Gloomy CRM Forecasts Lead to New Opportunities

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chance to get to the contact center. Across all customer-facing areas, CRM technologies provide you with the tools to monitor conversations with your customers and respond to them when needed in appropriate channels. Perhaps most importantly, CRM is a system of record that holds all kinds of structured and unstructured customer data gathered via various transactions and interactions with individual customers so you have a place to store, analyze, report, and read the information that you need to make an informed decision on where to go next with those customers.

So the meat and potatoes of CRM as the industry and its practitioners see it is that it offers customer-facing systems and technologies designed to enable business operations and customer transactions, and it is a piece of the ecosystem that supports communications and interactions between companies and their customers.

Act III: The vendors are looking to be alphas in newer, sexier customer-facing markets

What we see happening now is that several vendors, sometimes publicly and sometimes more quietly, have been trying to distance themselves from CRM, claiming that it's been a "failed experiment" or "over" or "dead." All of which is unutterable nonsense—despite their utterances. The reason for this is political, really. They are trying to reposition themselves at the front of the market—which of course is what any self-respecting (or even self-loathing) vendor would do.

The problem isn't what the varying companies were or are repositioning themselves to be—that's their prerogative. It's their claim that CRM is dead or failed that is indefensible.

Act IV: The defense is in the numbers

So what can we say that is defensible? Well, how about that CRM is a thriving industry that will most likely continue to do better year over year? In 2012, revenues hit $18 billion; in 2013, they hit $22 billion. The year 2014 is forecast to be $23.9 billion, and by 2017, $36.7 billion—according to Gartner. That is the sign of a healthy industry.

The implication is that the vendors saying that CRM has failed or died are saying, "Oh, well, customers are stupid because they, in fact, are buying more and more of this stuff at a time where it clearly [in the vendors' eyes] doesn't work."

Guess what? Customers are not stupid. They know what outcomes they are looking for and are buying the technology and systems they need to support them. Are they always right? No. But are they right enough to support a market that is growing annually? Apparently.

Say what you want, vendors, but every time that you've attempted to push CRM out of existence, it has bitten back. Position yourself any way that you want, but make sure that you can defend what you are saying. "CRM is dead" is not one of the things that you should be saying.

Paul Greenberg (@greenbe on Twitter) is president of consultancy The 56 Group (the56group.typepad.com) and cofounder of training company BPT Partners. He is also the conference chair of CRM Evolution (www.crmevolution.com). The fourth edition of his book, CRM at the Speed of Light, is available in bookstores and online.

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