Industry analyst Ovum has published a report on the use of call centres within customer relationship management (CRM) applications and concluded that it represents a vast untapped market for resellers. The report's author, David Bradshaw, said CRM is an attractive market for VARs because even with the most simple to use package there is still a lot of opportunity for value-added revenue. "We estimate that at least the price of the product again will be spent on installation and configuration," he said. Phil Stratton, managing director of reseller PSA Professional Solutions, argues that there is a big gap between basic contact management applications and top-end customer relationship software. "The products are starting to appear at the right price for basic things like popping up customer details from incoming calls, but much is still way too expensive for SMEs," he said. Bradshaw said even the big-name vendors like Siebel and Oracle have packages aimed at the SME market. "It's often easier for smaller firms to adopt CRM. They are not hampered by complex legacy systems so they can just buy it and roll it out wall to wall," he said. Stratton said Siebel and others may have what they consider to be scaled-down packages, but they still cost at least £30,000 and are inappropriate for the SME market. Bradshaw said the migration of advanced telephony functions towards the NT platform is helping to make applications affordable for smaller firms. If resellers are restricted by their resources and are forced to limit the number of products they deal in, they should chose one mainstream CRM package which will work for some of their customers some of the time, and one customisable call-centre-style application, advised Bradshaw. The report concluded that customers do not necessarily need CRM software to get what they really need. "Some dealers are trying to sell the wrong product to the wrong customers; they are selling sophisticated CRM software when really a decent scripting tool or workflow product is needed," said Bradshaw. There is no point in trying to build a completely bespoke system with a CRM product that offers predetermined business processes, he added. This is because, in some cases, companies can find themselves rejigging the way they do business to fit the software they have bought. Stratton pointed out that bespoke scripted call centre applications are not suitable for every customer either. "Some companies need to manage customer contact, but their people on the phones are often a lot more than just call centre agents," he said. Bradshaw added that a lot of CRM software is specially designed for business-to-business interaction - managing many people at one company that has relationships with a number of contacts at another.
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