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'Customer dissatisfaction is staggering,' CRM study finds

A new study that finds widespread disenchantment with CRM is a stinging indictment of how most vendors go about the business of creating, selling and installing CRM systems.

CRM vendors have long trumpeted the virtues of their software. Yet a new study, commissioned by CRMGuru.com and sponsored by High-Yield Marketing and Mangen Research Associates, bursts the bubble of many vendors that claim universal customer satisfaction.

CRMGuru conducted the study on its Web site to share customer feedback on CRM software with the rest of the market, according to Dick Lee, a principal at St. Paul, Minn.-based High-Yield. The study -- "Multi-Function CRM Software: How Good Is It?" -- found that companies overall were not happy with their CRM software vendors.

"The level of customer dissatisfaction is staggering," he said. "No one scored at an acceptable customer satisfaction level."

The average score for vendors, which included GoldMine, Onyx, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Pivotal, SalesLogix, SAP and Siebel Systems, was 63.1. According to Lee, a score below 70 "is at abandon ship level in a competitive industry."

The findings were based on the views of 1,294 CRMGuru members who took part in the survey. The customer satisfaction index that was used rated companies on a scale of 0 to 100, based on factors such as support, customer focus, implementation difficulty, functionality and price satisfaction. In other industries, companies at the head of their class typically rate in the mid-80s to low-90s, according to the study.

Reasons for unhapiness

Part of the dissatisfaction stems from the inflexibility of many out-of-the-box CRM applications, according to Lee. These packages often aren't customizable to a company's needs. The extras that a lot of CRM applications include only make them harder to modify, he said.

Another point of contention with CRM vendors is the way software is sold. Vendors sell software on a license-based model, but customers are focused on custom development of the software, he said.

"Everyone in that field seems to be high-pressure seat-sellers without concern for the customer at all," said Jim Cecil, a principal at Bellevue, Wash.-based Nurture Marketing, which handles customer relationship strategies. "Nobody has asked what the users really want."

Lee was surprised at how enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors who offer CRM lagged in the study. The high ratings for SalesLogix were also a surprise, he said.

Cecil said he was pleased to see SalesLogix's high score, because the company's software does what it promises. SalesLogix, a unit of Interact Commerce Corp., is everything that ACT! was supposed to have been, he said. ACT!, a contact center software maker, is also an arm of Interact Commerce.

Siebel's model, on the other hand, seems to make the sale and "run for the hills," leaving its consulting partner, Accenture, with a two- to five-year installation, said Christopher Fletcher, vice president and managing director at Boston-based AMR Research Inc. This is at odds with what the end user is trying to accomplish, which is a quick, painless implementation, he added.

Siebel declined to comment on the findings of the study or on AMR's criticism.

Solving business problems

Others have a similar dim view of how CRM systems are sold. Barry Trailer, president of Carlsbad, Calif.-based consultancy Sales Mastery Inc., said CRM vendors need to focus on solving business problems for companies, not just providing them with technology.

Yet not all of the dissatisfaction may be the vendors' fault, Trailer said. Companies sometimes underestimate the impact of a CRM installation and are unprepared to automate various functions. Additionally, companies often do not have clear processes to automate, he added.

Another part of the dissatisfaction may be that companies purchasing CRM expect it to be the "silver bullet" that solves all their business woes, Trailer said.

Overall, AMR's Fletcher disagreed with CRMGuru's conclusion that most users are disenchanted with CRM. The study did, however, confirm his belief that smaller CRM packages are more satisfying to companies because they're easier to use.

"By and large, people are happy with CRM implementations," and happy with the value CRM brings to the top and bottom line, he said, referring to his own discussions with users.

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