The messages at DCI's most recent CRM Conference and Exhibition focused on how vendors can improve CRM for their customer organizations in two major areas, Web services and mid-market CRM; the main message at the Call Center Las Vegas 2003 Conference and Expo was on how companies using CRM can better serve their customers.
One topic that received a lot of attention at DCI was Web services. Heralded as the building block and key to applications and data integration, several speakers hammered home its importance. "The most common complaint among dissatisfied customers is that their CRM solutions offer no real integration or true business intelligence capabilities," Lynne Stockstad, general manager of global business solutions at Microsoft, said in a keynote address. "XML and Web services offer whole new ways to solve these problems."
"The intersection of CRM and Web services is the one thing businesses have to be looking at right now," Chris Selland, president of CRM consulting firm Reservoir Partners, added.
Another topic of much discussion was the recent attention CRM solutions vendors have been paying to mid-
market and smaller businesses. Many attendees noted that the recent roll out of Microsoft's CRM solution for mid-market businesses has caused a continued stir in the space.
Zach Nelson, president and CEO of NetLedger, said in a panel discussion that he feels the mid-market is a hot spot for CRM vendors looking to increase their business. "Small businesses are just as complex as large ones," Nelson said. "Vendors simply have to create solutions that solve all these problems, but have a business model that supports smaller transactions, since the mid-market will never produce the type of multimillion-dollar contracts that Siebel [Systems] is used to doing."
Microsoft's Stockstad made the claim that the mid-market is 85 percent underserved, and thus ripe for CRM vendors. She noted that the market was so underserved that Microsoft found it valuable to develop a whole CRM suite for the sector.
Martha Rogers, a partner and cofounder of Peppers & Rogers Group, launched the Call Center Las Vegas 2003 Conference and Expo with her keynote titled "Rethinking Business Strategy in a Customer-Centric World." Her message was for organizations to focus on individual customers based on the information customers provide.
When talking about customer value, especially today, it is difficult not to at least acknowledge the current state of the struggling economy. However, Rogers maintained that companies should instead focused on competitors. "This economy is really not fun. Pessimism rules. It's tough to get by. The thing is, you don't have to beat the economy, you just have to outrun your competitor," she said.
Rogers referred to a story of two backpackers who encounter a charging bear. Immediately, one backpacker drops his backpack and takes off. The other, flustered, follows behind and screams, "We're never going to outrun the bear!" To which the lead runner shouts back, "I don't need to outrun the bear. I just need to outrun you!"
To beat competitors Rogers said personalized communication is the key. Always know more about a particular customer than your competitors, she advises, by regularly asking them for more information about themselves. This way, organizations can think of customer-specific initiatives to improve relationships--tasks competitors cannot do without the personalized information. "We can't manage customers. That's not appropriate, but we have to manage our own company to optimize relationships," Rogers said.
To that effect, she said interaction between an organization and its customers is required and these interactions should create positive experiences and bolster customer loyalty. Loyal customers, she said, are generally more profitable, as "the cost of serving a loyal customer is nearly always lower."
Great customer service is not enough, however. The ability to remember a customer, or specific information about a customer, is very important. In addition to great customer service, Rogers suggested following four rules: identify individual customers and provide the ability to link that information with other databases in the company; differentiate customers by value and needs--essentially, identify your most profitable customers; interact with customers more cost effectively; and finally, customize some aspect of the enterprise behavior.
One of the main events at the DCI CRM Conference & Expo was the announcement of the Top 15 CRM software products for 2003 as judged by CRM consulting firm ISM Inc.
They are (in alphabetic order):
Amdocs ClarifyCRM v. 11.5 by Amdocs
C2 CRM v. 5.4 by Clear Technologies
Client Management Software 6.0 by Oncontact Software
E.piphany E.6 by E.piphany
ExSellence v. 4.5 by Optima Technologies
iCRM (Applix iEnterprise) v. 8.3.1 by iET Acquisition
mySAP CRM 3.1 by SAP AG
Onyx Enterprise CRM 4.0 by Onyx Software
PeopleSoft CRM 8.8 by PeopleSoft
Pivotal CRM by Pivotal
S1 CRM Solutions by S1
SalesPage open.space 4.0 by SalesPage Technologies
Siebel 7.5 by Siebel Systems
Staffware Process RM v. 9.0 by Staffware
Worldtrak v. 5.6 by Axonom
The winners were selected from among a large number of CRM software packages, which were tested by the ISM Software Lab at its Bethesda, MD, headquarters. According to ISM, each package was rated according to 171 selection criteria, including 105 business functions, 48 technical features, and 18 user-friendliness/support features.