Predictions

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IF YOU HEAR A KNOCK, KNOCK, knocking at the door, chances are it'll be salespeople hawking customer relationship management (CRM) wares. And they're eyeing a huge market opportunity: Companies are expected to spend a combined $90 billion in 2003 integrating new CRM systems.

At least these are the numbers being bandied about by market researcher IDC. Worldwide CRM services revenues, including consulting, systems integration and outsourcing will exceed $40 billion in 1999, and jump to a staggering $90 billion in 2003, predicts IDC (a sister company to CIO). These figures dwarf those previously presented by Aberdeen Group, a Boston-based research company, which forecasted that the CRM market will hit $4.45 billion by 2001.

The whirl of CRM hype centers around an ambitious goal: building an integrated and corporatewide view of the customer. By tying together all the front-office functions that involve customer contact, companies aim to present a single face to the customer. This means that disparate customer-care and ERP systems must be linked. More important, however, customer-facing IT systems in sales, marketing, call centers and online support must become organizationally and technically integrated.

Why all the fuss? It's good old-fashioned customer service speak, says Katrina Menzigian, manager for IDC's CRM services research program. "It's cheaper to encourage existing customers to buy more products and services than it is to court new customers...and today's consumers have little tolerance for inefficient customer service," she says.

Consequently, corporations are creating new departments and job titles, such as vice president of customer care. Vendors and service providers haven't missed the signs, either. Companies big and small, from all sorts of backgrounds, are staking out the market for the first time, according to IDC. Within the past 18 months, most of the major consulting and systems integration firms have introduced a CRM offering.

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