CRM filters down to smaller companies

Software for improving customer service may soon be deployed by smaller firms, as more affordable tools come to market
Written by Eugene Lacey, Contributor
Customer relationship management (CRM) software vendors that have traditionally targeted larger firms are now seeking to bring their products within the range of smaller companies. The latest entrant to mid-market eCRM is Accpac, a subsidiary of Computer Associates. Accpac last week launched a fully hosted CRM solution for £80 a month and has already signed up its first customer. Tru Spas, a nationwide retailer of spas, told ZDNet UK that it would not have even considered a CRM solution were it not affordable and totally hosted. "We wouldn't have considered running it ourselves" said Tru Spas Stephen Knapp. Early CRM initiatives were typically adopted by large, well-funded organisations who may have already been managing some customer interactions through call centres. Often they would bring in specialist IT contractors to handle the integration of legacy back-end systems where vital customer data was held, a prerequisite for effective CRM. As the importance of retaining existing customers and driving additional revenues from them becomes more important in the economic downturn, many smaller companies are now looking to deploy the kind of CRM tools used by their larger competitors. "For £80 per user per month businesses get to deploy a level of software that was previously reserved for multinationals," said Keith Fenner, assistant vice president, Internet Business, at Accpac. In November, BT and Siebel launched a joint venture to offer a fully hosted service to medium-sized firms to catch the 'sub-corporate' business CRM wave. BT claims that its new Contact Central offering cuts out expensive complexity because it "pre-integrates all the necessary components of a multimedia 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. In a separate move to reduce the costs of entry, Siebel is now offering its Siebel 7 suite in 20 different configurations, specifically tailored to the business processes within key industries. All major sectors of industry are covered -- including retail, travel, chemicals, media, oil and gas.
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