Weighing the Customer Experience through a CRM Lens

Customer relationship management or CRM has come a long way. Over several decades, CRM systems have evolved from a variety of business programs into software that many businesses rely on today. And the market continues to grow. Forrester Research estimates that the CRM market will reach $33 billion by 2017, up from $24 billion in 2015.
Customer Relationship Management

Furthermore, CRM systems are emerging as a critical tool for creating a unified view of the customer. For example, CRM data plays an important role as a source of insight as marketers look to leverage what they know about customers for data-driven advertising. But the process for purchasing, implementing, and maintaining a CRM system isn't perfect.

In a new report, Forrester analysts TJ Keitt and Roxana Strohmenger examined the B2B customer experience that CRM vendors offer. Based on a survey of 1,591 employees at U.S. companies, the following observations emerged:

  • Using and getting support for CRM solutions is difficult.
  • Business stakeholders have worse vendor experiences than tech managers.
  • Smaller clients have worse vendor experiences than enterprise clients.

The report makes several recommendations on how to fix these issues many of which could be applied to other software solutions. Highlights of the recommendations include ensuring that the system fits into the client's tech environment; reduce the time-to-value for business users; and simplify how customers access software support.

Of course these are broad observations and may not apply to every situation. Other software vendors could also be guilty of these customer experience gaps.

And despite these challenges, integrating CRM software and other solutions with an existing platform isn't as difficult as it used to be, notes Keith Dawson, principal analyst at the research firm Ovum. "I look at the tech landscape today and think yes, some integrations require customization," he told me recently, "but in hindsight things could be so much worse and have been."

What Dawson is referring to includes the "Siebel effect"--a fear of drawn-out and costly implementation projects that stemmed from the poor experience many companies had in attempting to operate the CRM software Siebel Systems in the early '90s.

But with the advent of cloud-based technology and vendors--both B2C and B2B--placing a greater emphasis on delivering good customer experiences, buyers shouldn't dread implementation projects. "Yes, it would be nice not to spend money on professional integration services, but system integrations are much smoother today when you put things into perspective," Dawson says.