Customer Management Systems evolving

The market for customer relationship management (CRM) solutions was chilled by the economic downturn, but companies are beginning to return to the new generation of CRM solutions as they look to build better communications, and better understand customer behaviour

Tags: CRMCobone (www.cobone.com)Focus Softnet LimitedGulf Business MachinesInteractive Intelligence Inc (www.inin.com)Microsoft Corporation
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Customer Management Systems evolving CRM is becoming more analytical, with vendors putting more analytics tools into their product offerings, says Hyder.
By  Keri Allan Published  January 13, 2013

Adoption of customer relationship management (CRM) solutions in the Middle East continues to rise as businesses look for solutions that will ensure customer satisfaction whilst simultaneously cutting costs and increasing productivity.

“CRM software adoption in the Middle East has exceeded the 20% annual growth mark according to the Annual Middle East Call Centre/CRM Conference,” says Karim Talhouk, Microsoft Business Solutions lead, Microsoft Gulf.

“[Plus] the Middle East contact centre market is currently witnessing a 30% growth rate in the number of agent positions,” adds Mina Nagy, product manager, BSolutions.

Arnold Gutmann, practice lead CRM, Business Solutions, GBM highlights that CRM initiatives really started in the region around four to five years ago, and after a lull, interest is up again.

“The economic boom surprisingly slowed down CRM efforts and the following economic downturn has stopped them altogether due to a lack of readiness to invest in business software,” Gutmann comments. “The new confidence in the market has reignited the search for more efficient marketing, customer retention and growth strategies especially in the retail and services sectors. CRM is back — with a strong focus on business intelligence and analytics.”

Vendors are highlighting that uptake comes from across the board: both SMEs and larger organisations are noticing the possible return on investment (ROI) and benefits a CRM solution can offer.

“In my opinion, ROI for CRM applications can potentially be easy to attain,” says Shaheen Haque, territory manager, Middle East and Turkey, Interactive Intelligence. “The potential areas that can lead to impressive ROI for CRM technologies and provide business benefit include administration/operational efficiencies, better customer brand and product awareness, improved business intelligence, increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, and improved sales conversion rates.”

Not only are vendors being approached by new companies, but businesses that introduced traditional systems a few years ago are returning as they’re now interested in investing in more powerful and capable CRM solutions.

Different trends are appearing, such as the move towards more mobile-enabled solutions.

“A hot trend in the CRM industry revolves around mobile,” says Nagy. “With the fast-growing smartphone market, CRM has currently gone mobile and is easily accessible almost anywhere. This new trend is fast gaining ground as the need for easy access is fundamental to any executive.”

“Mobility has moved from being a nice-to-have feature to a necessity,” agrees Haque. “The use of smartphones, iPads, netbooks, tablets and other mobile devices will be used to support customer-facing workers like sales and relationship management employees. Most customers are demanding availability and interaction via this media. The CRM vendors are falling over themselves to provide apps for the popular OS brands. That being said, a cross-platform interface is also an important factor. Customers demand familiarity whether they are using a Mac, PC or tablet.”

Business intelligence is also a keyword right now.

“As business intelligence is becoming a built-in function for most applications, CRM is becoming more analytical with vendors putting more effort into providing analytical tools to help their customers in newer versions of CRM applications,” says Ali Hyder, CEO, Focus Softnet.

Then there’s cloud. Vendors have seen a significant shift, especially from customers with a large install base, migrating to cloud-based CRM applications, as on-premises solutions run into mobility and scalability limitations.

“CRM is one of the first applications that has been accepted as a cloud application. Since most CRM users are on the move, companies expect CRM to be available over the Internet,” notes Hyder.

“There’s no question that cloud-based CRM has taken off in the Middle East and is growing in momentum,” continues Haque. “Cloud CRM and the cloud application offerings from the major vendors such as Salesforce and Microsoft are, we believe, proving most popular.

“Cloud-based CRM applications are especially attractive to customer experience-focused businesses, be they commercial or public sector,” he adds.

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