IT buyers expect CRM efforts to unify customer contact processes and sharpen their competitive edge, help them retain customers, and identify and acquire new customers. So said several hundred participants at a Ziff Davis Media eSeminar, "Best Practices for Customer Relationship Management," convened earlier this month and available in archive form at www.webseminarslive.com.
Alternative CRM goals of cutting IT overhead and minimizing upfront costs commanded a combined share of less than 25 percent of the participants responses to an interactive poll at the beginning of the session. In answers to another poll question, 12.5 percent were focused on application portfolio consolidation or cost-reducing outsourcing of their contact management tasks.
Further, 15 percent cited cost uncertainties as their major concern about undertaking a CRM initiative. A third poll response suggested that CRM vendors will find potential buyers ready to spend if the return on investment looks strong and if the future path to efficiency and flexibility is well-defined.
Seminar participants were almost uniformly spread across the spectrum of CRM progress. About a third assessed themselves at the 10 percent level, defined by use of separate legacy systems. Another third described themselves as being at the 30 percent level of "silo" systems using custom data connectors. Only the most advanced third reported using shared data.
Guest eSeminar speaker Zach Nelson, CEO of session sponsor NetSuite, advised attendees not to settle for sales force automation under the false colors of CRM. "Whats missing from most CRM is the C," Nelson said, contending that most systems help make the sale but dont move forward into the heart of the ongoing customer relationship.
With two-thirds of IT buyers interested in CRM but still far from being fully invested in their solution, the goal of end-to-end visibility and support of the full life cycle of the relationship should be high on the agenda when CRM buyers meet sellers.