New Servicing/CRM System Benchmark Study Reveals Urgent Need for Change

By Donna Fluss

In 1997, customer relationship management (CRM) vendors burst onto the enterprise software scene and promised to deliver functionally rich servicing applications to satisfy the needs of sales, marketing, and customer service organizations. The idea was to do a better and more cost-effective job of servicing customers while providing a 360-degree view of customers. Unfortunately, a large percentage of enterprises that made investments in these solutions did not realize most of the projected benefits. Enterprises bought into the CRM vision because they needed to improve their servicing applications. Thirteen years later, 45.2 percent of contact centers are still using homegrown legacy, mainframe, or client server CRM applications. The state and effectiveness of servicing applications appears to be as bad now as it was thirteen years ago. This is reflected in DMG Consulting’s new benchmark study, The Servicing/CRM System Dilemma.

The study addressed 149 enterprise, operations, contact center, and IT managers, directors, leaders, and decision-makers around the world, ninety-three of whom completed the study. We found that a growing number of contact centers of all sizes are looking for a low-risk approach to enhance and optimize their contact center servicing/CRM applications. Many of these companies have been sitting on the sidelines for years, waiting for a more attractive solution to enter the market to help them improve or replace their existing servicing/CRM application. Managers want flexible servicing applications that can grow and change with their business, but they are fearful of signing up for long-term, complex, and expensive system conversions.

Survey respondents were asked to rank their top 2011 call/contact center challenges. Like it or not, enterprise, contact center, and IT managers around the world, in contact centers of all sizes, agree that the top contact center challenge for 2011 is improving agent productivity. This makes sense, as contact centers are people-intensive organizations and in most countries agent expenses are by far the largest cost category. The second-ranked contact center challenge for 2011 is improving the customer experience. In an earlier benchmark study of contact center challenges conducted during the “Great Recession,” the positioning of the two top contact center challenges was reversed. Improving the customer experience was rated the number-one contact center challenge, and improving productivity was cited as the second-most-important goal for 2010. These two contact center challenges have been top priorities for contact centers for many years and are expected to continue to predominate for the near future. Survey responses about annual contact center goals vary and new priorities and challenges are identified, but most of the variations concern the specifics of how to address the fundamental issues of agent productivity, cost reduction, and the customer experience.

Servicing/CRM Application Challenges: To gain an appreciation of the challenges companies are facing with their servicing and CRM applications, survey participants were asked to identify the top technical challenges they face when using their current contact center servicing/CRM application. Enterprises are struggling with a variety of workflow and efficiency-related issues. The most important technical issue is that agents need to access too many screens to find information; 38.7 percent of respondents rated this issue as extremely important. The second-most-important technical issue is the lack of a 360-degree view of customers; this was ranked as extremely important by 29 percent of respondents. These responses tie back to the top two contact center concerns for 2011: the need to improve agent productivity and the customer experience.

Role of Desktop Analytics in Contact Centers: A great deal has changed in the contact center and CRM technology landscape in the past ten years, and most companies lag way behind in taking advantage of new functionality. An obvious example is social media. We estimate that more than 93 percent of existing servicing/CRM applications do not have the ability to access, route, queue, or respond to social media interactions. However, this is not the only capability missing from servicing/CRM solutions. Unified communications, desktop analytics, workflow, next call to action, intelligent scripting and routing, advanced CTI, support for payment card industry (PCI) standards and other regulations, desktop integration, and even multichannel capabilities are just some of the “innovations” that have entered contact centers in the last few years but are not yet addressed in most servicing applications.

Final Thoughts: These findings make it clear that it’s well past time for most companies to invest in, replace, or supplement their contact center servicing/CRM systems. But this time around, it’s understood that projects should be broken down to short-term deliverables with well-defined goals and that addressing process and training changes is as important as the capabilities of the system itself.

Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting LLC. To obtain a free copy of the complete thirty-nine-page report, The Servicing/CRM System Dilemma, an International Benchmark Study of Contact Center Servicing/CRM Application Challenges, visit or contact Deborah Navarra at or 516-628-1098.

[From Connection Magazine April 2011]

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