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TITLE: An e-CRM Application in the Telecommunications Sector- A
Case study from Greece
Correspondence: Dr Evangelia K. Blery
Patriarxou Grigoriou and Neapoleos
Tel./Fax: ++30 2106005950
Mobile: ++30 6944955733
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Μichalis G. Μichalakopoulos
Technical Studies Department
National Printing House
Kapodistriou str., 34
An e-CRM Application in the Telecommunications Sector: A Case
study from Greece
CRM (Customer Relationship Management), is a strategy that can help companies to
build long lasting relationships with their customers and increase profits through the
right management system and the application of customer focused strategies.
Nowadays, the penetration of the Internet has dramatically changed the situation
because the Internet is suitable for the incorporation of CRM applications. Thus,
CRM has changed into electronic-CRM or e-CRM. In this study the implementation
of e-CRM in the Greek Telecommunications Organization is examined and the
benefits and problems as well as the success and failure factors are analyzed and
presented. This study was based on the case study approach, since its fundamental
characteristic is the “focus on a particular setting or event”. The results showed that
the Organization had a lot of benefits from e-CRM implementation, since it helped
significantly the information flow in the Organization as well as the relationships with
Keywords: Electronic Customer Relationship Management, e-CRM, Telecommunications
AUTHORS BRIEF AUTOBIBOGRAFICAL NOTE
Evangelia Blery has a PhD in Marketing and an MBA (area of research work in
Marketing) from the University of Surrey in the UK. She is currently working in the
area of marketing of innovative technologies in the Liaison Office of the Attika
Technology Park ‘Leukippos’ in the NCSR ‘Demokritos’. In parallel she has
participated in the EU projects conducting market studies and marketing and
exploitation plans. Her previous experience includes PLANET - ERNST & YOUNG
S.A, as a consultant in the Strategy Management Department, on marketing and
management issues, Institute of Technology of Athens, as a part-time assistant
professor. Her areas of research interest include: Consumer behaviour, customer
loyalty, Customer relationship management.
Mr Michalakopoulos Michael has an MBA (area of research work in Marketing),
from the Athens University of Economics and Business, an Msc in Quality Assurance
from the Hellenic Open University and a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the
National Technical University of Athens. He is currently working in the Studies
Department of the National Printing House of Greece. His previous experience
includes Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) in the Division of Quality Assurance and
in the Institute of Technology of Chalkis, as a part-time assistant professor. His areas
of research interest include: Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Quality
There is a relative lack of literature in the area of e-CRM. Kotorov (2002) defined e-
CRM as the application of information and communication technology to increase the
scale and scope of customer service. Another definition of e-CRM presented by
Kelley et al., (2003) is: e-CRM refers to the marketing activities, tools and
techniques, delivered over the Internet (using technologies such as Web sites and e-
mail, data-capture, ware housing and mining) with a specific aim to locate, build and
improve long-term customer relationships to enhance their individual potential.
The aim of this research is to examine an e-CRM application in a constantly
developing sector such as the Greek Telecommunications sector and analyze the
implementation of e-CRM in the Greek Telecommunications Organization. Thus, it
examines the situation in the Organization before e-CRM implementation and
analyzes the reasons this need emerged, then examines the situation after the
implementation and identifies the benefits, the problems as well as the success and
The Importance of CRM
A literature review was conducted and issues concerning e-CRM, its aims, its
strategic importance, its implementation, as well as the benefits and problems and the
success and failure factors of e-CRM applications, were examined and discussed
According to Peppers et al., (1999), the original focus of CRM was to forge closer
and deeper relationships with customers, ‘being willing and able to change company’s
behaviour toward an individual customer based on what the customer tells and what
else the company knows about the customer’ The premise being that existing
customers are more profitable than new customers; that it is less expensive to sell an
incremental product to an existing customer; customer retention would be maximized
by matching products and levels of service more closely to customer expectations and
attracting new customers is expensive. The central objective of CRM is thus to
maximise the lifetime value of a customer to the organization (Peppard 2000). As the
consulting company Gartner noted, CRM can be defined as a business strategy which
can bring results such as increased revenues and profits through customer satisfaction
(Thompson and Moscardini, 2002).
