CEM vs CRM: Which Platform Is Better?

  |  February 24, 2014   |  Comments   |  

Explaining the difference between customer engagement management (CEM) and customer relationship management (CRM) for marketers.

I assume you know what customer relationship management (CRM) is, but just to make sure, let’s spell it out: "Customer relationship management is a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support."

I’m writing this column because over the past few months, more and more prospects we meet in the B2C sphere are unsure about the difference between customer experience/engagement management (CEM), CRM, and their respective needs. (CRM guys, don’t get me wrong. I’m a great believer in CRM, so bear with me while I make my point.)


Before you think I’m coining a new term here - Gartner defines customer experience management as "the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. It is a strategy that requires process change and many technologies to accomplish."

In essence, CEM (some refer to it as experience, I refer to it as engagement) means getting to know your customers well by collecting data from all touchpoints, analyzing the data, and using it to deliver personalized engagement back to those touchpoints. This can work to increase loyalty to your brand, result in increased revenues, and decreased churn.

Some standard models of these platforms include multi-channel automation, big data that connect all data sources, and robust data visualization and algorithms that analyze and score customer content preferences on different channels.


CRM is essentially a database that enables the company to use it to collect interactions with the customer to log them and link them to a single customer view. Each "customer card" includes logged hotline conversations, emails, served invoices, payments made or noted, service requests, products used, and solutions delivered by ticketing systems. The systems essentially help companies to manage integrations and improve service levels.

Another very important aspect is the ability to automate the sales processes so that the sales management processes can be easily streamlined to increase lead conversions for clients. It includes functions like lead assignment, building opportunities, and keeping track of them, etc. (My recommendation if you’re on the lookout for a CRM: buy only on-demand platforms. I’ll refrain from mentioning any providers by name.)

Summarizing the difference in the table below with more comparison points, we get:




Targeted users



What it does

Understands the customer life cycle and provides personalized experience in all touchpoints.

Manage and automate the sales pipeline, store interactions with customers and prospects.

Effect on customers

Increases loyalty and advocacy, ROI and reduces churn.

Increases satisfaction by providing better services and manages sales pipelines.

Customer information

Gives a general overview of the customer life time-value

Mostly a singular viewpoint, the "customer card."


Naturally there are some overlaps between these systems. Both platforms can send emails; both have databases and can store interactions with clients. However, each of the platforms is addressing the issue from a different angle.

It has been argued that CRM are typically tools for managing sales by B2B companies, whereas engagement platforms that thrive on e-mail marketing are the darlings of the B2C industry. Either way, both platform types are making inroads to being suitable for both B2B and B2C.

A testament to this is the acquisition spree among large CRM/database giants in buying digital companies and building marketing cloud infrastructure that enables them to provide engagement services.

This brings me to the reason I’ve written this column – is one platform better than the other? But that’s the wrong question. The question that should be asked is what are your needs? Answering this question allows you to start looking for a suitable solution.

In large organizations, CRM and CEM should work side-by-side and exchange client data while each focuses on a different area of the business.


Whatever you choose, let’s make sure we end up providing a better customer experience to our clients.

Until next time, stay tuned.


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Ohad  Hecht

Based in Hong Kong with a diverse marketing and management experience in Asia, Ohad has managed a number of accomplishments in his fledging career. Highlights include creating the patent registered luxury brand Swana. He speaks four languages and is well versed in the interwining his Western management philosophies into the Asian business model. His experience is complemented with establishing core digital strategies with expertise in e-commerce and email marketing. A regular speaker in the industry events. Armed with a B.A. and M.B.A., he now heads the Asian-Pacific operations of emarsys LTD .

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