Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sales reps are in for a tough 2009, but CRM sales software may help, survey says

Just about everyone agrees that 2009 is going to be a tough year for business, but it could be particularly difficult for those in sales, judging from the results of an annual sales performance survey.

Despite the difficult times, a majority of companies (86%) said they were raising quotas for their sales force in 2009, according to the 2009 Sales Performance Optimization Survey from CSO Insights, a sales consultancy based in both Boulder, Colo., and San Francisco. Making that quota should prove a challenge, considering that only 58% of organizations made their overall sales quota in 2008, down from 61% in 2007.

CRM implementations continue to rise, with 71% of respondents reporting that they have formally implemented CRM sales software. Of those who have yet to implement CRM, 40% say they plan to do so in 2010. Yet the top benefits that respondents cite from CRM are efficiency focused -- improved communications, improved forecast accuracy, and a reduced burden on sales. The benefit of "increased margins" was cited by only 6% of respondents.

Satisfaction with CRM vendors is on the increase as well, with 48% of respondents saying they were satisfied with their vendor and another 20% saying they were very satisfied. Those numbers tend to rise with the length of time a CRM system is in place. For example, of those who had CRM for less than a year, 13% said they were very satisfied, compared with 19% who had a system one to three years, and 27% for more than three years.

Some survey respondents (13%) are also more willing to replace their CRM system. While that might seem an expensive prospect during a recession, Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are making switching easier, according to the report.
Most importantly, sales needs to focus on effectiveness in 2009. If budgets can't be increased, then reallocate wisely. For example, money spent on hiring additional people or to replace people who have left could be used elsewhere. The ramp-up time to get to full productivity is 10 months or longer for 46% of organizations.

Other interesting benchmarking data from the Sales Performance Optimization 2009 Survey

-- Less than 37% of firms are leveraging mobile device access to CRM data, although those that do are more satisfied with their CRM vendor.

-- SaaS CRM customers are more loyal. 72% of SaaS application users say they are loyal advocates for the CRM provider, compared with just 38% of sales organizations that have on-premise CRM.

-- 15% of respondents said they are currently using sales analytics, and another 13% plan to use it in 2009, which apparently has a significant impact on win rates. Those using sales analytics report win rates of 51%, compared with 47% for those who are not. Similarly, loss rates are 27% for those who use analytics and 31% for those who do not.

-- 61% of reps with CRM tools installed make their quota, versus 58% that do not.

source: SearchCRM

More information on CRM can be found at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Social Media and Virtual Meetings in Product Development: Using Collaboration Technologies to Bring Products to Market Quicker

In a newly released report, Aberdeen Group found that top manufacturers were able to dramatically reduce their product development lead times, while increasing product quality, by leveraging community collaboration tools. These tools range from Web 2.0 plug-ins (e.g., wikis, blogs, discussion forums) for product development applications to virtual meeting solutions (e.g., teleconferencing solutions, webcasts). Incorporating the voice of the consumer, while enabling real-time collaboration among employees, has been a core priority among product companies. As such, there is a continued need to leverage new social technologies that are available to support business initiatives.

The use of real-time design collaboration is becoming more pervasive in a globalizing economy. Though the technology may be there, the benefits of concurrent design can only be realized if properly adopted. One major factor of adoption is user interface and ease of collaboration. It is evident that social networking, discussion forums, and virtual meeting solutions have been highly effective for sharing ideas within a community – but what about the case of product design and development? The responses reveal that top companies are able to leverage community collaboration technologies to improve communication, and to increase visibility to their product information among all stakeholders. The result is an ability to make expedited and informed decisions that lead to faster product to market, and to lower cost of errors.

More information on CRM can be found at

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gartner Reveals Key Customer Relationship Management Predictions for 2010 and Beyond

Facebook will be the No. 1 social network in all but 25 countries, according to Gartner, Inc. In countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and Japan it will not be No. 1. The prediction is one in a series Gartner analysts have made on customer relationship management (CRM) in areas including CRM marketing and social CRM.

CRM remains high on the business agenda for CIOs in 2010. According to the Gartner Executive Programs (EXP) 2010 CIO Agenda survey, attracting and retaining new customers will be the No. 5 business priority for CIOs in 2010.

Gartner’s predictions for CRM in 2010 and beyond include:

By the end of 2010, Facebook will be the No. 1 social network in all but 25 countries, but it will not be No. 1 in Brazil, Russia, India, China or Japan.
Marketers and customer service management will need to switch focus from the large number of social networks to the three or four that will dominate specific languages.

