offers globally recognised certification in OBM in association with APMG International.



Once upon a time, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) was a business strategy for building long-term relationships.

It was a strategy based on customer life-cycle management – the process of acquiring, onboarding, engagement and retaining customers.

Nowadays, CRM is – mostly – perceived as technology for the automation of customer processes. CRM technology, though important, is just a means to an end: building mutual beneficial long-term relationships.

This CRM perception is one of the reasons that the technology part is often leading the way in CRM projects. As a consequence, neither the management that wants CRM, nor the people involved in the implementation, are paying attention to the most important part: the CRM strategy and the related change management.

What kinds of behaviours are needed from employees that are working with the technology being implemented?

Customer Experience and CRM

Due the rapidly changing demands of customer (and employee) needs, in the last decade CX has emerged and become the competitive advantage in business.

Putting the customer and employee needs at the centre of a business is necessary to survive in this fast-changing, highly demanding world. CX requires a fundamental shift in thinking – instead of ‘inside out’ (CRM), it requires an ‘outside-in’ approach.

This is the perception you leave with your customer, resulting in how they think of your brand across every stage of the customer journey.

For traditional – silo – organised B2B companies, the change towards an outside-in approach requires a fundamental, long-term change in leadership and culture. But here also, the question remains – what kind of behaviours are needed from the workforce in order for this approach to become successful?

Best of both worlds

In B2B environments, we face two different worlds – the CRM (technology) world and the CX world.

In fact, they are separated worlds.

I look at CRM as the ‘cold’ world (technology, processes, data), while CX is the ‘warm’ world (collaboration, passion, and values).

Both worlds need each other. CRM for the digitalisation of customer processes and for the interaction with all touchpoints.

For Voice of the Customer and customer insights, CX needs CRM data.

Modern CRM systems collect the required CX data (e.g. data from the different touchpoints and CX metrics). This interaction reflects also both the customer and employee happiness: the CRM concepts are designed to make things as easy and convenient as possible during the different customer and employee journeys.

So, how do you integrate both worlds?

In my management book on customer-centric business, I use the below framework for an integrated CRM and CX approach.

The different rows:


  • CRM foundation: CRM technology for the automation of sales, marketing, and service processes
  • CRM strategies (e.g. a customer contact strategy)

Customer Experience

  • Customer Experience strategies (e.g. internal branding)
  • The red diamond, collaborating with the customer as the connecting perspective
  • Outside-in approach based upon customer journeys and touchpoints

Vision and strategy

Your tailor-made  (related to your industry, needs, developments) customer-centric vision and strategy.

A mix with CRM and CX elements and other value-based elements. E.g. for a flexible organisation working with the Scaled Agile Framework (SAF), an integrated approach with Agile and Lean principals.

The strategy includes clear employee and customer metrics to measure the results and progress. The strategy is related to the overall mission, vision and strategy, the umbrella for all activities.

CRM/CX marriage with Organisational Behaviour Management (OBM)

Although the above approach is attractive, creating an organisation with involved employees and customers, the question remains: how do you make sure the people that you want using the new CRM way of working actually show the behaviours needed to make it a successful strategy?

Depending of the strategy, this often means an intensive change. With just CRM, a new way of working with a new system is needed.

With CX, a change in culture and leadership needs to be accomplished.

However, in both cases the new behaviours needed to make the strategy work are not necessarily already part of the habits and routines of your workforce.

In fact, announcing and implementing new ways of working may be the shortest route to generating resistance from your employees. Before you know it, multi-million investments in CRM and/or CX are written off because people don’t use or do it as prescribed, and the frustrated organisation is left with a culture of fear and a ‘do it or else’ style of leadership.

Why is that, and what exactly can we do about it?

Well, this is something a lot of both businesspeople and scientists have been wondering about, probably since the very beginning of business and commerce. So it’s not something that limited to CRM/CX implementation.

According to McKinsey & Co, a mere 30 percent of change programs in businesses around the world seem to succeed. And interestingly enough, “behaviour” is always found in the top three reasons for failure of the program, leaving management wondering: “Why don’t they do what we asked them to do? Can’t they see the beauty and logic of the strategy?”

Actually, a lot of people can see the beauty and logic, but it doesn’t necessarily change their behaviours and turn them into new habits. You only have to take a look at the success rates of New Year’s resolutions to know what point we’re trying to make here.

Habits are formed in a specific way, and it turns out only a few people in business have learned how that actually works (neurologically) and what to do to get people to form new habits in favour of the strategy.

The short version on turning your strategy into a success is: the right application of the dopamine effect in business operations.

We know from decades of scientific research that people do what they do because of what happens to them when they do it. We’re talking about the right consequences to the performer here when the desired behaviours are actually shown. If you make it worthwhile to the performer, you will increase the likelihood of the behaviour returning and increasing, eventually even turning into a habit.

It is called positive reinforcement and its powers are poorly understood and often applied incorrectly.

Because of several pitfalls in influencing behaviour, a mere 0.8 percent of time, effort, and resources are spent on the dopamine effect in business operations.

Yet we all are very aware that dopamine does the trick, but perhaps without necessarily knowing about its existence.

Just take a look at the huge successes of the gaming industry, social media, and the technologies coming out of Silicon Valley.

These products and services all create the right dopamine effect in consumer brains all over the globe, changing the habits of billions of people in only a short period of time, turning them into players, authors, and artists, prompting them to do different things than they did before.

There’s even a ‘Habit Summit’ held in San Francisco every year, where scientists and others from Silicon Valley meet to present and discuss the latest and most effective ways of influencing our habits as consumers.

Our point is this – we can use the same power of habit forming to our advantage in creating new successful working habits, hugely increasing the probabilities of success of our CRM/CX strategy, or any business strategy for that matter.

The trick is to accept that it’s not a zero-sum game. You have to see things from the performer’s perspective and synergize – a point the late Stephen Covey was trying to make all along in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Luckily a part of management science that is putting the dopamine-effect to good use within organisations is getting more and more attention these days. That’s because scientists seem to have found a way to truly change behaviours and create sustainable productive habits by using this effect as part of an intervention protocol.

It is called Organisational Behaviour Management (or OBM for short) and we suggest its integration to change programs aiming for CRM and/or CX success.

Perhaps being the best-kept secret in change management, OBM is now rapidly becoming more popular, mostly because it is both very practical for leaders and consultants, and has been scientifically validated in thousands of studies.

We hope to have sparked your interest in it, and would strongly suggest you check out this science before you venture into a new CRM/CX change program.

Inform. Inspire. Include.
A free way to improve your business.

Customer Experience Magazine is the online magazine packed full of industry news, blogs, features, reports, case studies, video bites and international stories all focusing on customer experience.



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