Has CRM embraced eService…finally?

I, along with every other analyst, started predicting that CRM vendors would acquire all of the eService (knowledgebase, multi-channel service) vendors years ago. And we were wrong. As a Siebel executive once told me, “We have never lost a CRM deal because we didn’t have eService.” For a while there were a lot of partnerships and integrations, but even those have lost steam as CRM vendors started focusing solely on infrastructure (Fusion, NetWeaver) and ecosystems (AppExchange) instead of functionality.

Maybe, after all these years, CRM vendors are finally hearing that handling more than phone calls is important. Check out these two recent announcements:

  • Salesforce Acquires InStranet.  Last month, Salesforce.com, who has struggled to be taken seriously as a customer service vendor, announced they were acquiring InStranet.  If you don’t know InStranet, they are a sexy Web 2.0 eService player, who brings some interesting new capabilities to the multi-channel content mix. For example, InStranet presents agents with a personalized Briefing Page with customized, up-to-date content specifically for their role and skill level. With integration to Salesforce, the Briefing Page can even dynamically present information customized for each customer, including ‘best fit’ upsell and cross-sell offers to extend during the live interaction.
  • Oracle partners with InQuira. This week Oracle announced a strategic partnership with InQuira, finally providing the CRM giant with a story for best of breed knowledge management, search and community capabilities. This is the first functional announcement concerning CRM we’ve heard from Oracle since they went with their “all Fusion, all the time” messaging, and I think it is great news for Oracle eBusiness, Siebel and PeopleSoft customers. Rumor has it Anthony Lye, head of CRM for Oracle, will even be giving a demo of InQuira customer forums at next week’s Oracle Open World (which, even though I give CRM advice to SSPA and AFSMI members, I wasn’t invited to. But I’m not bitter.)
When I talk to members about CRM, typically to them CRM means trouble ticketing.  Nothing more.  I hope that vendors will go back to creating business value for business users, not just IT, because to reduce an entire CRM stack to ‘trouble ticketing’ tells me that the value has definitely been lost along the way.  Thanks for reading!
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10 Comments on “Has CRM embraced eService…finally?”

  1. ibrahim binshahbal Says:

    nice article.

  2. jragsdale Says:

    Thank Ibrahim;
    I’m curious how customer service in Qatar compares to North America?

  3. Stephen Says:

    John,

    Did you really mean to say when members say CRM, they really are saying trouble tickets? I find when I say CRM to people, they are really saying SFA. Now, maybe that is because you are talking to SSPA members who live and breathe Service and Support.

    If people really believe it is trouble tickets, then they are too caught up in their own little world or vendors really haven’t done enough in innovations.

  4. jragsdale Says:

    Many large companies (actually just about all I speak with) consider CRM an IT driven project that doesn’t involve or benefit them. Yes, I’m definitely only talking to the service and support side of the house, and they generally have no idea there is a contracts module, an upsell/cross-sell module, even the idea of ‘360 view.’ They were given basic trouble ticketing and that’s all they use the CRM software for. And often, they buy add-on packages from specialists to do things that may be in the CRM suite, but they don’t know it is there.

    Yes, most of the blame can go to the age-old fissure between IT and the business. But, as I said in the post, when vendors stop even trying to communicate business value during the sales cycle, only focusing on IT requirements for technology, they are ensuring they never have cross-enterprise adoption or loyal customers.

  5. Gary Sherman Says:

    “when vendors stop even trying to communicate business value during the sales cycle, only focusing on IT requirements for technology, they are ensuring they never have cross-enterprise adoption or loyal customers.”

    How true.

    I think way too much emphasis is placed on features and functionality, instead of benefits, i.e. business value.

    “they buy add-on packages from specialists to do things that may be in the CRM suite, but they don’t know it is there.”

    Again, true. I think this shows a lack of true partnering between vendor and customer. If vendors are truly building and maintaining a relationship with their customers, they have much more visibility into the customer needs, and can guide them towards good practices and how to best take advantage of the full suite pf products that the customer may already own.
    Its not uncommon that even CRM vendors forget about the “R”.

  6. jragsdale Says:

    Definitely! But it does create a great opportunity for firms like yours who work directly with the business to bridge the value gap. Keep it up!


  7. Hi John:

    The Seattle Times just had an article that Entellium “ran out of money” and are shutting down.

    Pretty amazing since they have recently said they achieved 10 straight quarters of revenue growth and were doubling their customer base every year for three years.

    Any insights to share on Entellium and the apparent disconnect between PR and reality?

  8. jragsdale Says:

    Wow! I haven’t tracked Entellium since I did an SMB CRM overview at Forrester in 2003. They remained primarily on the SFA side and have no visibility for customer support–including zero adoption by SSPA members (according to my last member technology survey).

    Not knowing the facts, my guess is that there isn’t a big market for SMB SFA OnDemand vendors because Salesforce.com owns the market, has a broader/deeper functional footprint, and an amazing partner ecosystem with AppExchange. Vendors in this space end up competing on price, and the prices are so low already….if Entellium kept doing deep discounts in order to get business it is not a sustainable model.


  9. The Seattle Times reported today that the CEO and CFO for Entekkium were cooking the books and grossly overstating revenue since 2004. Apparently some staff have been retained to address existing customers. No word on long terms plans for the company. I hope their laid off staff quickly land on their feet.


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