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Getting Beyond “It’s all about us” to improve CRM capabilities.

by Michael Maoz  |  September 12, 2013  |  3 Comments

I am taking an online course with an Indian professor on Web Intelligence that has my head spinning. MapReduce and Hashing Algorithms and Linear Probing are intuitively obvious, but the math generates an intense respect for my Lower Sixth Form teacher’s failed attempt to coax me to focus on collision resolution. But what it has done is generate the question: why have 99.5% of businesses capitulated in improving customer engagement, at the point of interaction, through the use of advanced analytics? That is: they aren’t doing it.

The answer is, and is not, simple. The simple answer is that there are at least five competing projects going on in the CRM space right now: the move to the Cloud, grasping the implications of the social customer, advancing digital marketing, providing mobile applications, and delivering better business intelligence capabilities to business analysts.

The ‘not simple’ part of the equation is that most organizations are seeking to pitch carbon out the window and replace it with silicon. That is a cheeky way of saying ditch humans and deliver everything through self service and automation. That headlong effort at cost-efficiency flies directly in the face of efforts to deliver a better customer experience. Determining exactly when a human-to-human interaction is the necessary and proper route is not easy. It requires equations, and it requires collaboration internally and externally to determine best process. Not everything that can be automated should be automated, but the mapping of customer value at each point of engagement requires powerful tools. Utilizing those tools at the point of customer engagement requires a long term commitment that is beyond the capacity of most organizations.

My wonderful colleagues Joanne Correia, Yanna Dharmasthira and Chris Pang recently delivered their CRM Market assessment on If you are a Gartner client you can see this at Their job in teasing apart vendor revenue numbers is akin to prying open a quahog with your bare fingers. (there is a better way: The net is that the CRM market, which is now 15 years old, is a US$8 billion market, and still growing at 12%. Very respectable, and Customer Service and Support is the largest single component of the market. It would be hard to grasp this last fact given the low emphasis on Customer Service and Support processes and technologies. Digital Marketing is the ascendant darling as far as enterprise focus.

We recently asked 465 of our global clients what their top business goal was, and they answered, “An enhanced customer experience.” Being pedantic, I sliced the $8B spend down to “Customer Facing Real Time Decisioning” and found that the yearly spend by corporations was about three Euros. OK, that is hyperbole. (BTW: did you know that the Euro symbol is an Epsilon and an E – for Europe?). 

Just go to any customer service organization and look at the tools available on the website, or in the hands of agents who might want or need to determine the next best action to take, or to determine most likely customer intent – and you will find practically nothing.  Great but small software companies such as Pontis ( and KXEN ( and a hundred others are offering products to achieve this ability. The vast majority of businesses have not crossed the chasm. Why not?

So what is the impediment to excellence? It’s what might be called, “it’s all about us.” Where ‘us’ is the struggle to keep the lights on, keep up with the short-term but overwhelming projects to maintain status-quo, to keep up with the hype, to refresh capabilities, to reduce headcount, to reinvent marketing. It is to enhance our standing internally and advance our jobs.

The real value in IT projects that drive revenue and profit is in discerning customer need, the best enterprise response, and using advanced analytics to deliver a superior customer engagement. That takes brains, commitment, collaboration, and time to develop. All of the things (except brains – we are all Lake Wobegon Above Average.) that are in short supply in businesses.

When do we get beyond ‘it’s all about us?’ When the CEO says so. When she/he mumbles ‘customer excellence’ but lops off heads when profit margins fall, it can’t happen. When the social/digital media wonks are pontificating, it can’t happen. When the CEO says “We exist to serve customers.” – then it happens. You can see this in great companies like Amazon, Fedex, Sephora, and Carrefour. There is a longitudinal view of improvement to the customer experience that transcends quarters and departments.

Do you see it differently? Where is your company in the customer-centric journey? And why is it so hard?

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Category: analytics-for-social-crm  applications  cio  cloud  crm  customer-centric-web  ecommerce  innovation-and-customer-experience  leadership  saas-and-cloud-computing  social-software  strategic-planning  

Michael Maoz
VP Distinguished Analyst
13 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Michael Maoz is a research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His research focuses on CRM and customer-centric Web strategies. Mr. Maoz is the research leader for both the customer service and support strategies area and customer-centric Web… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Getting Beyond “It’s all about us” to improve CRM capabilities.

  1. Brad Hodson says:

    “That headlong effort at cost-efficiency flies directly in the face of efforts to deliver a better customer experience.” This is exactly the same point I’ve been pushing as well. Too many companies are pushing automated solutions when dealing with customers and, in the end, we’re going backwards.

    We need to make tough decisions on what is the best way to build and maintain these important customer relationships, not choose the fastest or cheapest way.

  2. […] Getting Beyond “It’s all about us” to improve CRM capabilities. […]

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