Report: Businesses still struggling with CRM

Despite major investments in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technologies, organizations are still struggling with the fundamentals of managing their customer relationships, according to findings in a new report from Dimension Data SA, which surveyed over 200 contact centers across the world.

The Merchants Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report revealed that more than 75 percent of call centers still claim not to have achieved the holy grail of a "single view of their customers" across all touch-points.

Significantly it is company culture and not technology that appears to be holding back the success of CRM projects. Over 70 percent of call centers cited the issue of "coordinating across departments" as a major stumbling block, which is almost double the 37 percent who were concerned with "integrating the technology with legacy systems". The problems of "data integration" and "training call center agents" were both also stated as outstanding hurdles that still needed to be overcome.

Only 21 percent of call centers have made the transition to "profit centers", a decline from 23 percent of those surveyed in 2001. This would reflect the findings that many organizations are struggling to put in place the basic building blocks of creating a single customer database and data integration. Less than 50 percent of organizations have got round to using customer segmentation to tailor their contact strategies, and less than one in five centers have the capability to measure the lifetime value of their customers.

Forty-three percent of respondents highlighted a lack of executive support as a major challenge that stood in the way of a successful CRM project. Whilst CRM initiatives are being championed by business leaders within companies, it is significant that ICT managers manage over 50 percent of the initiatives. This would indicate that many CRM programs are being internally positioned or viewed as ICT enhancements, rather than business initiatives.

Despite 95 percent of respondents indicating that they have a Web site, one in five states that it does not supply the call center number on its Web site and only 44 percent have a coordinated Web and call center communications strategy. This finding highlights that the Web still has to be fully integrated into the call center's overall CRM strategy.

Mike Fairon, chief technology officer of Customer Interactive Solutions (CIS) for Dimension Data, says: "Despite the well-documented collective experience of thousands of CRM projects, many companies' initiatives are still failing, because they have not taken the business fundamentals into consideration.

This was reinforced by almost half of all respondents, who stated that they lacked any clear goals for CRM. Organizations must realize that they cannot expect to just stick in a CRM application and reap the benefits, unless they take the time to understand properly their business's long-term objectives, and how it can change the way in which they deal with customers."

First published in the U.K. in 1996 by Merchants, European contact center specialist and a subsidiary of Dimension Data, this year's edition is the sixth in a series of the industry-renowned benchmarking reports. The report has balanced global and industry representation from over 200 contact centers in 19 countries and five continents, and is an invaluable reference for all contact center professionals. It provides managers with a set of benchmarks against which they can measure their operations, including contact center staff salary levels, performance statistics, technology developments, CRM trends and training needs.

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