• August 27, 2018
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

CRM Is Making a Difference

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CRM solutions—whether they were designed for service, sales, marketing, or something else—have been getting a lot of negative press lately. A number of analyst firms have taken issue with the technology, arguing that after more than 20 years on the market, it is still not living up to its potential, that it is still not seeing widespread use by those it was designed to help, and that it is still too costly, too cumbersome, too hard to integrate, too hard to update, too hard to use, etc. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that it might be time for a complete reboot of the industry. Jim Dickie, research fellow and cofounder of CSO Insights, in this month’s Reality Check column, recommends that (when it comes to processes at least) companies “don’t automate, obliterate!” 

I can almost see the protesters massing outside Salesforce Tower, the new 61-floor centerpiece of Salesforce.com’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco, with those words emblazoned on picket signs. 

But before we take to the streets and start the fires to burn the likenesses of CRM’s founding fathers in effigy, let’s keep in mind that there have been plenty of CRM successes as well. This issue of CRM magazine highlights just three of them: Our Elite Customers are a testament to the really significant benefits that can be achieved after deploying a CRM or related system. One shoe retailer saw a more than 450 percent increase in online revenue generated by text messaging alone; an IT services firm saw a 57 percent increase in re-engagement from inactive accounts; and an online appointment booking service increased conversions by 40 percent while cutting costs by almost as much. Those are some very impressive numbers, and let’s not overlook the fact that they were made possible by CRM implementations.

And then, we also need to consider the amount of innovation that has taken place across the CRM industry. In just the past year alone, we’ve seen huge advances in artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, automated bots, and so much more. These cutting-edge technologies are making CRM systems more flexible, more accurate, more interactive, more user-friendly, and more secure, while adding capabilities that couldn’t have been imagined just a few short years ago. In this issue, we introduce some of the Rising Stars and Influential Leaders who are behind some of this innovation. We laud them for both their insight and their foresight as they take the industry to new heights.

Long-standing, deeply entrenched companies like Salesforce.com, Oracle, and Microsoft have also been very active on the innovation front in the past year or so, and the industry has taken notice. These three companies, as one might expect, featured prominently in many of our Market Leader awards categories this year, supported mostly by strong scores from our analysts in depth of functionality and company direction. Analysts over and over again credited these vendors with building on their solutions to make them more robust, more versatile, and more easily integrated with other solutions in ever-expanding software ecosystems. 

Our leaderboards also saw a bunch of smaller, more niche solution providers, like Anaplan, bpm’online, Domo, Infusionsoft, and Zoho, demonstrating that the CRM industry is open to contributions from anyone with an entrepreneurial idea, and an enterprising new take on an age-old problem, or a revolutionary pricing structure that is making CRM more affordable, even for small and midmarket firms with limited budgets. 

And speaking of cost, it is important to note that even the larger players, like Salesforce and Microsoft, are starting to address the issue. In fact, analysts pointed out that in many cases the cost is justified when one factors in the depth of functionality, support, integration possibilities, and partner ecosystems available today.

So maybe CRM systems aren’t so bad after all. Hopefully, after reading this issue, you will at least find them unworthy of all the bad buzz. And we think the best is yet to come.

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

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