Customer relationship management has now reached the awkward stage in its adoption cycle. The concept and its benefits are widely accepted, but few complete implementations are in place. The resulting reality gap leads some skeptics to question whether the whole idea is truly worthwhile or merely the creation of vendors, analysts and consultants looking for something to hype.

The phenomenon is familiar. The data warehouse industry went through a similar period of doubt a couple of years ago, and falling stock prices suggest the Internet industry is going through one right now. Even though the cycle is well understood, it is still dangerous. If the skeptics actually convince enough people that CRM is a meaningless bubble, further development could be halted. Thus, it is worth taking stock of what has been accomplished so far and what remains to be done.

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