December 21, 2000, 10:06 AM — If software vendors are to be believed, customer relationship management (CRM) software promises nothing less than to bring companies closer to their customers.
But a new study from the independent London-based consulting firm Ovum Ltd. suggests that companies need to look carefully before they jump on the latest information technology merry-go-round.
CRM software was designed to make a company's sales, service and marketing efforts more efficient by giving staff one common view of the customer, according to Ovum. Unless companies make careful decisions about how and where they are delivering information to their customers, however, CRM software may not help them to do that. Companies typically communicate with their customers via call centers, self-service over the Web and field sales.
Before choosing a product, companies are advised to match up the channels they most use with the appropriate software product. If they don't do that, the result can be spiraling costs from having to tailor the software program to the company's specific needs, slow implementation of the product, and frustrated or lost customers, Ovum said in a report released yesterday, titled "Ovum Evaluates: CRM in the Front Office."
The problem, according to the report's authors, Cassandra Millhouse and Clive Burrows, is that vendors claim they can solve all of a company's customer relationship problems, when they actually only offer piecemeal solutions. They may address call centers, for example, but not field sales.
"It's a bit like a vendor assuring you that they are selling you everything you need to play tennis, you purchasing a racquet and then being told that you'll have to build your own court if you want to play on grass," said the authors, in an excerpt from the report.
IBM's CRM product is based around customer support via call centers, for example, while Siebel Systems Inc. focuses on field sales, the report said.
The 500-page report gives an overview of the CRM market and evaluates applications from Applix Inc., Baan Co., Clarify, IBM, Onyx Software Corp., Oracle Corp., Pivotal Corp., Point Information Systems, Siebel and Vantive Corp. It also looks at whether CRM products actually support the functions required by a company's sales, marketing and service departments and whether they improve productivity.