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Expert CRM predictions for 2010

The next year promises big changes and big opportunities in the CRM market, from sales in the contact center to social media marketing and social media hype, according to industry experts.

Wondering what 2010 has in store for CRM? gathered the prognostications of experts William Band, Paul Greenberg, John Ragsdale and Donna Fluss. They predict big things for 2010, including developments in social CRM, customer management and sales performance management, and a greater role for customer service and the contact center.


William Band, vice president and principal analyst, Forrester Research

Companies return to investing in their most important asset – customers

My most recent research shows that both B2B and B2C enterprises spotlight improved customer loyalty as their top goal. But B2B companies are also intent on capturing new customers, while B2C companies obsess about improving the customer experience.

Social CRM hype reaches a crescendo

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 one another compared with just 56% in 2007. As a consequence, technology vendors and self-styled experts have jumped onto this bandwagon, promising an easy path to the promised land of more deeply engaged customers using Social Computing solutions. Expect another 12 months of overheated rhetoric. Yes, business process professionals should be advocating and launching experiments to prove-out Social CRM strategies and learn about best practices. But if you don’t have sound customer management process fundamentals in place, don’t expect social media to compensate for this deficiency.

CRM evolves to become the customer management ecosystem

Mature organizations understand that optimizing end-to-end customer-facing business processes means integrating solutions that extend beyond “traditional CRM.” In addition to marketing, sales and service functionalities, you need to incorporate closely related capabilities like billing, order management and contract management. I call this the Customer Management Extended Application Ecosystem.

Customer service moves back into the spotlight

We see a rising number of inquiries from clients about how to improve their customer service capabilities. How does customer service affect the bottom line? The higher the customer experience index, regardless of the industry, the more customers buy and the more loyal they are. Contact center customer support needs to evolve to better serve customers who no longer rely on one venue for receiving information but instead engage multiple sources. In addition to checking a company's website and its brochures, many customers research information on products and services from social networking sources such as blogs and online user ratings. With customers now requiring more real-time support, it's essential to keep pace with their expectations and to respond to them in new ways.

The struggle to integrate customer data continues

The volume of inquiries that Forrester receives about customer data integration (CDI) continues to increase. Customer management professionals tell us that poor data management is one of the biggest barriers to getting value from their CRM systems. But the right approach to customer data management is elusive. Building data warehouses often fails to deliver "real time" access, and end users compensate by deploying myriad purpose-built data marts. Customer relationship management (CRM) applications themselves can leave enterprises with a fragmented view of the customer as a result of multiple instances, disparate enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and poor data integration. Business intelligence (BI) applications offer the promise of being the focal point for customer intelligence across multiple data sources. But BI efforts often highlight how poor customer data quality really is -- leaving users scrambling to fight a losing battle to keep customer data clean and updated.


  John Ragsdale, vice president of research, Service & Support Professionals Association

CRM/incident management major replacements

Of my inquiries over the last year, 25% were on CRM systems and incident management. Many companies have reached the end of their patience with old systems (Clarify, Scopus, Vantive) that are no longer on maintenance and don’t lend themselves to Web 2.0 integration customization. So 2010 will be a big year, as companies throw out old systems and bring in new ones, and the big winners will not be big CRM vendors but smaller, more flexible, less complex, social media-enabled, multi-channel SaaS solutions like Parature, Helpstream, Neocase and Fuze. 

Elimination of free support 

As consumer electronics prices drop dramatically, companies can no longer afford to provide unlimited free support for laptops and desktops costing less than $500. With the proliferation of peer-to-peer support (discussion forums) and enhanced self-service including more video tutorials and other rich media options, I predict that free support will disappear (after the first 30 days with no extended warranty) and there will be no backlash from consumers -- the available free alternatives are too good.