Through 2010, marketing budgets will remain flat in more than 90 percent of companies, despite a return to growth.
CFOs are demanding increased accountability from marketing departments, often exerting unprecedented pressure to link programmes to sales results and return on investment (ROI).

By the end of 2010, more than 80 percent of market growth in social applications will center around a business use case for improving external customer relationships, rather than improving internal collaboration.
Although the hype around any and all social media activities will continue through 2010, companies are struggling to find a business case, including hard metrics and specific business outcomes, using general social activities and generic social applications. Nevertheless, social projects evaluated by Gartner show that those with a clear and direct mutual purpose (benefits for both company and customer) were the ones likely to show measurable results. Gartner said that the social application vendors that make the transition from general purpose to support for specific business, with use cases and key performance indicators, will see double- or triple-digit growth in 2010.

By the end of 2011, more than 90 percent of Fortune 1000 marketing campaigns will include online marketing, up from 50 percent in 2009.
Marketers are responding to the expansion of the internet by investing in addressable branding and advertising, and contextual, community and transactional marketing.

Gartner predicts that marketers will see a 10 to 20 percent savings in marketing communications as a result of precise attribution metrics for campaigns. Online marketing will enable faster testing and campaign refinement, and help avoid the continued waste of funding a failed campaign, while engaging in more-thorough campaign testing prior to launch. It will improve the overall success of all marketing objectives. Both speed of analysis and response will be critical to success.

More information on CRM can be found at

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Traditional CRM is Not Delivering Desired Customer Experience Transformation

Customer experience transformation is rapidly becoming a key business differentiator in the battle to retain customers and grow revenues and wallet share. But many businesses have yet to rise to this challenge, due to constraints imposed by their legacy Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms. As a result, they continue to focus on routine operational savings rather than dramatically improving their customers' experience and net promoter scores. These are among the main findings of a major global survey of international businesses across the UK, mainland Europe and the U.S. undertaken by Pegasystems.

"Overall, 62% of respondents saw differentiating their value proposition by customer service rather than by product as essential or very important," says Amy Bethke, senior director of customer process management solutions at Pegasystems. "And this was reinforced by the fact that, as customers or consumers, an overwhelming 74% were very likely or likely to buy more from a company as a result of service excellence that goes beyond expectations."

"But this does not mean that they have been able to achieve these goals within their own business," Bethke adds. "While they aspire to transform their customers' experience, they often prioritize reductions in operational spend (seen to be the main challenge by 34% of respondents) over improvements to the customer experience. And only just more than half of the businesses questioned have a CRM solution that actually extends beyond the contact center and even fewer -- just 43% -- provide a consistent customer experience across all delivery channels. Perhaps most tellingly of all, only two in five have customer service represented at the board level. Clearly, traditional CRM approaches are not enough to enable these critical business goals."

As the broader economy shows signs of an upturn and spending plans on CRM increases, the survey also reflects businesses continuing to achieve 'more with less'. In addition, respondents typically believed that their existing CRM systems could perform better and do more. This reflects the fact that for most call centers the goal is limited by the technology approach to building up as much customer data as possible.

The survey found major differences within the individual geographies. For example:

-- Compared to European counterparts, a higher proportion of U.S. respondents (28% vs. 10%) see existing systems as hindering rather than helping to improve customer service.

-- In identifying the challenges companies face in achieving their objectives, UK respondents see the need to improve CRM systems as especially important (27%, compared the average of 19%). At the same time, in France an overwhelming 50% of respondents put the need to reduce operational spend far ahead of any other concern.

-- In France and Spain, the highest number of respondents (35% and 34% respectively) identified revenue/profit growth as the top business objective, compared to just 19% in Germany.

-- Germany was the only country to confirm reducing customer churn (31%) as more important than revenue/profit growth, which fell to fourth most important, behind recruiting new customers (26%) and growing existing accounts (23%).

More information on CRM can be found at

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Social Media Adoption by U.S. Small Businesses Doubles Since 2009

American small businesses are pushing the limits on new ways to improve efficiency in the prolonged downturn, including a steady increase in social media adoption. The third wave of results from the Small Business Success Index(TM) (SBSI) sponsored by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business reports social media adoption by small businesses has doubled from 12 percent to 24 percent in the last year.

The SBSI found that nearly one out of five small business owners are actively using social media in their business. Small businesses are increasingly investing in social media applications, including blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. The biggest expectation small business owners have from social media is expanding external marketing and engagement, including identifying and attracting new customers, building brand awareness and staying engaged with customers. Sixty-one percent of the respondents indicated that they use social media to identify and attract new customers.

