CRM lying at bottom of Canadian priority list: study

Only 15 per cent of Canadian business leaders select customer relationship management as a top organizational priority, according to a recent Andersen Consulting survey.

The study asked more than 200 executives, including CEOs, CIOs and senior vice-presidents, in Canadian companies where they ranked CRM as a critical management issue. On average it ranked last.

However, consumers and industrial buyers were overwhelmingly in favour of an integrated, customer-centric approach to business in the new e -economy. Almost eight out of 10 customers ranked CRM as a high priority and 86 per cent of procurement professionals agreed.

Jerry Garcia, a partner at Andersen Consulting, said the large gap in customer vs. executive thinking is both surprising and not surprising.

“Surprising that it was such a large gap, and not surprising because I think inherently all of us as consumers probably realize there isn’t as much attention given to this as there should be.”

Garcia noted the enthusiasm displayed by executives conflicts with the experiences of CRM adoptees. The survey showed that businesses which had implemented CRM claimed, on average, a growth in revenue of 15 per cent plus and higher customer satisfaction, “which tells you there’s more than enough of a business case out there to go and do this.”

Garcia also pointed to the fact most executives said the highest priorities were getting new customers, gaining access to new markets, higher productivity, reduced costs and higher service levels.

“What I think many Canadian executives failed to do was to link all of that with customer relationship management,” he said.

The findings seem strange to Chris Ferneyhough, senior resource manager at Angus Reid, who noted a recent survey by his company showed that 55 per cent of respondents were likely to offer CRM services within the next year.

“I think the problem with comparing the two is that we talked with two different types of respondents. The Andersen survey spoke to business leaders… and with our survey, it was specifically with IT decision-makers,” Ferneyhough said.

He added that the business leaders would consider IT platforms a high priority, but that is only about five per cent of the issues they deal with. “So this isn’t forefront on their mind as much as it would be for an IT decision-maker.”

Cameron Dow, manager of Canadian software research at IDC Canada, agreed with Ferneyhough.

“Our research over the past year has shown a real shift in focus for a lot of organizations towards what we call customer-centric processes,” Dow said. “They’re looking to the parts of the organization that touch the customer. And really, this is just being driven by competitive pressures and the need to enhance customer loyalty.”

He agreed with Garcia that if business leaders understand all that CRM encompasses they would be more open to the technology. Dow admitted most companies in Canada are just starting the process, and Y2Kcosts have held the CRM-buyers at bay.

“All of our research, especially over the last 12 to 16 months, shows a growing desire to invest in CRM solutions,” Dow said. “If you were to ask me (if) companies are investing in it today, I’d have to say that not a lot of them are. But if you were to ask me if companies are planning on doing so over the next year, I’d say absolutely yes.”

Garcia maintained that business leaders do not understand what customers want.

“For instance, customers want to be able to check the status of their accounts. Eighty-three per cent of customers want that, yet only 19 per cent of business leaders say they have those capabilities today,” he explained.

He added some of the best on-line companies, such as Amazon, Chapters and Canada Trust, are setting a very high example of customer service for other businesses to follow.

“Look at e-Bay or e-Trade – there’s so many examples where if we don’t pay attention as Canadian businesses, we’re going to start lagging behind and we’re going to have a real problem catching up,” Garcia stated.

He said he hopes Canadian executives will realize the potential power of CRM and it’s effect on e-commerce.

However, Ferneyhough pointed to the high number of IT professionals who said they would be moving toward the implementation of CRM.

“I think it’s encouraging for Canadian businesses and Canadian consumers, because the real knock on Canadian organizations and Web sites has been that they don’t have the functionality – that the sites themselves and the applications themselves aren’t as user-friendly as you might find with Canadian sites,” he said. “I think what this is showing is that IT managers are fully aware of this and are doing what they can to catch up, so that we’re bringing Canadian customers and Canadian businesses back to Canadian sites.”