Thanks and welcome back to the CRM Products and Technology blog from Consona CRM. In this post, we will be discussing CRM software in general and how it is available in the marketplace today. Also, I will give some opinions of the failings of CRM software vendors that have created a very difficult situation for most organizations.
When CRM software was created, the original idea was to implement a solution that standardized different operational groups around a single customer record. From there, capability was built by vendors for departments to manage and operate their business in "front office operations" - usually sales, marketing and service. This is what is commonly termed Enterprise CRM today. However, in my opinion, vendors in general didn't listen to their customers or at best have the funds to expand the operational elements of their CRM applications quickly enough for most companies to adopt. This was compounded by a new paradigm and explosion in technology in the early 2000s that revolved around customers wanting to use the Internet to conduct business. What emerged is what we call at Consona, “Specialty Solutions.”
Specialty Solutions are applications that enable a particular element of front office operations by providing capabilities either not found or more advanced than in an Enterprise CRM solution. And, boy there are a lot of them. You can classify Specialty Solutions around the capability they fulfill and these will generally line up with Sales, Marketing, and Service and Support.
For Sales, the most common in the marketplace along with their purpose are the following:
- Sales Incentive Compensation Management - A system that measures and manages sales persons and teams’ performance, and compensation. Typically used in a situation where there are thousands of sales people and is very complex.
- Territory Management - A system that automates the planning and assignment processes for allocating sales resources. Typically used in a situation where there are thousands of sales people and is very complex.
- Configure Price and Quote (CPQ) Solutions - These applications enable optimal planning, execution and analysis of pricing strategies, and ultimately generate quotes for customers.
- Sales Content Management and Distribution - These vendors manage the content and collateral that Sales people use. This capability is also found in Marketing solutions.
- Sales Collaboration Platforms - These vendors manage the collaboration of opportunities in a team selling environment.
In Marketing Automation we find these and more Specialty Solutions:
- Campaign Management (Relationship Marketing) Providers - Systems that execute campaigns.
- Customer Profitability Analysis - Systems that analyze and predict customer profitability and potential profitability.
- Customer Data Mining - Systems that enable advanced data mining.
- Online Marketing - Systems that provide online marketing placement with Search Engines, Banner Ads, and other forms of web marketing.
- E-Mail Marketing - Systems that execute email marketing blasts (or campaigns).
- Event-Triggered Marketing Providers - Systems that can react to events that happen (say in the CRM system) and trigger a marketing activity.
- Lead Management - Systems that manage the process of moving an inquiry through a lead to an opportunity.
- Marketing Performance Management - Systems that measure the performance of marketing operations.
- Marketing Resource Management - Systems that manage the production processes and optimize internal and external marketing resources.
- Enterprise Marketing Management - More than the sum of its parts, these are systems that do most of the previous capabilities found in Marketing Specialty Solutions.
- Web Analytics - Specialty analytics designed to interpret user's behavior on a website.
And finally, with Customer Service and Support the following are common Specialty Solutions:
- Field Service Management - Software that enables the ability to dispatch and support field service agents.
- Web Self-Service - Software that enables customers to service their own needs through web interfaces.
- Email Response Management Systems - Software that enables organizations to handle inbound customer email inquires typically in both in an automated and agent assisted fashion.
- Chat and Collaboration - Software that enables customers to chat on a website with a customer support agent in a 1 on 1 dialog. Typically also includes screen sharing, page pushing, and other web collaboration features.
- Feedback Management Vendors - Software that enables the capturing and action of customer feedback.
- Contact Center Workforce Optimization Systems - Software that enables organizations to manage interaction quality (call recording), optimize call center workforce management, e-learning for agents, performance management and interaction analysis technologies.
For most companies I talk to, this is really confusing and frustrating. Companies have spent in many cases tens of millions of dollars on an Enterprise CRM Suite. The Suite has some of these capabilities, but in many circumstances, it is not enough and frequently it is up to you, the customer to cobble together a cohesive solution. This situation is unfortunate. Forget licensing implementation, or change management costs, just think about the maintenance of a normal production environment.
Let's say that you were the head of a good sized customer service and support operation. You probably have a core CRM system that tracks and manages your cases. It may provide some level of multi-channel communication and generally is the core system that tracks and manages your incidents. But your competition is clearly doing support better than you are. You would need to purchase an ERMS, a Web Self-Service, a Chat and Collaboration, and potentially a Feedback Management solution all from different vendors. There are some vendors that combine a couple of these capabilities, but to really get ahead of the curve, you feel like you need to get best of breed. Think about the integration, the maintenance, the upgrades, the multiple vendors, and all that would be required. In my mind, this is a major drain on a department that already struggles as a cost center for many organizations (although it shouldn't be - more on that in an upcoming whitepaper) to have to add this level of customer service capability which is just going to cost way too much.
Don't get me wrong. Sometimes Specialty Solutions are great for situations where there is a very specific operational need of complexity. Sometimes Specialty Solutions are valuable when the CRM Vendor that you invested in simply doesn't have the capability that is required and you have already invested millions. In this case, it's difficult to do anything but add incremental capabilities of different software solutions. I get that. However, I do think it should be different. It makes sense to me that your CRM Vendor should be looking to, over time, add most of the capabilities to their core solutions to enable you to grow and mature your operations for a competitive advantage. The vendor should integrate these advanced capabilities and maintain the integrated solutions as a cohesive singular solution for you, the customer.
That's my take. What's yours? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.