Gartner's first European CRM Excellence Award for EMEA has been won by an Italian mobile telecommunications company, TIM. The TIM project set out to effect change internally and externally -- to carefully segment its customer base, boost the uptake of data services and reduce churn. The head of TIM's CRM project, Paolo Palliozi, said, "We are facing a very competitive market ... we understand that the customer base is our main asset... we wanted to segment our customer base to target the high and medium value customers." TIM wanted to stop the churn, he added. The churn refers to the rate at which a company loses old customers as it gains new ones. TIM's approach made extensive use of analytics. The firm worked with Oracle to build a powerful database to handle the data generated by the analytics software, which in turn linked into a Siebel system in the call centre. The quality of the data generated was of such a high standard that it enabled cost-effective and well-targeted marketing campaigns, according to the companies. Often campaigns were no more than SMS messages and direct calls -- but targeting is the key: "we are using the information we are collecting on the service side to target campaigns," said Palliozi. TIM claims an 80 percent reduction in churn among its highest-value customers and a similar increase in traffic from its CRM project. Gartner's Alexa Bona said of the winning entry, "TIM really managed to understand who their customer was before they embarked on the technology. They spent a lot of time trying to know the customer... they understood the importance of doing internal cultural change as well as externally... to make their employees realise that building a relationship is all about understanding the value on both sides." Throughout the CRM Summit 2002 in Paris this week, Gartner has been trying to put a more positive face on CRM. "With the award, Gartner is really trying to show that people are gaining real value from their CRM investments," said Gartner's Brian Wood. The three finalists were selected from over 70 entries -- around 20 of which were of a very high standard, said Gartner. CRM Excellence Award winners for both America (The Canada Post) and EMEA (TIM) will be written up as case studies, said Wood. Eugene Lacey reported from the CRM Summit 2002 in Paris.