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Companies may have been hit hard by the lingering recession, but customer-facing applications and customer service haven't lost their luster

Helen D'Antoni

October 4, 2003

4 Min Read

Companies may have been hit hard by the lingering recession, but customer-facing applications and customer service haven't lost their luster. Last year, the United States was the dominant market for customer-relationship-management tools and products, accounting for $7.1 billion, or approximately half of worldwide sales. This market share is expected to hold steady into 2006, according to the Aberdeen Group.

Improving customer management has been a business-technology priority for nearly all of the companies in InformationWeek Research's Evolving IT Priorities series, a quarterly study that tracks budget and business-technology practices from the perspective of 300 executives. Customer PushNinety percent of managers surveyed in September about their fourth-quarter business and technology priorities say that improving customer service is a primary concern. The initiative to provide faster and more efficient customer service is found in companies in all industries and of all sizes. Ninety percent of the study's 100 businesses with up to $100 million in annual revenue say improving customer service is a fourth-quarter business-technology priority, compared with 89% of companies with revenue of $100 million to $1 billion and 92% of sites with $1 billion or more in revenue. Customer-service initiatives were immune even to the cost-cutting and budget-crunching efforts that were so prevalent a year ago, when many companies faced more dire circumstances. Of the 300 sites surveyed last year about fourth-quarter objectives, 91% were committed to improving their customer service. Yet the Aberdeen Group expects the way companies acquire and pay for CRM systems to change. "Purchase of new CRM software will rapidly transition from a license model to an ASP, subscription-oriented model," says Hugh Bishop, an Aberdeen Group senior VP. How will your company handle customer service more effectively in the coming months? Let us know at the address below. Helen D'Antoni
Senior Editor Research
[email protected]
Data IntentionsData Intentions Does your IT division implement and support organizing and using customer data? Stored data offers potential insight into customer needs, along with business opportunities and revenue streams. IT divisions at companies across all revenue sizes are working to ensure that this valuable information is available for mining. Among the 300 sites surveyed about their fourth-quarter objectives, four in five executives at large companies report that IT implements and supports the use of customer data.
Software FocusSoftware Focus Is improving software quality an IT priority at your company? Providing processes to mine customer data effectively is just one way IT professionals are helping to improve customer service. Software bugs and glitches can play havoc with response time and data integrity, which greatly diminishes the customer experience. Yet with many IT organizations assigned to improving software quality (seven in 10 sites in InformationWeek Research's Evolving IT Priorities: 4Q 2003 report), there's less of a chance that buggy software will diminish the customer-service experience, which is to the benefit of the employee and the customer alike.
Real-Time AspirationsReal-Time Aspirations Is your company establishing processes that support real-time business information? Management support for providing real-time business data throughout the enterprise has increased dramatically in the past year, according to the IT priorities report. Whereas 57% of sites surveyed a year ago said that real-time business information was a key company focus, 70% see it that way today. From a customer-service perspective, providing real-time data is good for fine-tuning customer offerings and also helps boost the productivity of customer-facing workers.
Privacy StudiesPrivacy Strides Is establishing or managing privacy strategies an IT priority at your company? Increasing instances of identity theft and other security challenges are fueling growing concerns about how IT manages personal information. Companies that intend to establish or retain consumer loyalty are setting more-rigorous privacy policies or are enacting government regulations aimed at establishing such safeguards. Approximately half of the companies InformationWeek Research surveyed are turning to IT workers to ensure that these policies are properly implemented to protect customer information.

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