Key findings include:

Small business owners use social media to attract new customers:

-- 75% surveyed have a company page on a social networking site

-- 61% use social media for identifying and attracting new customers

-- 57% have built a network through a site like LinkedIn

-- 45% expect social media to be profitable in the next twelve months

Small business owners still have concerns with social media:

-- 50% of small business social media users say it takes more time than expected

-- 17% express that social media gives people a chance to criticize their business on the Internet

-- Only 6% feel that social media use has hurt the image of the business more than helped it

Small businesses experience positive effects from the economic downturn:

-- 72% have found ways to operate more efficiently (up significantly from 66% in June)

-- 47% have been led to find new products and services that benefit customers

-- 43% have become better teams as hard times force people to work together

Building online presence continues to be key focus for small businesses:

-- Company Web sites are a top technology investment in the next two years, with small businesses either adding new features/functionality to their existing Web sites or building one from scratch.

-- The ability to showcase their products and services online to attract new customers is second in the hierarchy of technology investments small business owners plan to make in the next two years.

-- Social media investments rank third in small business investments to be made in the next two years.

More information on CRM can be found at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cloud-Based Services and Collaboration Fuel Growth in the North American Hosted Enterprise Email Markets

After years of uncertainty, the North American hosted enterprise email markets have finally taken off. As businesses perceive email as mission-critical, they were skeptical about email applications residing outside the enterprise in a third-party data center in the past. However, the entry of large cloud-based providers and on-premise email vendors has lent credibility to the software as a service (SaaS) delivery model. In addition, technology maturity and cost advantages have helped spur the growth of hosted email services among enterprise users.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan finds that the market earned revenues of over $319.1 million in 2008 and estimates this to reach $604.4 million in 2015. On-premise email platforms are complicated, expensive, and require a certain level of expertise and investment capabilities.
Increasing email sizes and larger storage requirements have also contributed to escalating costs. Email archiving (online backup and recovery), compliance, and security (filtering, spam control) add layers of complexity to the email environment.

Compliance issues dictate that organizations archive their email over a period of time, thereby forcing businesses to invest in expensive storage area network (SAN) architectures. In addition, businesses need to monitor closely the rapidly evolving virus and spam threats, which are major causes of distraction from their core business focus.

Typically, a cloud model would accommodate a wide variety of applications and is not subject to the lowest common denominator principle that is applied in a physical environment. The basic tenet of the cloud services model is that customers have a greater choice in terms of the number and range of applications.

The market will be in a certain state of flux as large cloud-based email providers align their collaboration strategies. While the growing number of collaboration applications built around email will drive adoption in terms of sheer number of email boxes/seats, bundling will drive down the price per box when email is offered as part of a more comprehensive package.

The hosted enterprise email market is evolving continuously, with new competitors entering the market and business models undergoing transformation. While established hosted email providers are offering integration capabilities and tools to differentiate themselves in the market, email software vendors have launched cloud-compliant email and collaboration solutions. Pure cloud-based email providers are leveraging their low-cost delivery model to encourage migration from on-premise platforms.

Enterprises are already experimenting with hybrid email models to reduce email costs. As service providers and application vendors collaborate to integrate more applications, this hybrid model would work well even for large organizations.

More information on CRM can be found at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Survey: Shift Required for Smartphone Customer Support

Amdocs announced the results of an independent survey that examined customer care issues associated with smartphone devices and the impact these have on user adoption and customer satisfaction. The survey found that while smartphones are becoming increasingly complex, the majority of customer support calls pertain to basic issues that can be resolved remotely, requiring little or no technical support.

The survey polled more than 4,000 wireless device users from the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. Those respondents who had contacted a call center classified the reason for doing so as a "technical support" issue, even though the majority of these issues were basic "how to" inquiries such as device configuration (how to set up email), or menu navigation (how to enable WiFi access). These inquiries could have been resolved quickly via web self-service, by Level 1 customer care agents, or by training the customer on basic usage at time of sale, saving service providers time and investment in support resources. In addition, a majority of the respondents who had difficulties in using their smartphone stated that they strongly considered returning their device because they could not resolve these basic issues.

Survey highlights include:

The call center remains the first port of call: More than 50 percent of those surveyed made a call to the contact center to resolve basic support issues, taking an average of two calls to close their issue. On average, support calls lasted 17 minutes, indicating that call center agents lack the technology and training necessary to resolve these basic customer inquiries at the first instance. As a result, consumers were frequently transferred to more costly technical support agents requiring more time, resources and cost. Notably, just five percent of those polled consulted the service provider's website for support, indicating that smartphone web self-service resources are underutilized.

