Pumpkin Bread*, CRM, Systems Thinking, And The Customer Experience

In this post I’m going to attempt to discuss two of my passions, customer engagement and voluntarism. As they say when you get on the roller coaster,

“Please hold on to the bar!”

Recently one of my favorite CRMerati (people who blog about Customer or Constituent Relationship Management, abbreviated as “CRM“), Mitch Liebermann wrote a post, Who’s On First, which discussed the interplay between CRM and Customer Experience (CX).

(If your organization doesn’t use CRM, substitute your marketing strategy instead.)

Fortunately, this was not one of those posts arguing whether CRM is better or worse than Customer Experience. Rather, Mitch was discussing the interplay between CRM and CX.

Here’s most of the comment I left:

One simple example is that we may invite customers to attend an event. That means we have to properly segment, then effectively communicate with that segment to offer them something of value by attending that event. If the CRM strategy of inviting them to the event is successful, but their experience at the event is not, then we’ve damaged relationships with them. On the other hand, if we fail at effective communications, but offer a superlative experience, no one will show up to experience it. Both the CRM strategy and the CX must be successful. So while I see people talking about the distinctions between CRM, CX, and SCRM, I say, move over and let me mash them all together. I like to make pumpkin bread for my kids. Once I pull it out of the oven you can’t tell which part was the pumpkin, which part was the flour, and which part was the sugar. They’re all blended together in the right proportions.

Mitch’s reply shows that he believes that Customer Experience is more important than CRM. He went on to say that he thought the experience my kids had eating the pumpkin bread was more important  to them than them knowing the ingredients.

True enough! But here’s the thing. I’m a believer in Systems Thinking. That means that CRM and CX are components of the same system. Or that CRM is a component of the CX system. Either way, Systems Thinking states that an action in one component of a system can impact other components in that system. So, if the data I collect in my CRM software is inaccurate, it can lead me to make false conclusions when I create my communication strategies AND perhaps in how I design the experience I want to create for my customers or donors.

Back to the pumpkin bread, what if I accidentally use chili powder instead of cinnamon? They look sort of alike but there’s definitely a difference in taste. What’s that going to do to the experience? Or, what if I thought my family wanted pumpkin bread when they really wanted banana bread?

The customer or donor doesn’t care about the ingredients or about which segment she falls into. She only wants a positive experience. But sometimes decisions made in the CRM component can negatively impact the experience itself.

I strongly believe in the importance of Customer Experience as a business (or nonprofit) strategy. I also believe that CRM plays an important supporting role in delivering that experience.

You don’t have to have a CRM strategy to create a successful customer experience. But whatever strategy you use to identify, segment, and attract your customers or donors to your web site, store, or event, if flawed, can seriously damage or ruin that experience.

*Glenn’s Pumkin Bread Recipe

This recipe makes two loaves.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Spray 2 loaf pans with Pam or similar nonstick spray


3 cups sugar

1 cup applesauce

4 eggs

3.5 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1.5 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2/3 cup water

1 15 oz can pumpkin

  1. In an extra large mixing bowl mix sugar & applesauce. Add eggs, mix well, set aside.
  2. In another large bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Alternately add flour mixture and water to sugar mixture and mix well using a mixer or by hand. Add in pumpkin. Avoid over mixing.
  3. Pour half of batter into each loaf pan.
  4. Bake for 55-65 minutes in a regular oven, NOT on convection. It’s done when you can stick a toothpick in the center and pull it out clean.  Cool for a few minutes before removing from pans.
  5. Enjoy.

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