The CRM market emerged 9-10 years ago. The first systems were designed to support
only one division of the company. During the second stage of development more
integrated solutions were developed (Κritikou and Rachoutis, 2003). Later the
introduction of the Internet changed the situation because it is appropriate for the
integration of CRM solutions, Thus, CRM became electronic-CRM or e-CRM (e-
The International market of CRM is showing a continuous growth. Research
conducted by Forrester Research showed that the revenues from CRM will increase in
$73.8 billion in 2007. The increase of CRM industry foreseen is 10-15% each year
(Κoutsiouris, 2003). The Greek CRM market follows the International market
According to an on-line research conducted in 2001, a fast increase is expected for
CRM in Greece and 58% of the Greek top executives mentioned that they believe it is
very important for their companies to adopt CRM. However, the percentage of Greek
companies having even one CRM application was only 21% (CRM2day, 2001).
Implementation of e-CRM
E-CRM can use alternative channels such as e-mails, web sites, wap sites, voice
portals, interactice TV, SMS, MMS, WAP and IVR (Skouloudis, 2003). Attention
should be paid in the implementation of e-CRM. Many companies set-up ad hoc
cross-functional teams for the implementation of e-CRM, however, in this way they
speed-up the implementation of e-CRM, but once the teams are dissolved they can not
ensure immediacy and continuity (Kotorov, 2002). The selection and the efficient
implementation of e-CRM requires a combination of skills (technical, operational,
cultural, organisational, etc.) and may require a team-based approach (Adebanjo,
Benefits from the Implementation
Organisations that adopt e-CRM solutions expect to improve their efficiency and
create value to the organisation. Value can be created in many ways: by reducing the
cost of contacting customers (by making customer details readily available, customer
contact personnel has better opportunities to resolve customer enquiries in less time,
thereby freeing them for other productive work); by transferring some responsibility
to the customer (e.g. product configuration, order tracking, online customer details
collection) administrative and operational costs are reduced; by integrating e-CRM
applications with back-office legacy systems such as production, finance and supply
chains, workflow can improve and consequently the efficiency of the organisation,
thereby delivering cost savings (Adebanjo, 2003). All e-CRM applications have the
potential to deliver some form of value to the organisation. They have the potential to
improve sales by customer profiling, automated campaign management, e-mail
marketing, etc. The challenge for organisations is to identify and quantify the impact
that a prospective solution would deliver and use this information as a factor in the
selection decision (Adebanjo, 2003).In such an analysis, an organisation may use
frameworks such as Porter's five forces (Porter, 2001) to identify the value from
which they would most potentially benefit by adopting any e-CRM application. For
example, in industries where there is strong competition, organisations should
implement an e-CRM solution which improves efficiency or differentiates services. In
industries with high barriers to entry (e.g. technology, aerospace), organisations
should choose e-CRM applications which improve customer experience or enable the
customer to participate in the design of the product (Adebanjo, 2003).
A study conducted by Kelley et al. (2003),found that by embedding an e-CRM
strategy into the business strategy of the Internet companies, it is possible to gain a
better understanding of customer needs and create a strong relationship with them to
achieve customer loyalty and increased profitability.
The US company Virgin Wines achieved a 12% customer conversion rate (the
percentage of customer visits to its website that resulted in sales) compared to a 4%
rate before adopting e-CRM (Stringfellow et al., 2004).
Causes of failure for the system
Many researchers claimed that CRM applications fail to deliver the expected benefits.
There are many causes of failure. Rheault and Sheridan (2002) mentioned the lack of
robust implementation approaches and the selection and configuration of the e-CRM
tools. The research of Peppard (2000), which was conducted in Financial Service
Organisations, has highlighted a rather narrow view of e-CRM and as such, benefits
are limited. For some, it is seen as a technology solution rather than a strategy. Rigby
et al. (2002) argued that the lack of strategy can be a serious cuase of failure. In
addition according to Peppard (2000), in some organizations the e-CRM project is
driven by the requirements of one function rather than as part of an overall enterprise-
wide customer centric strategy. Bradshaw and Brash (2001) further noted that CRM
applications must not only integrate functionally at the front office but also integrate
with back office functions such as manufacturing and billing.
