It's never easy to foresee what changes a year will bring to CRM, but SearchCRM.com's expert panel was willing to give it a shot. Experts predict the CRM market will see more customer surveying, bundled applications for call centers, a new look at knowledge management, and a push by Oracle to satisfy its Siebel and PeopleSoft customers.
Mobile CRM: Necessity or accessory?
Sheryl Kingstone, director of enterprise applications and mobility strategies at the Yankee Group:
"Is mobile CRM necessary?" That's what companies are asking. Everyone has a BlackBerry now for mobile email. But was that a must-have?
Mobile CRM is still a very small piece of the CRM market. This market segment will grow as costs come down and it becomes easier to use. Customers will also begin replacing failed sales force automation (SFA) systems, making mobile CRM more important for these replacements and new implementations.
The market is still fragmented. You may start seeing something with Salesforce.com after its acquisition of Sendia, and Dextera is working on mobile composite applications.
The changing role of the call center
Donna Fluss, founder and principal of DMG Consulting LLC:
Empowering call center agents with tools, processes and training will start the transition of the call center to a revenue-oriented rather than cost-oriented department. Self-service efforts will be rewarded during this transition as customers demand well-designed self-service options.
This is going to be the year of analytics. Analytics applications are not just applications with reports. They take data and think about it, and provide useful information to managers who are swamped with data.
With this new call center direction, tools that will help manage and use massive amounts of contact center data will be important, including applications that analyze unstructured data, as well as performance management, quality assurance and surveying tools.
Completing the 'customer satisfaction circle'
Ken Landoline, senior analyst at the Yankee Group:
In a Yankee Group study on customer surveys, only 20-25% of contact centers reported that they were currently conducting post-call surveys. This is shocking, because people always say customer centricity is important to them.
I think you're going to see more interest in post-call surveys. Witness Systems Inc.'s recent acquisition of Amae Software shows this trend toward internal optimization and use of customer feedback.
You're going to see more vendors of contact center optimization software either getting into very tight partnerships with companies in the survey business or, as Witness did, actually acquiring it or developing and putting it in their suite of operations so that there is a closed loop, a customer satisfaction circle.
Surveying is an important way to increase customer satisfaction. We see people reevaluating these key performance indicators (KPIs) they've been looking at over the past 20 years. Ask customers how they measure you, and include that in your KPIs.
There will also be a rapid uptake of IP telephony in 2007; at least 50% of companies in North America will implement the technology in the coming year. This demand for connectivity drives the trend of at-home agents as well.
One recent report found that by 2010, at least 50% of call center workers will be working at home at least two days a week. These numbers will start going up rapidly as IP telephony is absorbed.
SaaS succeeding at home, heads overseas
Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group:
I see a major year ahead for Software as a Service (SaaS). This is in part because the SaaS market is tied closely to U.S. economic conditions.
I think the U.S. economy is poised for some rough sledding. You can't say this won't affect CRM, because it is the environment that CRM has to play in.
Exporters will prosper in 2007 -- look for activity in Europe and Asia. It should be fairly easy for SaaS vendors to aim at growing markets overseas. Companies such as Salesforce.com and NetSuite are only two examples; others are Five9 and Neocase, which provide on-demand call center services.
And, if IT budgets are tightened, more companies will seriously investigate SaaS as a means of lowering overall costs and maintaining some momentum. By now, on-demand software has proved itself to be effective and cost-efficient in terms of systems, databases, tools and middleware.
Look to Salesforce.com, and don't be surprised if the AppExchange has a busy year too. Most interesting from a market growth perspective will be the emergence of the on-demand platform as a replacement for much of the internal IT infrastructure now in place.
Call center bundles bring joy
Lori Bocklund, president of Strategic Contact Inc.:
This will be "the year of the bundle."
In 2007, contact centers will want -- even need -- rich, diverse applications to achieve their business goals. These applications may include multimedia routing, analytics, speech recognition, desktop integration, CRM, knowledge management and various performance tools.
These technologies no longer belong exclusively to the large, multisite centers. Centers of all sizes and shapes need to find a way to deliver many capabilities, quickly, with limited resources.
As a result, buyers are looking for solutions that leverage standards and open platforms, yet are pre-integrated and rich in application capabilities; hence, bundles will become prominent. Some bundles will be full suites, others will be focused in one area, such as performance tools. Some will use traditional premise-based solutions, while at the same time hosted solutions find their niche.
Knowledge management gets practical
Allen Bonde, senior vice president of strategy and marketing at consulting firm eVergance:
Companies will look for ways to use self-service to save money in 2007.
What we're seeing is that the pendulum will swing back to cost savings. In 2007, companies will reexamine their knowledge management with a very practical bent.
Companies can cut costs significantly by pushing call center agents to use knowledge management systems, and they may also encourage a peer-to-peer model of customer service with forums, where customers can ask questions of one another.
Self-service has a double impact: it can create a community of support among peers, and you don't have to take the call.
In 2006, self-service became a priority; 2007 will be more of a maturing year as people start to integrate into multichannel. This is where people have to do the hard work.
Oracle pushes Siebel forward
Bill Band, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc.:
Oracle Corp. will pursue a full-court press in the CRM market in 2007. After major acquisitions in the past two years, the software company continues to develop its new holdings.
Oracle is intent on sustaining Siebel's historical leadership position in the CRM market, and its strategy for Siebel has become clear: to promote the product and brand as the most fully featured solution for many industry verticals.
Oracle is investing heavily in a next-generation product strategy, Fusion Applications, to fully modernize its technology architecture.
Click-to-call satisfies customer needs
John Ragsdale, vice president of research at the Service & Support Professionals Association (SSPA):
Technical support is finally being viewed as a strategic part of a long-term customer relationship.
The SSPA's 2006 Technology Spending survey, examining companies with under $1 billion in revenue, estimates that 2007 spending by these companies in North America on eService, CRM, contact center and field service technologies will be $565 million, with 57% of budgets for new technology earmarked for CRM and contact center products.
Hosted and on-premise converging
Steve Raye, executive vice president and co-founder of eVergance
Open source business applications will challenge the value proposition of SaaS in the coming year.
More affordable on-premise business application software will become available in 2007 in almost every category, but especially CRM. SaaS vendors will continue to customize their platforms. The pendulum may be swinging toward a preference for lower-cost packaged software.
The continually developing market could bring a combination of open source and SaaS technologies. Talisma now delivers more applications on-premise than in a SaaS model.
SaaS vendors may need to co-opt open source business applications to create offerings that can be deployed either in a hosted model or on-premise -- or some unique combination we haven't thought of yet.
Something for companies to keep in mind is that they may want the flexibility to change between hosted and on-premise over time. Companies may think about demanding that option in 2007 and beyond.