What’s the Difference Between CRM and CXM?

coworkers comparing crm vs. cxm customer insights

Two Divergent Paths toward Activating Customer Insights

With the value of good customer experience proving itself as leading companies outperform others in terms of both revenue and reputation, there’s never been a time with a greater focus on customer experience data and analysis. Data is driving corporate decision-making today: The more capable companies are at leveraging insights into meaningful action, the greater are the benefits. There’s so much data out there that more focused subsets of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software have emerged to collect and manage those insights. This is a tale of two CRMs: Sales CRM and Customer Service CRM. The Customer Service CRM platforms are sometimes also sometimes referred to as Customer Experience Management (CXM or CEM) software, which is a subset of Customer Relationship Management focused on engagement and service.

While at first glance, these two CRM platforms seem very similar since they both help manage the customer experience, they are designed with different goals in mind. A closer examination reveals differences in their core capabilities and strengths.

What is Sales CRM?

Sales CRM software focuses on the customer lifecycle, from prospecting through customer management. Initially developed for B2B sales environments, this CRM system brings together sales, marketing, and customer service to help manage interactions and provide an analysis of trends and behaviors that engage customers along a funnel or flywheel.

A Sales CRM lets you store prospect and customer information in one central location, including contact information, account details, and all relevant information about sales opportunities. When integrated with a marketing automation platform, it helps automate both sales and marketing processes, and helps analyze customer trends and behaviors. For instance, you can personalize different email streams for prospects based on the marketing content they view, nurture leads differently based on title, or send different warranty information to customers based on what product they purchased. When integrated with order-entry/ERP systems, it can also help manage contract renewals for subscription-based services.

What is Customer Service CRM or CXM?

Customer Service CRM – or CXM or CEM – on the other hand, powers the processes and functionality of engaging directly with customers. A CXM system facilitates conversations, engagements, and interactions with consumers across multiple channels from a central dashboard, and collects Voice of Customer (VOC) feedback and data on consumer sentiment. Initially developed for B2C customer service environments, a CXM can be harnessed to provide real-time insights on brand, product preferences and trends, and consumer emotion that are relevant to customer service/relations, marketing and product development, purchasing, and legal.

A CXM helps expedite and standardize customer service and marketing processes. For example:

  • Your customer service agents can see recommended next best actions (rebates, coupons, etc.), and pre-populate copy for email/text responses as they’re being typed.
  • When integrated with multiple channels, including phone, email, chat, and social media, you can respond to an inquiry in the same channel that the customer is using through a single interface.
  • When integrated with a chatbot, you can offer seamless escalation to a live person when a customer isn’t able to find an answer directly.
  • When integrated with a product locator tool, you can find accurate data for ordering or searching similar products. When integrated with a ratings and review tool, you can respond to positive or negative reviews.
  • When used by a technical support team, you can power your support tickets and resolutions.

Comparing Sales CRM with CXM

You might ask yourself whether you can combine Sales CRM and CXM functionality into a single, unified system. The answer is yes (sort of).

Some Sales CRM systems have added CXM modules. And some CXM systems have added sales and marketing capabilities. Those hybrid solutions may offer all the necessary functionality for some companies. But as of today, a CXM system with sales capabilities added won’t offer the full functionality that heavy Sales CRM users are accustomed to. Likewise, you’ll have to pay hefty third-party integration fees to configure your CRM system with the workflows that are natively included in a CXM. Plus, customizing your software to that extent comes at the price of paying ongoing services for any future needs.

Because the systems developed from different origins – Sales CRM from sales, and CXM from customer service – they offer very different approaches to workflows and metrics collected. Obviously, you’ll get stronger KPI data on the sales pipeline from a Sales CRM, and you’ll get stronger KPI data on call center efficiency and consumer sentiment analysis from a CXM.

For that reason, many larger companies are using a broad set of CRM capabilities, as well as the subset of functions around CEM and CXM that are more tailored to customer engagement. It is easy enough to share data between the two systems with an API. You can always export data from both systems into a data lake for more rigorous advanced analysis and reporting using BI tools or other statistical systems.

The downside of having two systems is most apparent for marketing and IT. For IT, it increases the number of vendors and tools the team has to approve and/or support. For marketing, as the number of tools in the tech stack continues to grow, it becomes more unwieldy to manage. Collaboration with sales through the use of Sales CRM plus marketing automation has become the gold standard for B2B organizations today.

There’s more variation when it comes to collaboration with customer service on the processes for handling promotions and interactions on social media. Some marketing departments prefer to handle social media directly through a stand-alone social media monitoring and engagement platform. Other marketing teams prefer to delegate social media interactions to customer service, who prefer an integrated CXM. Either way, the customer interactions won’t be uniform across the brand unless there is alignment among the two departments – in both process and technology.

The table below highlights just a few examples that exemplify the key differences between the systems.