Case study approach
The present study was based on the case study approach, since its fundamental
characteristic is the “focus on a particular setting or event” (Stake, 1995). Thus, since
the objective was to examine the implementation of e-CRM in the Greek
Telecommunications Organization, the case study approach was the most preferable
Purposeful sampling seems to be the most appropriate, as far as the case study
approach is concerned (Stake 1995, Cresswell 1998). Two particular versions of this
type of sampling were used in combination, namely “snowball sampling” and the
“maximum variation sampling” (Cresswell 1998, Minichiello et al, 1990, Patton,
1990). In the first case, a “gatekeeper” is used in order to bring the researcher in
contact with other participants within the organization (Stake 1995), especially when
the researcher has limited knowledge concerning the Organization’s operations
(Mason, 1996). In the second case, the aim is to gather data from a wide range of
informants that are located in different positions within the Organization (Cresswell
1998, Patton, 1990). The manager of the ‘Programs’ department was used as the
‘gatekeeper’, since the researchers had limited familiarity with the Organization’s
procedures and operations. As soon as he agreed to participate in the study, he
suggested seven more people within the Organization that could be interviewed for
the purposes of this research. The ‘maximum variation’ was achieved, since these
people came from different organizational levels. In particular, four in-depth
interviews were conducted with the managers of the Programs, Information
Technologies (IT), Marketing, Customer Service departments, other two interviews
were conducted with the assistant managers of the IT and Marketing departments and
other two with two executives of the customer service department, who are in direct
contact with customers and can have a better insight on the customers’ point of view
concerning the Organization.
Data collection methods
Several authors have suggested that it might be useful to gather data from multiple
sources when conducting qualitative research (Patton, 1990, Mason 1996, Lincoln,
και Guba 1985). This phenomenon is called “triangulation” (Cresswell 1998, Maycut
and Morehouse, 1997) and is also necessary, when undertaking a case study
(Cresswell 1998, Minichiello et al. 1990). In the present study three methods were
employed in order to collect the appropriate data. In particular, eight in-depth
interviews were conducted with the Organization’s medium and senior executives and
secondary and visual data concerning general information about the Organization’s
operations and organizational structure were gathered through press articles, the
Organization’s leaflets, newsletters and monthly reports and the Web site.
As far as the in-depth interviews are concerned, these were based on a questionnaire
which was developed around a list of topics regarding e-CRM (Appendix Ι).
However, despite the fact that it was focused on those issues that were central to the
research questions, “the type of questioning and discussion allowed for greater
flexibility”(Minichiello et al., 1990). Furthermore, the “funneling” process of
questioning was used, where “the initial questions are designed simply to start the
informant thinking about the issue in general terms”. Then, “the interviewer guides
the informants` view toward more specific issues by using questions that narrow the
area, while at the end the interviewer begins to ask specific questions directly about
the issue being examined” (Minichiello et al., 1990). Moreover, during the interviews
some “probing questions” where used in order to elicit information more fully from
the respondents (Stewart and Cash, 1988), while an effort was made to avoid
The summation of responses was based on the content analysis method (Stake 1995,
Kent 1999). The main objective of this analysis is to understand the meanings of what
each respondent says and try to work out the implications of these meanings. This
goal can be achieved by going beyond what people say and “not accept their
comments at face value” (Patton 1990).
E-CRM APPLICATION IN THE GREEK TELECOMMUNICATIONS
The Greek Telecommunications Organization, was established in 1949, and since
January 2001 it is operating in a freeTelecommunication market. Starting from 1996
the Greek state gradually reduced its shares and today it owns only 33.7%. The
turnover of the Organization in 2004 arrived at € 5,181 million and the net profit at €
132.6 million. It has 17.000 employees and offers integrated solutions of fixed
telephony and specialized services such as business telecommunications networks.
The Organization is following a flexible and customer centric strategy and focuses on
the following: high quality and competitive prices, packages and products for all
customer categories, complete line of products and innovative services, ability to
comply immediately and effectively to the new competitive environment. The
Organization’s vision is to be the first choice for its customers in all their
The situation before CRM Implementation
Since the Organization lost the monopoly and is now operating in a free market, it
should become competitive and operate as a private company. However, due to its
bureaucracy the decision of the implementation of an e-CRM system was a difficult
task and a very important step for the Organization’s business process reengineering.
The implementation of the system should be decided after the agreement of the
general management and the departments. The aim was to offer better services to the
customers, improve communication and establish good relationships with them.
