Key findings in a Meta Group report, commissioned by US firm PwC Consulting and due to be released in November, showed that cross-channel integration and the integration of front- and back-office systems were among the thorniest issues facing companies trying to implement CRM initiatives.
The study questioned 225 senior CRM decision-makers from Global 2000 companies, with a turnover of more than $100m (£66.6m).
Survey results showed that only 18% of respondents had fully integrated their front- and back-office systems, despite the fact that nearly three-quarters of all respondents cited this level of integration as their top priority.
Integration across separate channels was also a key concern, with about 60% admitting that their cross-channel integration needed to be improved.
Over the past 12 months, integration has been the top budget priority for customer-facing initiatives, with 17% of the overall CRM budget devoted to contact centre integration, and 12% spent on cross-channel integration.
Projections for the next year show expenditure levelling out, with both categories of integration taking 14% of the budget.
But a failure to integrate contact channels can scupper well-intentioned initiatives.
CRM is supposed to present a company with a holistic view of individual customers, and aims to offer greatly improved customer service. But when, for example, a customer who has written a detailed complaint to head office has to explain the problem again to high-street office staff, lack of integration between the different channels sends out a confusing and inconsistent message.
"Without a cross-channel approach [to CRM], firms succumb to 'split personalities' that send conflicting messages to their customers," said PwC Consulting's Tom Jones, head of the company's multichannel integration initiative, launched this week.
Gartner Group research director for CRM Jennifer Kirkby, said integration of data from both front- and back-office systems, and from all of a company's separate channels, is vital because the whole concept of CRM is based on understanding the customer at any point of interaction.
As companies realise the importance of putting in place joined-up, cross-enterprise initiatives, demand for integration skills would increase, Kirkby said.
"Not having enough application integration skills is a real problem at the moment, and is causing a backlog in the system.
"As the whole art of integration increases in importance, there will be more demand for this level of skill," she said.
Customer systems fail marketing needs
A study into customer management services conducted by analyst firm Nelson Hall shows that only one in three marketing directors are happy with their levels of customer service and even fewer with their multichannel customer contact management capabilities. Integration of traditional and emerging channels was flagged up as a significant challenge, with only 17% of marketing directors highly satisfied with their company's multichannel customer contact handling capabilities.
In which areas are you highly satisfied with your company's performance?
Ability to retain existing customers: 50%
Level of customer service: 33%
Ability to optimise return from marketing campaigns: 25%
Ability to segment customers: 15%
Ability to cross-sell or up-sell to customers: 15%