Why CRM Gets Such a Bad Rap

Everyone loves to hate CRM, the most maligned enterprise application.

Everyone loves to hate CRM, the most maligned enterprise application.

Thats because CRM implementations can touch as many as 70 percent to 80 percent of a companys employees. ERP, just as bad-mouthed in its heyday, affects about 15 percent, requiring far less than the total company buy-in that CRM often does.

Research documenting CRMs low success rate abounds but rarely describes the victims and their plight. Ask an analyst to offer specific examples, and his or her voice drops to a whisper. If youre lucky enough to get a name or two, you have to swear the information dies with you.

Beyond generalities and stories that end happily, neither customers nor vendors talk candidly about CRM failures. A new study on CRM customer dissatisfaction from High-Yield Marketing lambastes software vendors for pressuring customers into buying software before theyre ready.

"CRM is not software. Its much bigger than that," said Dick Lee, author of the report. CRM success requires top-to-bottom re-examination of how companies do business and treat customers. Oracle, which ranked last in a field of eight vendors in High-Yields survey, questions the results.

The survey, conducted over the Web, goes to some lengths to try to establish legitimacy. But what does it matter? A CRM report published by AMR Research ranks Oracle high in functionality, concluding that the company, along with SAP and PeopleSoft, is catching up with market leader Siebel.

"Its dangerous to generalize about CRM not delivering," said Lisa Arthur, vice president of Oracle CRM marketing.

Responsibility for the high failure rate, Lee said, lies in large part with the vendors. "[Software vendors] are just short of criminal in the way they set customer expectations," Lee contended.

Onyx Software CEO Brent Frei takes the dissenting view when it comes to blame. While no company did particularly well in High-Yields survey, Onyx ranked second in overall customer satisfaction and was a hair behind the leading product, Saleslogix, from Interact Commerce. Siebel scored fifth.

"Revenue generation is much harder to prove than with manufacturing or accounting [applications]. The technology vendor unfairly gets blamed, making it even harder," Frei said. Well, perhaps the dialogue about CRM failures should move up a notch on the frankness scale.

"Were not a big-enough company to sweep unhappy customers under the table," Frei said. No one is.

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