BT has partnered with the leading CRM software company, Siebel, to bring customer relationship management tools to small and medium-sized firms in the UK. This is "big, big news" said the eponymous chairman and chief executive of Siebel, Tom Siebel, at a press reception at BT's London headquarters on Wednesday.
Traditionally CRM tools have been the preserve of large organisations, with big IT teams to handle the complex integration required to produce real-time information on customer accounts. Producing the information quickly enough is only half the problem -- using it to help the customer on a range of platforms (Web, email, phone, etc.) presents even greater challenges -- which again has tended to restrict the deployment of CRM to larger organisations.
BT claims that its new Contact Central offering cuts out this expensive complexity because it "pre-integrates all the necessary components of a multi-media contact centre, including telephony, IP switching, hardware and software to handle all forms of customer enquiries via voice, fax, email, and Internet." Contact Central is also faster to deploy than a bespoke system -- taking just 25 days, according to BT.
The deployment of a CRM system by smaller companies enables them to compete with larger firms, and realise a 20 percent improvement in customer satisfaction levels, says Siebel. "BT bring it in, install if for you, and stand behind it. We are behind them 100 percent," he said.
BT sees CRM as a natural market to compete in because of its strong dependence on communications, and claims to be the UK's leading supplier with "25 percent of the CRM market already," according to Pierre Danon, chief executive of BT Retail.
Tom Siebel heaped praise on his new partners: "This is big news. BT are demonstrating a lot of leadership here... This is big news in the IT business."
At £200,000 for 36 users, Contact Central will be beyond the reach of very small firms, but may be seen as a possibility by medium-sized players and BT also hopes to interest government departments and police forces. BT says it is investigationg offering Contact Central through ASPs.
Siebel refuted the suggestion that CRM is seen as a discretionary purchase in these hard times. "CRM is the number one priority on the CIO's list today," he said.
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