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CRM experts predict 2009's experts look forward to 2009 and what practitioners should prepare for and expect from CRM suites, SFA, contact centers and Web self-service.

The New Year is upon us, which means its time for us to once again poll's experts for their predictions on what's in store for CRM in 2009. Naturally the economy is a central issue, but it's not the only thing CRM practitioners need to concern themselves with. We spoke with Forrester's Bill Band on what to expect from the CRM suites, Strategic Contact's Lori Bocklund on what contact centers need to look for and AMR's Rob Bois about what's in store for SFA, SaaS and Web self-service.



Bill Band, vice president and principal analyst, business process and applications, Forrester Research:

Six trends will shape CRM decision making in 2009

Trend 1: The emergence of the Social Consumer: Social technology adoption has increased tremendously during the past 12 months. Three in four U.S. online adults now use social tools to connect with each, other compared with 56% in 2007. This new trend, which goes by a number of names -- CRM 2.0, Social CRM, and Collaborative CRM -- is forcing CRM professionals to look for innovative ways to engage with these new "social consumers." In 2009, they will be looking to enrich the customer experience through community-based interactions, and architecting solutions that are flexible and foster strong intra-organization and customer collaboration.

Trend 2: The imperative that CRM strategies deliver business value: During tough economic times, CRM professionals will be retooling their strategies with a focus on spotlighting the biggest opportunities for quick wins.

Trend 3: The requirement to fully cost-justify CRM investments: CRM professionals tell me that during this economic downturn they need bullet-proof financial arguments to get funding for their projects. In 2009, every business case must answer four critical questions: What are the business benefits? What is the impact on IT or project costs? Is future flexibility increased or decreased? How will risks be mitigated? CRM vendors will be more challenged than ever to provide clear and specific data about the business value their solutions can deliver.

Trend 4: The necessity to reduce the risk of CRM initiatives: CRM professionals cannot afford failed CRM projects, particularly in down markets when business survival may be at stake. In a recent survey of CRM professionals, over 200 individual problems were reported. Thirty-three percent of the problems related to technology, 27% to business processes, 22% to people, and 18% to CRM strategy. In 2009, "risk-proofing" CRM projects will near the top of the priority list for CRM professionals.

Trend 5: The need to get more value from customer information: CRM professionals tell me that poor customer data management is one of the biggest barriers to getting value from their CRM programs. But, the right approach to customer data management is elusive. In 2009, I expect CRM professionals will continue focus intently on how enterprises collect, distribute, and use data to create value.

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Check back on how the experts did with their 2008 CRM predictions  

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Trend 6: The battle to redress vendor pricing and licensing arrangements: Forrester interviewed 25 clients of leading enterprise applications providers and surveyed 215 business process and applications professionals about their software licensing and pricing experiences. According to these users, software licensing and pricing continues to be marred by complexity, soaring maintenance costs, and a lack of flexibility and alignment with business goals. With resources increasingly scarce, but key vendors pushing hard for up-grades for their products, CRM professionals will have to sharpen their negotiating skills to get more value from their vendor relationships in the coming year.



Lori Bocklund, president of Strategic Contact Inc.:

Contact centers in 2009 will either focus on controlling costs (the unfortunate) or driving revenues (the fortunate). The centers in devastated or threatened industries or companies will hang on for dear life. They'll make do with what they have, likely have reduced staffs, and some will have increased volumes. Doesn't sound fun, but it can be effectively managed. Those in relatively good economic health can look forward, and work on driving revenue -- both through capturing new customers and growing relationships. They can seize the moment and get ahead of the competition.

For those that can muster some resources, I see the following opportunities:

1. Do the things that have a compelling business case. You can't stand still. For example, if you're multi-site and haven't virtualized with Voice over IP yet, do it. If you have a lousy IVR application or more automatable applications if you revamp or move to speech, do it. You can build a case for these changes and get relatively fast returns on your investment.

2. Try different things. The companies that come out of this economic turmoil in the best shape will be those that have more agility and flexibility to adapt to their market and their customers' expectations. Pilot a home agent program. Try text chat and web collaboration -- by talking your CTI or multimedia routing engine vendor into a low-cost pilot, or hooking up with a hosted vendor. There are low-cost ways to try things that just may position you to be "best-in-class' -- something everyone seems to aspire to be.

3. Plan for the next big thing. Even if you can't put knowledge management, speech analytics, or scorecards with business intelligence in place in 2009, you can get ready. Build your business case and plan. Define your requirements and evaluate vendors. And develop your implementation plan so when the funds are released, you are ready. Don't wait.


Rob Bois

Rob Bois, research director, AMR Research Inc.:

SFA will once again face serious scrutiny by would-be buyers that must show clear demonstrable ROI in a relatively short period of time. The "soft-dollar" savings that typically accompanies SFA just won't have the juice to get deals done.

SaaS will once again weather an economic storm in much better shape than traditional on-premises software. Companies running SaaS CRM that had planned to migrate to on premises this year will shelve those plans indefinitely.

Web self-service will regain the spotlight as companies look to reduce service costs, while keeping customer satisfaction metrics high -- a point many missed in 2001 to 2003.

Lastly, the concept of performance management will leave its traditional roost within the CFO's office, and begin to get serious attention in sales and marketing. Front-office management will get more serious about analytics, dashboards, and accountability as they face increased pressure from the CFO about better forecasts, return on sales and marketing, and overall business transparency.

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