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Sun 14 Aug 2005 04:00 AM

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Customers say CRM service has room for improvement

Middle East firms looking at investing in expensive customer relationship management (CRM) projects might be advised to think again, following a report from consulting firm Accenture.

Middle East firms looking at investing in expensive customer relationship management (CRM) projects might be advised to think again, following a report from consulting firm Accenture.

The report claims that UK consumers are still unhappy with customer service levels, despite many companies there having invested heavily in CRM tools in the past five years.

A survey of 1,000 UK consumers found that over two thirds, 67%, thought customer service had not improved over the past five years, with half of UK consumers claiming that poor customer service has led them to change service providers in the past 12 months.

Customers’ main complaints, according to the report, stemmed from being kept on hold too long (78%) and having to repeat information to multiple service reps (75%). Other frustration points included cross-selling (55%), inflexible service (45%), customer service representatives who are not personable (43%), computers not working (36%), and requests for too much personal information (32%). All in all, begging the question of whether CRM systems are worthy investments.

“These findings are troubling for any industry with heavy customer interaction, given that poor service was the predominant reason for half of the respondents changing service providers in one industry or another last year,” said John Freeland, global managing partner at Accenture’s CRM practice.

“Winning companies strike the balance between using technology to help reduce costs, and streamlining the customer experience with well-considered processes that contribute to more personalised services,” he claimed.

Such a debate is important to the Middle East region, which has not historically been renowned for abundant customer relationship management services. However with the recent opening up and liberalisation of regional markets, the investment of potential CRM systems is higher on company agendas.

A number of companies have this year announced plans to implement CRM systems in one form or another, including Gulf Air, which told IT Weekly earlier this year that it is looking to implement a CRM system based on Oracle’s E-Business Suite (see IT Weekly 16 -22 April 2005). “The CRM solution will allow us to better identify our customers,” said Mohammed Sarwar Rabbani, project manager IT infrastructure at Gulf Air. Air Arabia has also announced plans for implementing a CRM system (see IT Weekly 25 June - 1 July 2005).

However in CRM’s defence, Ranjit Rajan, marketing manager, Epicor Scala MEA, believes poor customer service is often the result of poorly defined business processes and the lack of quality human resources to support them.

According to Rajan, CRM technologies enable business processes and often make available business best practices that can be adopted by the enterprise. The onus however is on the enterprise to align the technology to the specific customer-related processes of the organisation. Often companies are overly keen to adopt CRM technologies only to match such moves by competitors without clearly understanding and defining the underlying processes first, Rajan said.

“Successful CRM requires the organisation to input and update customer data regularly, which is then made available at all customer touch-points. CRM technology provides the template for acquiring data from various sources and dispersing this data to the touch-points,” he added.

“However, companies do not always maintain discipline in this data acquisition and its integrity and this often leadsto the failure of CRM implementations,” Rajan concluded.

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