A German startup offers a CRM system for things, not people

Whenever I talk about CRM systems, I always like to say that whatever business or industry you’re in, it’s really just a database of people. And it’s not just the customers. It’s everyone who touches a business, from prospects and customers to vendors, suppliers and partners. This is their demographic and company information. These are their activities, emails, opportunities, quotes, and cases. CRM is about people.

But in fact, I realize that this is not entirely true. Sometimes, for many companies, it’s more about things. That’s the goal of a Munich-based CRM startup called remberg. And the company just raised 11 million euros ($12.6 million) to prove it.

“remberg is completely rethinking customer-centric processes – namely starting from products and things and not from parties, such as customers”, Hendrik Brandis, a venture capitalist involved in Series A funding said in a press release. “This opens up completely new possibilities for mapping complex relationships across different industries, especially with regard to upcoming IoT (Internet of Things) connectivity.”

remberg’s software is built around equipment, machines, devices, buildings and vehicles. It is designed to track all information and activity around these assets, including the people connected to them. And it’s designed to position its own customers for the Internet of Things.

And when I think of some of my clients, I see their point of view. We regularly sell CRM systems to companies that need to track equipment. An example is a client of mine near Philadelphia who manufactures high-end pneumatic scales used in food processing. When they sell a scale, they have to track it. They monitor maintenance, service history, and customer interactions related to a specific scale. Sometimes this scale is resold on a secondary market and my client wishes to continue to follow its history even if the ownership changes hands. Their equipment is designed to last for decades and they want to continue a relationship with that equipment while it is still working.

And this is just one example. Think of all the companies that have ongoing relationships with the machines they sell. When there is a question or issue with such equipment, a company wants to be able to see the full history of that equipment from when it was sold to the last time it was serviced and any interactions human around him. As the IoT takes hold, companies will want to equip their products with sensors that can send performance and maintenance information back to them for additional monitoring and service and help them and their customers in predictive maintenance.

Remberg’s CRM is designed to do all of this. Company CEO David Hahn says his company is already helping customers manage “many hundreds of thousands” of machines and equipment every day. “Service cases are resolved with him and service technicians no longer fill out their reports on paper, but digitally on tablets,” he says.

How is it with my clients now? By building and then customizing separate entities into an existing people-based CRM system, then manually entering the data (assuming they are notified of an incident). Renberg has done this before and is in a better position to accept service reports, either from humans or digitally from IoT sensors.

“The rationale for this approach is extremely forward-looking and robust,” writing Paul Klemm, investor in the company. “Remberg’s model – which is aimed at small and medium-sized industrial companies – fills a CRM niche that needs to be filled.”

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