  Paul Greenberg, president of the 56 Group LLC

Social marketing comes to the fore in 2010

Oddly enough, of the three traditional pillars of CRM -- from a vendor perspective -- marketing has been the most reluctant to change when it comes to the technologies being made available to marketers. While marketers rip their hair out trying to adjust to the new reality of a social customer, marketing automation vendors have finally begun to understand that providing technologies that reinforce traditional approaches to marketing are a no-go for 2010 and beyond. So companies such as Oracle, Eloqua and Marketo are all taking approaches that one way or the other integrate social capabilities into their applications through partnerships with other companies or by building features themselves that reflect the social nature of the customer and the kinds of information that 21st century marketers need. This is not a tsunami, but it is a big wave even now, and 2010 promises to see it get considerably bigger.

CRM and social vendors will continue their convergence toward “Social CRM” through their technology integration

This was a banner year for seeing both the social vendors such as Radian6 and Lithium and the CRM vendors such as Oracle, NetSuite and announcing “Social CRM” and providing integration with either a CRM data store if a social vendor, or a social media monitoring tool or a social channel such as Twitter if a CRM vendor. This will not only continue in 2010 but will accelerate, though I doubt we will see any pure Social CRM suites. The only companies that seem to be on that path are Oracle and to some degree. That said, no vendor calling itself “Social CRM” truly is, but you have to admire their intent and their cheekiness for saying it.



Donna Fluss, principal, DMG Consulting

Contact center outlook for 2010

The continuing challenges in 2010 will present contact center managers with opportunities to offer assistance beyond their departmental borders to sales, marketing and other operating areas. (Contact centers are positioned to help these groups by sharing insights about customer needs, wants and issues.) The need to achieve corporate revenue, retention and cost savings goals will open doors. Contact center managers should find out what their corporation’s top five goals are for 2010 and create a business plan for their department that will help achieve those objectives. Contact center managers should reach out to their peers in sales, marketing and other operating groups and ask what they can do to assist them in achieving their goals. This will add new responsibilities to their already heavy workload, but with these responsibilities will come respect. Helping achieve company-wide objectives is a good way to establish a reputation as a team player.


While exact goals and priorities may vary among organizations, here are the top activities for contact center managers to concentrate on during 2010:


  1. Generate revenue – ask the sales department to help establish sales goals for your organization. It’s important to be able to measure the contact center’s revenue contributions.
  2. Retain customers – ask marketing for customer retention goals, along with the go-ahead to save customers at point of contact. Customer win-back programs are helpful, but it’s better and less costly to save customers before they cancel their accounts. Be sure to use measurable key performance indicators so that you can take credit for your hard work.
  3. Reduce operating costs – enhance your self-service solutions; ask agents and other operating groups about which tasks to automate. Reducing agent average handle time while improving service quality is important; it’s even better to proactively reduce low-value transaction volume.
  4. Optimize your current operating environment – take a critical look at everything you do in the contact center (whether you have 25 or 20,000 agents) – all processes, systems, training, hiring practices, compensation, etc. – and identify opportunities for improvement. You are likely to find ways to reduce operating expenses by 10% to 20%. The goal of this initiative is to reduce your workload, not to do more with less.
  5. Identify new analytical applications that will support enterprise needs and pay for themselves in less than six months – start with speech analytics and desktop analytics, as they have a track record of making quantifiable contributions.


In addition to these efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness, it’s time to fix some long-standing problems. The contact center will never be on an equal footing with its peers in sales and marketing as long as it remains a cost center. Strive to generate enough revenue at least to cover operating costs (whether $250,000 or $25 million). Work with senior management to convert to a profit center.



CRM by the numbers in 2010

Gartner Research Inc.


  • By 2012, 20% of companies will invest in call centers to extend support for lead generation, referrals, cross-selling and up-selling by sales agents.
  • From 2011 to 2014, investments in sales performance management (SPM) solutions will increase by 20% year over year as companies rebuild sales capacity.
  • By 2014, 60% of e-commerce implementations will address communities, mobile users and Internet-enabled devices.


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