In today’s increasingly digital world, personal relationships often get lost in the shuffle of e-mails and social media. However, current research emphasizes the importance of those relationships now more than ever.

Why, you ask?

Modern consumers have more choices now than ever before, seeking products near home and far away, online and in stores, and taking to Internet forums and social media sites with reviews, in the best case glowing and in the worst case damaging. Proactive customer relationship management (CRM) strategies can not only build trust and customer loyalty, but also encourage customers to come to you before going online to address problems.

“Most companies are still using CRM in a reactive way, without truly integrating it into business. Companies are using it to push and protect their brand, but use it for very little else,” said Bob Stutz, Microsoft Dynamics CRM corporate vice president, at the 2013 CRM Evolution conference in New York in August. “We talk about social and marketing, but who talks about social and sales or social and customer service?”

According to Jim Berkowitz, founder and CEO of CRM Mastery, 61 percent of consumers read online reviews before purchasing a product. Additionally, positive online reviews are shown to provide an 18 percent lift in product sales. With numbers like these, it’s obvious that proactive relationship-building is paramount to both sales performance and customer feedback.

Presentations at CRM Evolution conference reveal some more important takeaways:

  • “Knowing when and how to say sorry is a company’s humanity litmus test because when things go wrong – and unfortunately they will – the way you handle the issue will determine whether you’ll earn a rave or a rant.” – Jeanne Bliss, founder of
  • “While there are plenty of excellent analytics tools out there, you have to keep this in mind: Your most important and analytical engine is your people.” – Mitch Lieberman, managing partner at DRI Global

“There is nothing more cutting edge than shaking someone’s hand and telling them you’ll bust your ass for them.” – Shawn Collins, Founder and CEO of EXTEND GROUP