Three Cheers for Honest CRM Vendors

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Having spent 26 years in CRM, I’ve seen my share of vendor shenanigans—from exaggerating software capabilities and embellishing execution complexity to overpromising and underdelivering implementations. While most vendors are honest and hard-working, I am concerned about a resurgence of dishonest practices to drive sales from several new vendors. Without revealing names, here are two true stories about leading vendors that fall into this category.

Performance Overselling
The first vendor claims there is no degradation in performance by using its SaaS offering. We monitored system performance with one of our customers over two years, prior to the client pulling the plug on the software. The vendor claimed the software was configured properly, yet a bug often prevented the customer from sending emails via Outlook from within the vendor’s CRM application. That application would time out when the customer tried to send an Outlook email. Ultimately, the customer wasted 30 to 45 seconds each time the bug occurred, often several times during the same email. While the emails would finally transmit, the customer had to waste two to three minutes making multiple attempts.

The vendor’s support staff acknowledged the bug by requesting that the client make numerous hardware and network upgrades, including faster DSL line installations and PC purchases. Also, the vendor dispatched technical and network specialists and management personnel to solve the problem. Yet, after two years, the problem persisted and the customer—frustrated and disgusted—pulled the plug and moved to a new CRM vendor platform.

I was most bothered by the vendor’s attitude. Rather than humbling itself and working more closely with the customer, this well-known vendor came close to humiliating the customer by asserting repeatedly that the issue was with the client. It was only when I learned that the same bug was hampering another ISM customer that I concluded the vendor was lying to the customer and stringing it along until a fix was found, which never happened.

Out-of-the-Box Hooey
The second vendor is also a well-known SaaS CRM provider. It was invited to respond to a customer RFP on digital marketing functionality. The vendor’s response said it could deliver the required functionality out of the box and so impressed the customer that the vendor was invited to the demonstration shoot-out among three finalists. (In the early ISM days, I devised a vendor selection process that is almost bullet-proof in identifying vendors that have been dishonest in their response.)

In this case, as the CRM vendor demonstrated the functionality it claimed was available in its out-of-the-box application, it became clear to those scoring the demo that the vendor had greatly exaggerated its capabilities in the RFP response.

I facilitated this session and, as the demo progressed, it was apparent that the salesman and sales engineer demonstrating the application hadn’t read their company’s RFP response. The demo deteriorated over the four hours allocated and, at hour three, the salesman lost his cool and said, “I’ve had enough of this punishment. We are going to stop the demo right here. We are a company with integrity and it is not possible that our demo is so far off from what our RFP response promised.” We offered the salesman more time to prepare to reflect the RFP response. The salesman indicated he would hold a discussion with his team that had prepared the response. Later, the salesman sent an email officially withdrawing from our RFP process.

As I said, most CRM vendors are honest, hard-working companies. In support of them and the CRM industry in general, it is critical that we share these stories and spread the word about vendors that are not being honest with their customers. If enough stories get told, the dishonest vendors would be forced to clean up their act.

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president and founder of ISM Inc., a consulting firm that applies CRM, social CRM, and social media to successful customer-centric business strategies. He is the publisher of The Guide to CRM Automation (17th edition) and author of CRM in Real Time: Empowering Customer Relationships (Information Today Inc.).

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