• August 31, 2020
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Big Changes, a New Format, but Similar Results

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Due to a number of factors—including a smaller in-house staff, a vendor move away from stand-alone technologies in favor of software bundles and full software suites, vendor consolidation, and shifting deployment and pricing priorities—we at CRM magazine this year made a number of significant changes to our Service Leader and Market Leader Awards.

One of the first changes was the unification of the Service Awards (which we presented in the spring) and the Market Awards (which we presented in the fall) into one awards presentation. No more separate awards for customer service, marketing, and sales solutions; they have all been rolled together into what we are now calling the CRM Industry Awards.

The second change was a revamping of the Leader categories, cutting the total number from 18 (nine for the customer service awards and nine for the sales and marketing awards) to 10 that we identified as the most prevalent.

The third change we made was in the way that we selected our Leader award winners. In the past, we presented industry analysts and consultants with a list of vendors competing in each product or service category and asked them to score each vendor on a number of considerations, including depth of functionality, cost, company direction, and customer satisfaction. We then plugged all of those scores into a complicated algorithm—not an easy task, given that most editors went into journalism because they stink at math. As new channels emerged and the software landscape moved from on-premises to cloud deployments, evaluating vendors based on these criteria became far more difficult. Besides that, the process was very laborious and time-consuming at a time when everyone is being forced to do more with less.

So this year, we simplified the process by asking analysts two simple questions in each of the 10 categories:

“If a client asked for your top five vendor recommendations in this category, which five companies would you recommend, and why?”

We then put all of those recommendations together and presented the top five for you. No more complicated and confusing charts; instead, we give five suggestions that you can add to your list of vendors from which to solicit proposal requests. Of course, you will have your own criteria to suit your own specific business needs, but we hope this will give you a good starting point when looking to bring in new technologies.

We also decided to eliminate the Influential Leaders awards, traditionally given to individuals whose accomplishments have greatly impacted not just their own companies but the industry as a whole. This strategic change reflects another industry dynamic that cannot be ignored. While in the past the CEO or the chief technology officer was largely responsible for product road maps and new engineering endeavors, company innovation today comes from a far wider talent pool, with the fires of progress at many software vendors stoked by front-line workers, citizen developers, partners, and end users. The current reality is that though the C-suite has the final say in most major decisions, the ideas themselves likely didn’t originate there.

And we also decided to eliminate the Elite Customer awards, given to companies that achieved the most significant benefits as a result of recent CRM technology implementations. There were just too many companies deploying new technologies or upgrading existing systems, and we found it increasingly difficult to say that one company’s outcomes were better than another’s. In most cases, it was an apples-to-oranges comparison, and in the end the hope is that all software rollouts will lead to positive outcomes that align with exactly what companies want to achieve.

So what happened this year? As you’ll see when you read the awards package, many of the same vendors from years past appear in these new lists. After all, industry leaders don’t change dramatically from one year to the next. True industry leaders have staying power, amplified by a long and storied history of innovation, a solid value proposition, and the ability to provide customers with the tools to take them where they want to go.

Leonard Klie is the editor of the CRM magazine. He can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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