Customer Software Revolution That Never Happened

Sunday Business (London, England), April 28, 2002 | Go to article overview

Customer Software Revolution That Never Happened


Can a software system really replace the old art of knowing your customers?

Not according to Clive McNamara, director at AIT Group, which sells customer relationship management (CRM) software that helps corporations do business with customers online. The market is finally waking up to the fact that CRM technology isnt a magic pill. It wont induce loyalty in customers unless the company culture changes, too. Software on its own can never deliver good customer service.

This view is backed up by recent research involving 450 financial services organisations across the UK which found that 76% of the total investment in CRM systems in the last 12 months, and 80% (worth pound sterling471m) of all new CRM investments planned for 2002, will focus on establishing more face-to-face contact with customers.

The assumption that the call centre and the internet would one day spell the end of personal contact was a huge error of judgement, McNamara concludes.

CRM solutions have not delivered the business benefits they promised. To date, CRM has concentrated on optimising internal business processes without adequately focusing on what delivers value for the customer, says Dennis Howlett, director of research consultancy Webster Buchanan.

Looking after your best customers is what CRM is all about. However, it has been seen merely as a tool to cross-sell at every opportunity and is still thought of as a technology rather than a strategic business issue.

After having been interpreted as the miracle product that was going to make companies customer-centric at the flick of a switch, CRM is generating horror stories of installations that have missed schedule, gone over budget or both, and that have destabilised vast numbers of companies employees. In many cases, expectations were set too high and implementations ignored basic human factors, says Patrick Lawton, chief executive and founder of Digital Union, a supplier of e-business products and services.

According to David Bridges, Deloitte Consultings European head of customer and channel strategy, 90% of all organisations currently offer poor customer service because they do not really understand their customers well enough and the way they interact with those customers is not good enough. …

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