Comparing Key Features of Sales CRM and CXM

Sales CRM

Customer Service CRM

(also known as CXM or CEM)

Primary Focus

Sales, prospecting, and renewals

Customer interactions

Configurable Workflows

Assignment of leads for follow-up

Queuing and prioritizing customer support cases

Sales engagement steps (e.g. discovery, validation, proposal)

Escalation flows

Configure, price and quote management

Standard response templates – tokenized for each brand, each product (so changes can be applied to thousands of templates in one spot)

Alerts when there’s no activity on an account

Alerts when there is a negative sentiment trend on social media

Organizational and territory management

Flows for responding to negative or positive social media posts

Reason codes for lost opportunities (e.g. aged out, lost to competitor, inaction, price)

Reason codes for contact (i.e. quality issue, allergen inquiry, product question, store location)

Sales planning and forecasting

Suggesting next steps and fulfillment, like replies or coupons, based on case data

Travel and expense management

Escheatment process for reclaiming unused goodwill

Channels Integrated

Email, Telephone (e.g. click to call)

Email, Telephone, Text/SMS, Social Media, Chatbots, Video, Ratings/Reviews, Virtual Personal Assistants

Sources of Data

Verbatim from email

Verbatim from email, telephone, social media, live chat, chatbots, video chat, text/SMS, virtual personal assistants

Integration with marketing automation software (e.g. website page tracking, interesting moments)

Social media sentiment tracking

Purchase history

Purchase history

KPIs Tracked

Recurring revenue by product or by industry

Case handle time to resolution

Average contract value by sales stage (pipeline)

Number of cases resolved with first interaction

Order-to-delivery cycle time

Net Promoter score

Annual churn

Annual churn by promoters and by detractors

Cross-sell and up-sell numbers

Share of positive voice in social media


The Rise of the Customer Experience Team

Differentiation through customer service is difficult. In fact, Forrester’s CX Index shows no U.S. companies score in the Excellent category, and only 17% score in the Good category. Yet at the same time, Adobe’s Digital Trends reported that businesses rank customer experience 1st in terms of most exciting business opportunities (beating out content marketing, video marketing, and social).

The intense focus on CX has given rise to a new role in corporate America, that of a Chief Experience Officer. This person’s responsibility is to transform the way companies work by shifting business operating principles. Customers interact through a complex ecosystem that interlinks multiple front-end channels (such as websites and apps, contact centers, stores/sales) as well as back-end operations (including legal, production, procurement, product development, housekeeping). The role of the CX Officer is to shine a light on cross-system processes and interactions, and promote a company culture of shared values and behaviors that focus on delivering great customer experiences.

Customer experience personnel collect benchmarking data and voice of customer feedback, for sure. But more than that, they focus on process. They identify the key drivers of a great CX for their customers, and prioritizing experiences that matter.

A CXM system can an invaluable tool in capturing data that informs this process. Since most critical customer interactions are tracked through a CXM, processes and knowledge bases can be tweaked when working through customer journey mapping to unlock insights along the consumer’s path. Below are a few case studies of how some companies have used a CXM to change processes that provide better customer experience.

Tracking Customer Experience Metrics That Matter

McCormick & Co. uses a CXM to monitor customer feedback on social media. “We are 100% committed to quality, so our volume of messages regarding highly sensitive issues, like illness, allergy, injury, hospital, etc. are low. However, with our new alert capability, we can now immediately react to urgent matters, regardless of time or our locale during off hours,” says Deb Riley, Assistant Manager of Consumer Affairs. See the case study.

Vera Bradley collects extensive data on product trends and customer satisfaction scores in its CXM that influence cross-organizational collaboration. Internal departments – including quality, legal, product, marketing and risk, and sales – stay connected to the most up-to-date customer and product information. This ensures immediate access to actionable customer data about buying trends and customer experience feedback that helps the brand continue to connect and inspire women around the globe. “We’re better armed to share ‘Voice of the Customer’ information,” says Susan Campbell, Director of Customer Experience. “We’re able to quantify, make recommendations from feedback and provide information to understand and share insights into buying obstacles.” See the case study.

Sun-Rype uses information culled from its CXM as an early indicator of any potential issues with packaging, products, and so on. The customer services team is able to quickly communicate issues back to the Quality team so that corrective actions can be taken, if needed. We are “empowered to gather and disseminate valuable VOC data and trends back to the organization,” says Sandra Hofer, Consumer Services Manager. “Because of our daily interactions with consumers, the Consumer Services’ insight is highly valued on internal teams ranging from packaging design to product development.” See the case study.

As you can see from the cases above, stewards of customer intelligence have an urgent imperative: Embed “intentional customer experience” processes into your workflows. The more you can define key operational and CX metrics to serve as your enterprise-wide guiding light, and share those metrics across your organization, the more benefit you’ll reap.

Request a demo of Astute’s platform to see how a CXM can help you collect and leverage insights for customer service that stands out as exceptional.