Before the implementation of e-CRM, the Organization could not utilize the existing
customer information. There were many different legacy systems, which were not
able to communicate and the result was the delay in transactions and the absence of a
complete view of customers. These systems could offer only specific services (main
stream features) and were not adapted to the individual needs of customers
The Organization’s vision concerning e-CRM and the design of the system
The Organization considers the system as everything that can improve the
relationships with customers. It is not a choice but a need, since it can support the
adaptation to the constantly changing market. According to the Organization’s vision
anything that influences customers is CRM, because the aim is to improve
relationships with customers. A characteristic comment was: ‘we see the organization
though the glasses of CRM’.
The Information Technology department undertook the implementation of e-CRM,
and developed a master plan. There was a very good collaboration with the users that
helped the team to achieve its objectives. The organization is trying to expand the
system and makes efforts to improve it on the basis of the experience and the mistakes
of the past. The management of the Organization fully supports the system. The
contribution of the employees and the existing knowledge in the Organization,
supported the success and the profitability of the system.
Description of e-CRM
The Oracle solution (Oracle E-business Suite) and in particular CRM11i Suite, was
preferred, because it could be integrated in the future with the already installed legacy
systems. It was very important to integrate e-CRM with the existing legacy systems
such as the Genesys Call Center. The Oracle E-Business Suite is used for the ERP,
HCM and SCM systems and for the CRM of the Organization’s business customers.
The Oracle modules that have been used were: Oracle Marketing Online (OMO),
Marketing Encyclopedia, Telesales, Scripting and Order Capture.
Oracle successfully analyzed and designed the appropriate interface since there was
not any other solution available in the market for the collaboration of e-CRM with
Genesys. The interface should be installed on the PCs of the employees, however, the
communication between a desktop application such as Genesys with client software
philosophy and a server based application such as the Oracle solutions, should be
The system is used for the submission of customers’ orders, requests and complaints.
Employees requests are also entered and analysed. In addition, customers’ claims
concerning damages are registered and as it was mentioned the system is integrated
with the Call Center. Another application of the system is Contact Management to
improve the level of communication from and to the customer, by better organizing
the information concerning customers. The system is also used to organize the Points
of Sales network. Furthermore, the system has corporate customers applications and
can support market segmentation.
Problems and challenges during the implementation of the system
The management has mentioned various problems concerning the system because due
to the size of the Organization it is difficult to have a complete picture of the system.
The general situation of the Organization is also a problem (social profile, political
choices, bureaucratic structures, hierarchy, lack of flexibility, reorganization), and
causes a kind of inertia.
Starting to use the system was a difficult task for the Organization, because agreement
should be achieved between all users. The implementation of the system was not easy
and needed teamwork, collaboration, devotion to the target and managers with
knowledge and vision. In addition, many technologically old legacy systems existed
and there were problems in the creation of interfaces.
The implementation of e-CRM started in the beginning of 2001 and lasted about 4
months. It revealed technological challenges and needed changes in mentality, in the
organizational structure as well as in the processes, taking into consideration the
bureaucratic and composite environment of the Organization.
Results after the implementation of the system
After the implementation of the system the Organization was able to serve its
customers better and acquire new customers, because e-CRM significantly helped the
information flow in the Organization.
E-CRM has a perfect ‘reporting’ system, which offers a lot of information, when it is
necessary and in the way users want it. Customer Care Division conducts a significant
number of inbound and outbound telemarketing campaigns. By improving reporting
a better control of telemarketing campaigns was achieved as well as accuracy of
measurements concerning the achievement of certain indices which were set as
targets. In addition, the system gave the necessary support to the Telesales Agents to
improve business reporting and allow closed loop marketing.
Furthermore, the relationships with customers improved e.g. the ‘monthly statement’,
because customers are aware about what they should pay and the relationship with
them is clear.
All users made positive comments about the system, only in the Project Management
department the system is still not performing as it should, thus some problems occur
such as delays in the management and synchronization of human and financial
resources and materials. This is due to the lack of training and the adequate culture of
the employees in the department’.
In general, the system has the ability to resolve the problems and for this reason, it is
considered successful. There is true commitment of all the users of the system and a
lot of customer information is gathered.
