The Lazy Hazy CRM Days of Summer and the Holy Grail of Unified Communications

This is the first entry in awhile.  After my last blog the folks at IT Toolbox asked me to begin a blog for them on the topic of CRM.  “Making Cents and Sense of CRM” is focused on how CRM has gone from being the next great invention to improve corporate ROI since the invention of ERP (enterprise resource planning) into a mess of all kinds of applications that have nothing to do with one another (from sales force automation (SFA), to customer service, to business intelligence, to contact center. . .).  You name a solution and no doubt someone has called it “CRM.”

This mis-use of the term has caused the market to falter.   Why would people buy something when they either don’t know what it is supposed to do, or when it over promises and under delivers?

I think this is where the expression “duh” aptly fits.

So as I sit in Central Florida in 100 plus degree heat (farenheit) pondering how soon I can get back to the beach or at least the pool I’ve been focusing on the question of whether we need to “re-label” real CRM or whether we can save it with a hail Mary pass?

That “hail Mary” may be tying CRM with Unified Communications.  We’ve discussed this a little bit before — how the ability to provide accessibility to people where ever they are from a  “virtual” office phone or email address makes the ability to improve customer service. . .but let’s take a look at some “real world” examples.

Toshiba just announced their  Unified Communications Suite, Strata® CIX™.   ShorTel (a VoiP vendor) recently linked their UC to their call center quality assurance processes.   Why are vendors big and small suddenly jumping on the “CRM / UC” bandwagon?

Well, a survey by Computerworld Hong Kong showed that users are worn out from accessing multiple communications points (email, voicemail, cell phone, office phone, etc.) only to be bombarded by people that keep them from getting their work done, while getting to important things and people “too late.”   The survey found that 55% were using IM (instant messaging), 42% were using video conferencing, and 29% were using person to person tools that were created original for home use (like Yahoo! and Microsoft Messenger).

While hte survey shows that people need UC (and may even WANT UC) they still don’t understand what it is!

Forrester Research also conducted a survey and their’s showed that most small and large companies still are uncertain about the benefits of UC!  Forrester surveyed 2,187 North American companies and 55% (55%!) were confused about what it was, let alone its value to them!

Wow, here we are contemplating how to get CRM out of the mess of “what is it and why do I care?” when it has enormous potential to improve the bottom line, when unified communications perhaps has a faster ROI (probably less overall over time, but a huge, quick payback for UC) but no one knows exactly why!

Amazing!

Granted the economy is confused right now and some companies are in panic mode — but this makes both UC and CRM even more compelling given the ROI — especially with a shrinking workforce.  Yet 55% are confused about the VALUE of Unified Communications?

Wow, we are sure lousy communicators!

Ellen Daley, (the Forrester Research analyst who authored the report) said: “There’s been a 21% increase in UC pilots since 2007 but no increase in firms buying UC. A lot of people are talking about UC, a lot more are tipping their toe in; but at the same time they’re all saying they’re not sure about the value.”

Folks, we can’t throw technology at a problem and hope that fixes things!  UC and CRM both hold enormous potential for companies but ONLY if correctly applied to a specific business NEED.  Pilots alone are worthless if the pilot isn’t part of a business problem and specific success criteria applied to the pilot.

Far too many IT vendors sell to the TCM (telecommunications manager), or the CIO (Chief Information Officer) or some other technical manager.  Definitely we need to be talking to these folks, but the REAL buyers of UC and CRM are in Marketing and Sales.  These areas are outside of the comfort zone of man typical IT sales person.

UC and CRM vendors need to move up the totem pole and start cross selling into sales and marketing (and perhaps even the CFO and CEO).  If you don’t know how to get there and have a compelling story when you do — prepare to fail.  Sit by the beach or pool in these lazy, hazy days of summer and prepare to sit there during the blizzards of February (or in my case, Disney’s Blizzard Beach).

If you lack the ability to get outside of IT you’d better partner with someone who can.

Or we’ll attend the funeral of your awesome CRM or UC product — along (perhaps) with the whole field. See you at the beach!

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About Sandra Eisenberg

Dynamic pragmatic marketing and sales executive whose biggest asset is converting technology to real corporate value -- for a variety of industries including health care providers (Adventist Health System Sunbelt), Teradata (Data Warehousing), RWD Technologies (quality improvement and professional services), Siemens and AT&T (telecom). Sandra brings twenty years of experience in sales, marketing and IT management. Her career spans entrepreneurial firms (E5 Marketing) and senior positions in sales, sales management (direct and indirect), marketing, channel development and product management at Bell Labs and NCR Teradata. A few career highlights: • Total product lifecycle management (PLM) using ISO 9001 and other quality methodologies. Sunset aging product lines and developed a migration path to a new, open standards platforms at Avaya, NCR and Bell Labs. • 1st woman to win the AT&T and NCR Teradata national sales awards -- top sales manager and sales rep at AT&T, NCR Teradata and Avaya • Delivered profitable marketing campaigns in the area of CRM, Business intelligence, contact centers and other high tech areas • Run call centers, sold call centers and been in product management of call centers (Avaya, AT&T and NCR) • Director of CRM Strategic Planning and Alliances at Avaya and NCR Teradata • Senior Manager of Product Management Bell Labs (business intelligence, data warehousing and CRM) Most recently Sandra managed the Central Florida territory for Siemens' telephony division. Siemens is selling this division soon and their loss can be your gain.

Posted on July 6, 2009, in BI, contact center, CRM, profit, revenue, sales, unified communications, viral marketing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hello Sandra,

    Stumbled on your blog via Lucent LinkedIN.

    Was thinking of starting a new life with CRM after Lucent. Somehow sidetrack. Still keep a keen eye in this area. You blog is supplying me with good info whether I am going into CRM or not.

    • I’m glad you find it useful. CRM has evolved to less “an” application than a suite of software that touches the customer — directly or indirectly, and this includes business intelligence of customer data and ways of reaching the customer (unified communications). Where were you in Lucent? I was in Basking Ridge.

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