CRM Vendors Today – Three Cheers for the Honest Ones

CRM Vendors Today – Three Cheers for the Honest Ones

By: Barton Goldenberg

Having spent 26 years in the CRM industry, I’ve seen my share of vendor shenanigans ranging from exaggerating software capabilities and embellishing execution complexity to overpromising and under delivering implementations. While most vendors are honest, hard-working companies, I remain concerned about a resurgence of dishonest practices to drive sales from several of the newer vendors. Without revealing vendor names, here are two true stories about leading vendors that fall into this category.
Performance Overselling

Vendor #1 claims there is no degradation in performance by utilizing its SaaS offering. We monitored their system performance with one of our customers over a two-year period, prior to the client finally pulling the plug on the software. The vendor claimed their software was configured properly, yet from day one a bug often prevented the customer from sending emails via Outlook from within the vendor’s CRM application. The CRM application would timeout when the customer attempted to send an email from Outlook, so the email would never send.
Ultimately, the customer wasted 30-45 seconds each time this bug occurred, often several times during the same email send. While the emails would finally get sent out via Outlook, the customer had to waste two to three minutes making multiple send attempts. Not exactly the time-savings the vendor promised this customer during the sales pitch.

The vendor’s support staff acknowledged the bug by requesting the client make numerous hardware and network upgrades including faster DSL line installations and new PC purchases. The vendor also dispatched technical specialists, network specialists and management personnel to resolve the issue. Yet after two long years of trying to resolve the problem, it still existed and the customer – out of sincere frustration and ultimate disgust – finally pulled the plug and moved onto a new CRM vendor platform.

What bothered me as an observer was the vendor’s attitude towards the customer. Rather than humbling themselves and working more closely with the customer, this well-known CRM vendor came close to humiliating the customer many times by saying that the issue was on the client side, not the vendor. It was only when I learned that the same bug was negatively impacting another ISM customer that I concluded this CRM vendor was lying to the customer and stringing them along until they found a fix (which, of course, never happened).

Out-of-the-Box Hooey

Vendor #2 is also a well-known SaaS CRM provider. This vendor was invited to respond to oneof our customers’ RFPs that focused mainly on digital marketing functionality. The vendor’s RFP response stated they could deliver required functionality out-of-the-box and so impressed our customer that the vendor got an invitation to the demonstration shoot-out between three vendor finalists. (In the early ISM days, I devised a vendor selection process that is almost bullet-proof in snuffing out vendors that have not be entirely honest in their RFP response.)

In this particular case, as the CRM vendor demonstrated the functionality they claimed was available in their out-of-the-box application, it became abundantly clear to company participants scoring the demo that the vendor had greatly exaggerated their capabilities in their RFP response. I personally facilitated this demo session and, as the session progressed, it was apparent that the salesman and sales engineer demonstrating the application hadn’t read their company’s RFP response. The demo deteriorated over the four hours allocated and, at hour three, the salesman stood up, lost his cool, and said, “I’ve had enough of this punishment. We are going to stop the demo right here. We are a company with integrity and it is not possible that our demo is so far off from what our RFP response promised.” We all looked at one another and offered the salesman additional time to prepare the demo to reflect the RFP response. The salesman indicated he would discuss with his internal team that prepared the response. Shortly thereafter, the salesman sent an email officially withdrawing from our customer’s RFP process.

As I stated before, most CRM vendors are honest, hard-working companies. In support of these honest vendors and the CRM industry in general, it is critical that we share these types of stories and spread the word about vendors that are not being entirely honest with their customers. My hope is that if enough stories get told, the dishonest vendors will be forced to clean up their act and play more fairly in our marketplace.