Robert Frances Group released the initial results from its first Partner Relationship Optimization (PRO) Web-based survey on Best Practices in Relationship Management.

Early responses from more than 430 IT, marketing and business development executives and managers suggest that the majority of firms are spending money on relationship-oriented Web sites and applications for customer relationship management (CRM) and partner relationship management (PRM). However, few are taking advantage of the information and communication provided by these expensive resources. Some critical early findings from the study include the following:

  • More than 75 percent of the respondents report that their companies are "heavily dependent" on the Internet for business in general and relationship management in particular. These respondents said that they have multiple, critical Web sites used by customers and suppliers, or that the Internet pervades every aspect of their business.
  • Nearly 60 percent of the respondents reported that the Internet has provided their company with better customer information. But follow-up conversations with respondents indicate that fewer than 10 percent of companies believe they are effectively utilizing the customer information they do capture.
  • Improving business relationships is very improvement to the respondents, but few are translating relationship management efforts into better contact or more sales. More than 65 percent of responding firms have multiple, budgeted, relationship improvement programs in place now, and another 25 percent either have a single relationship management program or are planning to put one into place shortly. But fewer than 20 percent of the respondents report that the Web is actually generating sales revenue for their companies – and the vast majority of these companies were direct-to-consumer sales.

"RFG believes that these results signal the need for more integrated relationship management applications and processes," said David Taylor, VP and research director for RFG's PRO service and director of the survey. "We see a lot of capability for communication and relationship improvement that simply is not being acted upon because firms lack the right tools or processes. There's a lot of money being left on the Web site."
To reduce waste and improve relationship management, Taylor's suggestions for firms currently budgeting for Web-based customer and partner management include:

  • Review any and all budgeted Web site efforts that affect customer or partner relationships.
  • Require integration of CRM and PRM efforts with each other and with customer support, marketing, and sales systems and processes.
  • Develop clear metrics and guidelines for CRM/PRM return on investment (ROI), and manage system purchases and implementations accordingly.

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