A survey of nearly 300 North American companies by Harte-Hanks found that more than four of five companies are outsourcing the construction or maintenance of at least some part of their CRM solution.
The study sought to examine how companies are defining “enterprise-wide” when talking about how far into an organization customer data is shared, and what types of customer data is part of a “full customer view,” among other CRM-related findings.
“We define CRM as using technology as an enabler for organizations to initiate and to sustain a dialogue with customers in a way that makes it less likely the customers will go elsewhere,” said Gary Skidmore, president, CRM at Harte-Hanks. “Yet CRM means different things to different organizations. Parameters vary significantly from one company to the other. For example, opinions vary as to what constitutes CRM, what types of customer and prospect information are involved, who has access to data and derived knowledge, whether or not the data delivery is Web-enabled, and how each CRM solution is championed.”
One recognized component of CRM is sharing customer data within many parts of a marketing organization. The survey found that 70 percent of respondents provide inside salespersons access to customer data as part of their CRM solutions.
Others who benefit from an enterprise-wide approach are: customer service/tech support (67 percent); outside/field sales (59 percent); marketing communications (51 percent); accounting/finance (41 percent); product marketing (41 percent); and call centers (40 percent), among other company functions. The survey also revealed that 15 percent of CRM programs, either now in place or being built, provide at least some access to customer information to channel partners and suppliers (such as companies that support transactions, or are co-marketing partners).
Among those sites planning to build CRM solutions during the next 12 months, 94 percent plan to provide CRM access to customer service/tech support and 85 percent to the inside sales team.
CRM has also been touted as providing a full view of a company’s “touch points” with its own customers. The Harte-Hanks research cited that the top four items included in this shared view are: client product purchase history with the company (71 percent); client revenue/sales history (69 percent); technical service/customer support history (64 percent); and external contact data culled from outside commercially available sources (54 percent). Technology installation data, information from suppliers and channel partners and external financial data related to the client (company financials, stock price) — information most pertinent in the business-to-business marketplace — also are among important recorded customer attributes.
Businesses are turning to outside companies to provide programming support and/or commercial CRM packages to accomplish their CRM objectives. According to the survey, 17 percent use a strictly in-house solution. The remaining respondents use either exclusively outsourced solutions (44 percent) or a combination of in-house and outsourced programming solutions (39 percent). Outsourcing also appears to be an increasing trend. An earlier Harte-Hanks survey from January 2001 found that 26 percent were using an exclusively in-house solution at the time.
Other findings from the Harte-Hanks survey include:
- The primary “sponsors” of the CRM strategy are information technology (42 percent); sales (31 percent); marketing (9 percent); customer service (8 percent); senior management (4 percent); and other departments (6 percent)
- To plan the CRM solution, 59 percent of companies have employed cross-functional teams to develop the strategy, while 29 percent have the project assigned to one department; and 12 percent have an individual project leader.
- Six percent have more than 30 full-time development and maintenance staff assigned to CRM, while 35 percent have no one dedicated fully to the CRM solution; 42 percent have one to four persons assigned to CRM development and maintenance.
- The plurality of sites currently building a CRM solution (48 percent) plan to have the solution operational in six months; among those planning a CRM solution during the next 12 months, 42 percent expect the solution to be more than a year away from implementation;
- The top four challenges cited regarding CRM are: integration of different data sources into a single system (46 percent); training users to effectively utilize the solution (31 percent); participation of different departments within the company (27 percent); and integration with back-office applications (22 percent).
“While many of us think of CRM solutions as ‘enterprise-wide’ with ‘full-customer views,’ companies are taking a more phased approach to achieving such ambitious CRM gains,” Skidmore said. “That may be because companies want to see relevance and return on investment in more specific CRM projects before rolling out CRM efforts on a grander scale.”
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