New CRM Player Feels Bullish

US-headquartered Art Technology Group (ATG), which officially launches in Australia this week, is not concerned that it's the Johnny come lately to the local electronic customer relationship management (e-CRM) market.

On the contrary, the company believes its lateness, which was a "conscious decision", is in fact, its competitive advantage. "Now is the time to drive imperatives," says ATG director of Asia-Pacific operations Gary Morley. "As other tech companies, both at home and abroad, feel the pinch, we are riding high on hindsight - our own and that of the e-commerce wave emerging from the traditional sector."

A "souring economy" and "recession rhetoric" are also doing little to squash the company's bullish sentiments. "The recession, rather than holding companies back, is making them even more aware of the need to remain super efficient in an increasingly competitive environment," says Morley. "Once we get past the recession rhetoric, companies we are approaching are just as bullish, if not more so. The need for effective customer relationship management is greater than ever, especially for those companies with high-quality customer relationships."

Indeed, in a new economy in which the internet is increasingly empowering customers and giving them countless choices, even large corporations and stable brands are at risk of losing to small players. "Churn is very real," says Morley, "and so is the move to intelligent interaction."

According to Morley, not only has the market long been disappointed by general CRM confusion and less than sustainable solutions, but it's also a more mature market that is starting to understand the value of e-loyalty and the role it can play in driving more revenue from existing customers.

Up until now, Morley believes most companies were rushing in with short-term e-CRM solutions that didn't deliver the promised riches. They were also treating CRM solutions as technology rather than new business paradigms. Now, however, as the internet economy matures, companies are starting to realise that a focus on customer service and customer retention is critical to achieving long-term business success.

Morley says being late to market has given the company time to benefit from others' mistakes and to develop a sustainable solution with the focus on a quick return on investment for customers. "Return on investment concerns have been particularly prevalent in traditional companies, which have quite rightly been slow to embrace e-commerce," says Morley.

"Mindful of these concerns, we have put a lot of energy into developing an e-CRM solution that we believe raises the bar. Our solution is 100 per cent Java-based, which means it can quickly and easily plug into any existing systems."

Having opened its office in Sydney some six months ago as a one-man operation, ATG has expanded to some 30 staff in Sydney alone, and has opened offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, with Japan to follow. With 21 customers across the Asia-Pacific region - five in Australia - regional revenues, in just two quarters, already contribute 2 per cent of the company's global revenue.

"This is simply being driven by market requirements," says Morley. "Most of our Australian business so far has come from companies wanting to switch to better solutions. But we also expect a lot of uptake from once reluctant companies."

- Courtesy of the Australian Industry Standard - www.thestandard.com.au

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