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Lack Of Integration Hurts CRM Efforts: Study

The PwC survey also finds that businesses still don't understand what's important to consumers when interacting with a business.

During the past year, execs have come to realize that customer-relationship management initiatives need to be addressed as enterprisewide strategies and not one-off departmental deployments. Despite that knowledge, a lack of integration between back- and front-office systems and within CRM apps themselves, such as marketing, sales, and service channels, is preventing companies from realizing the benefits of CRM, according to a new survey by PwC Consulting, a unit of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In addition, businesses still don't understand what's important to consumers when interacting with a business. Likewise, companies are confused about how customers want to interact with them--through a call center, over the Web, or in person. Those are some of the conclusions drawn from PwC's Multi-Channel Value Quantification survey, which was based on interviews with corporate decision-makers from 225 Global 2000 companies with at least $100 million in annual revenue. Forty-one percent of respondents had more than $1 billion in sales. The company also surveyed 225 international consumers who had interacted with large businesses.

About a third of the consumers responding to the survey say they want to be able to choose from a variety of communication channels. Further, 60% of consumers say they're less likely to do business with a company that doesn't offer their preferred channel. However, on a list of features that companies believe are important to consumers, having a choice in communication channels ranked third.

Despite the recent emphasis on E-mail marketing campaigns, more than 70% of consumers say the telephone is their preferred method of communicating with a company. Only 13% prefer the Internet. Companies have misjudged the importance of the phone, while focusing on cost-cutting measures by directing consumers to the Web site. PwC recommends companies use E-channels such as personalization to encourage low-value customers--those who don't buy as much as other consumers--to use self-service channels.

Integration is a major challenge for most businesses today, yet it's one of the most important aspects of a CRM deployment since data stored in the back office can be used to boost customer loyalty and improve customer service. Information needs to be consistent and shared in real time across all sales and service channels in order to establish a consistent customer experience. Nearly 75% of companies surveyed say they're still in the process of integrating the front office with back-office systems.

Technology, however, isn't the major sore points for business execs. The majority of respondents say CRM deployments are difficult because of ineffective processes, followed by people issues and corporate priorities. Budget constraints ranked as the least likely barrier to CRM success, despite recent IT budget cuts because of the economy.

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