Unresolved issues result in a return trip to the retail outlet, or product abandonment: Thirty percent of consumers surveyed returned for customer support to the retail outlet where they purchased their smartphone, and one in three consumers considered returning or exchanging their device due to the inability to resolve issues. Sixty-five percent stated that they prefer self-help alternatives and identified "knowledgeable sales representatives," "faster procedures" and "web-based solutions" as ways to improve their customer service experience.

Opportunity to increase application and service revenue: One out of six consumers were unaware of their smartphone's advanced features or did not know how to use them. More than 70 percent stated that it would have been beneficial for a sales representative to explain all features at the time of purchase. The data suggest that with in-store tutorials or after-sale activities, service providers can drive additional application and data usage.

More information on CRM can be found at

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gartner Reveals Five Social Software Predictions for 2010 and Beyond

Gartner offers five key predictions for social software:

By 2014, social networking services will replace e-mail as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20 percent of business users.

Greater availability of social networking services both inside and outside the firewall, coupled with changing demographics and work styles will lead 20 percent of users to make a social network the hub of their business communications. During the next several years, most companies will be building out internal social networks and/or allowing business use of personal social network accounts. Social networking will prove to be more effective than e-mail for certain business activities such as status updates and expertise location.

Gartner recommends that organizations develop a long-term strategy for provisioning and consuming a rich set of collaboration and social software services, and develop policies governing the use of consumer services for business purposes. Companies should also solicit input from the business community on what collaboration tools would be most helpful.

By 2012, over 50 percent of enterprises will use activity streams that include microblogging, but stand-alone enterprise microblogging will have less than 5 percent penetration.

The huge popularity of the consumer-microblogging service Twitter, has led many organizations to look for an "enterprise Twitter," that provides microblogging functionality with more control and security features to support internal use between employees. Enterprise users want to use microblogging for many of the same reasons that consumers do to share quick insights, to keep up with what colleagues are doing, to get quick answers to questions and so on.

Through 2012, over 70 percent of IT-dominated social media initiatives will fail.

When it comes to collaboration, IT organizations are accustomed to providing a technology platform (such as, e-mail, IM, Web conferencing) rather than delivering a social solution that targets specific business value. Through 2013, IT organizations will struggle with shifting from providing a platform to delivering a solution. This will result in over a 70 percent failure rate in IT-driven social media initiatives. Fifty percent of business-led social media initiatives will succeed, versus 20 percent of IT-driven initiatives.

Enterprises will need to develop entirely new skill sets around designing and delivering social media solutions. Until this happens, failure rates will remain high. A dearth of methods, technologies and tools will impede the design and delivery of social media solutions in the near term. But long term, enterprises will realize that social media is not a "hit or miss" activity naturally prone to high failure rates, and that a calculated approach to social media solution delivery must be an IT competency. At that point, post 2012, the social software market growth will accelerate as will the overall impact of social media on business and society.

Within five years, 70 percent of collaboration and communications applications designed on PCs will be modeled after user experience lessons from smartphone collaboration applications.

As we move toward three billion phones in the world serving the main purpose of providing communications and collaboration anytime anywhere, Gartner expects more end users to spend significant time experiencing the collaborative tools on these devices. For some of the world, these will be the first or the only applications they use. The experience with these tools for all who use them will enable the user to handle far more conversations within a given amount of time than their PCs simply because they are easier to use. Just as the iPhone impacted user interface design on the desktop, the lessons in the mobile phone collaboration space will dramatically affect PC applications, many of which are derivatives of decades-old platforms based on the PBX or other older collaboration paradigm.

Through 2015, only 25 percent of enterprises will routinely utilize social network analysis to improve performance and productivity.

Social network analysis is a useful methodology for examining the interaction patterns and information flows that occur among the people and groups in an organization, as well as among business partners and customers. However, when surveys are used for data collection, users may be reluctant to provide accurate responses. When automated tools perform the analysis, users may resent knowing that software is analyzing their behavior. For these reasons, social network analysis will remain an untapped source of insight in most organizations.

Before undertaking a social network analysis, Gartner recommends that the organization ensure that it has the trust and buy-in of the people it hopes to include in the analysis in advance. Issues of privacy and confidentiality must be addressed and a determination needs to be made regarding how the information will be used and communicated. Establishing the ground rules upfront will encourage more open and honest participation and reduce the resistance to ongoing relationship monitoring.

More information on CRM can be found at