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CRM continues to disappoint

Business and IT professionals are unhappy with their CRM deployments, particularly marketing, analytics and customer service, according to a new report.

Feel that you're not getting what you'd hoped from your CRM software? You're not alone.

IT and business leaders at 260 companies graded their CRM initiatives in a recent survey by Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

"Basically it identifies what these companies think are their biggest challenges, the areas where people are struggling," said William Band, vice president and principal analyst with Forrester and author of the report. "A lot of people are struggling with a lot of issues."

Specifically, marketing, analytics, customer service and indirect sales are proving daunting challenges for organizations. In the area of marketing resource management, nearly half of respondents reported that their ability to capture and standardize marketing methodologies was poor or below average. Another 60% of respondents rated their customer interaction management capabilities as poor or below average, risking poor and disjointed customer experiences, according to the report.

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"In marketing, you could argue the CRM solutions have been the least mature, the last ones to be built out by solution providers," Band said. "The whole marketing space is undergoing a lot of change right now."

Analytics hasn't received the same attention from CRM vendors as sales force automation has, either -- and it shows in the survey results.

"Analytics is somewhat similar," Band added. "The Holy Grail for the last five years was using analytics to get more value out of CRM."

However, most organizations are still waiting for their Galahad to lead them to that Grail. Organizations are now capturing terabytes of data about customers, ranging from demographics to buying cycles to response rates, but they are having trouble turning that into hard data about customer behavior, according to Band. For example, 38% of respondents rated their use of prebuilt analytic applications as poor or below average.

Similarly, customer service seems to be a never-ending challenge for companies. A third of respondents rated their ability to create and route incidents to the right customer service agent as poor or below average, and 40% found fault with their ability to automatically generate frequently asked questions.

"Customer service is more mature from a solutions point of view," Band said. "I would hypothesize it's because it's really a struggle to deliver service that drives loyalty."

The survey's dismal results usually reflect poorly conceived strategies that lack a focus on improving a specific set of business capabilities to increase revenues or reduce costs, according to Forrester.

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