E-software fails customer needs

Guy Campos Every single software package for online customer relationship management (CRM) has something missing, analysts...

Guy Campos Every single software package for online customer relationship management (CRM) has something missing, analysts claimed last week.

A study by the Ovum consultancy said that traditional CRM suppliers do not do e-commerce well, while e-commerce platform suppliers are unlikely to offer users an experience which is consistent with the rest of the company's marketing.

Traditional e-CRM software suppliers and e-commerce start-ups are rushing to form alliances which will provide a comprehensive offering, but are not there yet, according to the report.

"Also, because many of these alliances are so new, the integration between the products is often very superficial, and it will take time before it becomes deeper," said Ovum analyst Colin Brash.

He said that traditional suppliers such as Siebel, Nortel, Clarify and Oracle, need to adopt a different mindset before they can offer effective software for the Web.

"E-commerce is about self-service. It is about supporting your customers' buying processes, not your own sales processes. It needs a new approach, not a thin veneer on an old product," said Brash.

Meanwhile, company Web sites based on specialist e-commerce platforms often do not use the same customer information as that held by call centres and sales staff.

"This is irritating for customers. We've argued for some time that consistency is central to doing e-commerce properly. There should be a single view of the customer by the organisation and a single view of the organisation by the customer," said Brash.

In addition, much customer analysis and personalisation software is narrow in scope, and it will take time before the sector consolidates into a few suppliers with a sophisticated, comprehensive offering.

"Customers need to approach suppliers with quite penetrating questions. Because these are quite new products, it is easy for vendors to be able to claim to do this or to be able to do that when in actual fact they cannot.

"Users need to aim at consistency and efficiency in the first stage of e-CRM. The best kind of operation is generally one that does not surprise the customer very much. The next stage is personalisation - targeted offers and targeted content - which is certainly nice to have. and will become increasingly important," Brash said.

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