Solid CRM is difficult, but not impossible

By Mario Apicella, InfoWorld |  Software

The rest of the survey participants have used a variety of CRM-focused vendors including Clarify (now Nortel Networks), FrontRange Solutions (previously Goldmine), Interact Commerce (previously SalesLogix), Nortel Networks, and Onyx. Interestingly, 5 percent of readers developed their own solutions for SFA and call/service center applications, but none plans to build a homemade solution for the future.

Readers' plans for current and future implementations of marketing and customer service applications are even more dispersed, although the leading vendors in the SFA applications market maintain a significant dominance. Not surprisingly, many respondents chose vendors with a telecommunications heritage, such as Cisco, Nortel, and Lucent, for their call center implementations.

Just as each company has a different set of requirements and resources for launching a CRM project, each company will have different goals and measures of success. When asked about the success of their CRM initiatives, our survey participants were somewhat indecisive. For 13 percent of participants, CRM implementations failed to deliver all the expected benefits. On the positive side, 35 percent indicated that their CRM projects met or exceeded expectations, which is good news if you are planning to follow a similar path. Obviously a successful CRM implementation is not an impossible objective.

The remaining participants either lacked information for a conclusive assessment or were at an early phase in their CRM implementation. This indicates that many companies are starting their CRM projects with objectives that are more ambitious than those specific to customer relations, marketing, or service calls and may plan to complete the picture by adding, for example, e-commerce or e-procurement.

CRM is an essential step for making your company flexible enough to do business in the global economy. If your competitors are taking that step, shouldn't you?

The Bottom Line

Implementing CRM

BUSINESS CASE

Effective CRM improves market penetration and strengthens customer loyalty but may require a thorough rethinking of your company's business processes. CRM also calls for unrestricted cooperation among departments.

TECHNOLOGY CASE

The need to coordinate multiple communication channels and integrate with back-office and e-commerce applications puts a heavy demand on IT resources. The management of some specialized technologies can be more cost-effective if handled by the vendor or outside parties.

PROS

+ Improves customer satisfaction

+ Facilitates additional revenues

+ Enhances company's image

CONS

- Expensive to deploy and maintain

- Extensive technology requirements

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