• August 27, 2003

Don't Initiate CRM Until You Ask These Questions

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At the recent Frost & Sullivan Sales & Marketing Executive Summit, CRM magazine Editor-in-Chief Ginger Conlon had the opportunity to meet with executives at five of the largest CRM vendor companies: Robb Eklund, vice president, CRM product marketing, Oracle; Cary Fulbright, senior vice president, worldwide marketing, Salesforce.com; John Grozier, vice president, CRM product marketing, SAP; Peter McCullagh, group vice president, CRM strategy, Siebel Systems; and Brad Wilson, vice president of marketing, PeopleSoft CRM, PeopleSoft. They discussed vendor accountability and the one question companies must ask their prospective CRM vendors. CRM
: How accountable should a vendor be for its customers achieving ROI from their CRM initiatives? Eklund: Completely. The whole evaluation should be about what return a prospective customer can expect, and when the deal is closed, that the vendor delivers on that. Fulbright: Vendors should be very accountable, as long as customers know what they're getting into. They need to realize that CRM is not a technology, but is a business process. Wilson: Vendors should be accountable for things in their control, like setting expectations and application integration. They can't control the entire scope of the project; [customer companies] control things like user adoption and adopting CRM as a company-wide business strategy. Grozier: All of us--vendors, customers, integrators--are accountable for [customers] getting value from CRM initiatives. McCullagh: A vendor can only be as accountable as they have the authority to be. We'll be 100 percent responsible if you give us 100 percent authority over operational decisions--but vendors don't own operational decisions. CRM: What is the most important question to ask your CRM vendor? Eklund: How are you going to meet my objectives with your products and services? That is the essence of the relationship, and clarity on that will bring the best chance of success. Fulbright: Give me the names of customers like me--by industry, by size, by how they sell and market--so I can talk to them to understand how well you helped them, and how well you fit or didn't fit. Grozier: How can you help me be successful, and how are you investing to continue to do so? In this environment it's about investment in solutions that help customers be successful. McCullagh: What can you teach me about how to improve my business and drive results that I can't get from another vendor? What you're buying is the vendors' accumulated knowledge, and their products and services should reflect that knowledge. Wilson: How can you deploy customer-facing business processes that leverage our existing applications and take them to the next level?
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