An analysis of CRM system providers in the Netherlands

5 min read
Apr 29, 2024 11:04:24 AM
In collaboration with CustomerTalk - Providers of customer relationship management (CRM) systems generally claim to support the entire customer journey. However, only a few vendors have based their IT architecture on this. And you notice it. It's just like with job applicants. On paper, it all looks very impressive. But then when you actually meet the people in question, their curriculum vitae (CV) turns out not to be a pure reflection of the people you thought you were meeting. A CRM vendor's resume is usually more like an advertising flyer from a wannabe thought leader , combining fancy job titles with as many Fortune 500 companies.


CRM Systems

Fortunately, when recruiting and selecting job applicants, we use fairly elaborate procedures and guidelines to arrive at good choices. As a result, impure characters quickly fall through the cracks. How different it is with systems and tools that employees in the field of marketing, sales and service have to work with. There we see that pimped-out resumes from technology giants that come from the back office corner - read:enterprise resource planning ( ERP) - do well. As a result, commercial teams are actually being led astray.

That's because buyers are often already deeply rooted in the IT infrastructures of such organizations. Thanks to that existing relationship, a marketing sauce withbuzzwords such as artificial intelligence,customer journey and 360-degree customer view is enough to reel in customers.Deal closed, and that usually doesn't make commercial teams very happy. But then again, do they even know their alternatives?

Looking at parties dominating the CRM market in the Netherlands, we see five system providers covering 84 percent of the market. That's according to the biennial survey by market research firmSmart Profile. These main players certainly do not offer the most innovative and best systems, but they are the largest IT service providers who, from their back office dominance, are also slowly running the front office.


When I myself entered the world of information technology in the 1990s, I was also approached to become an SAP consultant at chemical company AkzoNobel. I politely declined because it was very much about internal processes and customers had to settle for what SAP could offer. This was true not only for SAP, but for all ERP systems that were emerging at that time. Consequently, many CRM systems graft heavily on such ERP backgrounds and that is no credit - at least not anymore. SAP was founded in 1972 and the company name is an abbreviation forSystemanalyse und Programmentwicklung. Its first commercial feat came in 1973 with a financial accounting package, laying the foundation for its success. And the fact that the company comes from a financial background with German roots may have been aunique selling point at the time - but certainly not today.

By now SAP has had over 70 acquisitions and has become a juggernaut, which in our view is good at automating the back end. But where they talk about customers and customer journeys, they should stay away. They start far too much from systems and products and not from customers. SAP's nickname is not for nothingSystem Against People.


Microsoft is another giant, which also does not win the award for most innovative and best technology. Similar to SAP, the foundation for the success of this IT giant was laid in the last century and we see a similar business development. Microsoft has a strong orientation to technology and that is its strength as well as its weakness. Microsoft has also made a whole series of acquisitions - more than 240 - and has managed to carve out a place for itself from office automation in the front office - read: commercial teams - by deploying the acquired CRM systems Dynamics and Navision. Microsoft manages to conquer the CRM market with slick graphics, hefty marketing budgets and a hefty bevy of IT professionals who have been working with Microsoft products for some time. In itself, it is clever how that company has managed to reach the front office from theirinstalled base. However, enough is enough. So much more can be done, easier, better and cheaper.


Salesforce we consider an innovation from this century. At that company, with their attack on Oracle and Siebel - companies that traditionally dominated the CRM market - they have managed to position themselves in that market. Salesforce launched the world's first CRM cloud solution, and from this foundation - laid 20 years ago - the organization is still growing. However, you can see that this growth no longer comes from innovation but rather from the position of power that parties like SAP and Microsoft also enjoy. Salesforce has now degenerated into a Goliath instead of the David it once was. The company has made 40 acquisitions and you now spend a fortune on both the systems and the associated consultancy just like the other players in the top three. There is no more Salesforce. Salesforce is a logo on a collection of purchased tools.


For convenience, I won't further describe other players like Oracle, Exact and AFAS Software. At their core, those also all offer excellent - local - accounting programs extended with a CRM module. This was not done because they are so good at it, but because there was and is a need for it. Now suppose you can start with a clean slate aschief commercial officer and you get to equip your commercial teams - marketing, sales,new business and customer service - with scalable and flexible solutions that make them really happy. Then here's a top 3 of relatively new providers that use a different architecture and build.


Most marketers are familiar with HubSpot. But many don't know that for five years, HubSpot has been shaping a strategy based on a scalable and flexible CRM platform that best supports thecustomer experience. And that goes far beyondmarketing automation. HubSpot is a publicly traded billion-dollar company with more than 100,000 business-to-business (B2B) organizations worldwide as customers. It is a CRM platform with a marketing hub, sales hub, service hub, content marketing system hub and one or two - or 500 - integrations. That makes HubSpot CRM a complete and fully-fledged platform-based ecosystem that allows you to empower commercial teams to work on putting customers first and growing their own organizations. It scoresan average of 4.5 on a scale of 0 to 5 according to 6,721 users worldwide.


India's Zoho has also been gaining momentum for some time with its broad package. It is no longer entirely clear where one begins and the other ends, but left or right it is a good choice for many a small- and medium-sized business owner. It's affordable, provided not everyone in your organization uses it because you pay per user. And it's relatively user-friendly, although there are quite a few choices to be made due to the enormous increase in functionality. A good partner will save you a lot of hassle, but that's basically true with any implementation. As with HubSpot, Zoho's architecture is scalable and many integrations are available so it can communicate with your existing systems.


Freshworks is another fast-growing Indian company. As with Zoho, they did understand how to market their product at that IT service provider, and it shows on the company 'swebsite. What many users also experience is that the system is not completely stable and does not always work logically. Because you then have to use theircustomer service, the company does not yet score as the best CRM provider. In short, things are still abit baby carriage. But if you look at what the system does do, some 85 percent of SMEs using this CRM system are more than satisfied. If you are already a bit more accustomed because you have worked with Salesforce, some aspects may still be a bit disappointing.


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