However, it is important that the transition to CRM is done by the whole organization
because else it can result in failure. In addition, employees should be well educated
and trained and should have the right mentality. E-CRM needs new people with
diverse education and experience, it is innovative and requires vision and
Nowadays, the Organization must offer complex services to satisfy customers. Thus,
there is a need for additional and more complete information about customers,
because only in this way competition can be defeated. E-CRM is the best solution and
if competition adopted e-CRM first the customer base of the Organization would be in
In today’s very competitive and constantly changing Telecommunications market, the
Greek Telecommunications Organization considers the implementation of e-CRM
very important and is trying to expand the system. Before the implementation of e-
CRM, delays occurred in transactions, the Organization could not utilize the existing
customer information and did not have a complete view of its customers. The
implementation of the system was not easy because of the bureaucratic structures of
the Organization since it needed teamwork and collaboration and many
technologically old legacy systems existed and there were problems in the creation of
interfaces. However, e-CRM significantly helped the information flow in the
Organization as well as the relationships with customers. All users made positive
comments concerning the system and it is considered successful.
Though, according to the findings, for the successful implementation of the system,
vision and commitment from the management are needed. Strategic priority should be
given to e-CRM, which should embrace all the Organization and the aims of its
implementation should be completely defined. This finding is in accordance with
Adebanjo (2003) and Rigby et al. (2002), as mentioned in the literature review.
In addition, the implementation process should be clearly defined, the project team
should be carefully selected and a time-table should be decided. It is important to use
the right personnel to support the project as it was also mentioned by (Kotorov, 2002).
The users should have the appropriate technological background to understand the
operation of the system. Furthermore, it is important to offer the right training to all
users. All the employees should use the system regularly and enter all the information
available. This is in accordance with Peppard (2000), who mentioned that e-CRM
system can succeed only if it is recognized as a need by the whole company.
This study achieved its main research objectives to examine e-CRM implementation
in the Greek Telecommunications Organization and analyze the situation in the
Organization before e-CRM implementation, identify the reasons this need emerged,
examine the situation after the implementation and present the benefits, the problems
as well as the success and failure factors of the system.
These findings can become a useful marketing tool for the managers of the
Telecommunications Organizations in Greece and in other countries. Academically,
further research based on these findings can add to the present pool of knowledge by
further examining e-CRM issues in other Telecommunications Organizations.
The sample used was designed using in combination “snowball sampling” and the
“maximum variation sampling”, thus employees from different departments within
the Organizations were interviewed and data from a wide range of informants in
different positions within the Organization were gathered. However the sample size
might have been larger because the organization has a great number of employees. Though,
many difficulties were encountered to approach the directors of the different departments,
because they had a heavy time schedule and they had difficulties to offer some of their time
for the interview and the interviews took a long time to be arranged and they were postponed
in many cases. In the process of conducting this study no other important or
unexpected difficulties were encountered.
THE CONTRIBUTION OF THIS STUDY
This study has contributed to the marketing literature by shedding some light on e-
CRM issues, which in the literature has not been widely examined. In addition, it has
contributed to the Telecommunications sector literature, where up to now little
investigation has taken place on issues concerning e-CRM in Telecommunications
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1. Profile of the Organization (history, activities, products/services, administrative
issues and organizational structure)
2. Financial results, present situation
3. Strategic planning, corporate culture on the basis of the degree of adoption of the
4. Time schedule and project team
5. Description of the project on the basis of: a. organizational issues b. factors
influencing change c. management d. technological resources and limitations e.
other business issues.
6. Culture – different aspects in the Organization that have contributed in the design,
the construction and the management of the organizational structure and/or the
7. Challenges and problems of the Organization during the organizational,
technological and/or business intervention.
8. Methods of solving the problems related to the system’s implementation
9. What is the vision of the Organization concerning the system?
10. How is information flow done through the Organization?
11. What operations does the system cover (Μarketing, Sales, Customer Service,
Loyalty System, Relationship Management)?
12. How did the system influence the operations of the Organization (Departments,
13. Expected business and technological benefits
14. Which operations improved most?
15. Issues that need attention during the implementation
16. Has the system an interface with the other technological tools of the Organization
(ERP, supply chain, business intelligence, knowledge management)?
17. Is the customer base of the Organization in danger if competition adopts the