Putting Customer Back Into Customer Relationship Management
Increasingly CRM vendors are employing some CRM of their own.
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Despite this year's economic and tech-sector gloom, I am pleased to report that according to Aberdeen Group, total CRM spending will continue to grow at an annual rate of nearly 10 percent through 2005. ISM's own research puts this figure closer to 15 percent. Why this continued, impressive growth? Simply put, because CRM software vendors, under heavy pressure to help their customers succeed, have begun to put the customer back into their customer relationship management offerings. Following are three examples of innovative CRM vendors that are leading the way. 1. Firstwave Technologies Inc., which has conscientiously gone back to the basics. About a year ago, in addition to announcing an impressive suite of flexible, scalable CRM modules based on a powerful XML native framework, Firstwave refocused its strategy on assisting its CRM customers at all phases of the software purchase. This means helping customers define their CRM requirements, identify metrics for their CRM business case, get buy-in from key stakeholders, and ensuring that customers are well trained and using the system to its fullest potential. In other words, the company's putting customer needs first, thereby ensuring that the Firstwave CRM offering is being "bought by the customer" versus "sold by the vendor." As for the payback of Firstwave's renewed customer-centric strategy, in addition to customers like Citizens Bank raving about the vendor's customer-intimate approach, Firstwave can also proudly claim to be one of a handful of profitable, public CRM vendors. 2. FrontRange Solutions Inc., owner of the Goldmine and Heat brands, has been able to accomplish a great deal as a result of its technical innovation, as well as by listening to its customers. FrontRange's new product, Goldmine CustomerIQ, the first CRM software application built on Microsoft's .NET platform, is a cost-effective, interoperable solution that integrates with existing technology investments, and is adaptable to serve the needs of key vertical mid-market companies that have limited IT resources and budgets. I recently met several FrontRange customers, and each one keenly confirmed how willing and flexible FrontRange was to incorporate unique customer needs into its vertical CRM software offerings. Because FrontRange is able to easily build customer needs into its offerings, and because it has brought technical innovation back into the equation, FrontRange has forced the CRM industry to think differently. 3. Deuxo, which helps its customers optimize lead-management process and create integrated marketing communications programs. Several years ago Deuxo set out to address the fact that 70 percent of all inquirers to a company are never called on by sales. Deuxo conducted extensive market research into how business-to-business companies optimize leads and built that into their product. As a result Deuxo's lead-development software optimizes a customer prospect population (personalized through marketing-campaign execution) to deliver qualified leads. Deuxo's customers create a weighing system to rank leads based on such characteristics as readiness and purchasing power, with impressive results: Customers like Air Liquide document gains in net margin and reduced sales-cycle times. These three vendors are among a handful of leaders that have demonstrated the value of putting the customer back into customer relationship management. Their success is indicative of a new CRM wave that's propelling CRM's consistent growth. This is one wave you will want to ride. Barton Goldenberg is president and founder of ISM Inc., a CRM consulting firm based in Bethesda, MD. He is the author ofCRM Automation (Prentice Hall, 2002), and publisher of The Guide to CRM Automation. Contact him at bgoldenberg@ismguide.com.
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