Officials at Microsoft Corp. said the company would design a software patch allowing users of its debut CRM offering to hide the generated unique identifier (GUID) e-mail tracking tool that has caused some potential buyers to spurn the package altogether.
The GUID function automatically inserts a 10-digit tracking number into the subject line of e-mail created using MS CRM and was thought impossible to disable in the first release of the product. Some users expressed concerns that the system made correspondence look like spam, and said they feared that GUID-enabled messages might be blocked by filters set to eliminate unwanted e-mail.
A spokesman from Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft said the software giant is now designing a patch that would give MS CRM users the ability to hide the GUID number from e-mail recipients. The fix will be made available sometime later this week, the official said.
Despite the fact that Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft claims to have signed up over 300 customers since MS CRM arrived in January, users and resellers alike have begun raising questions regarding the functionality and marketing of the platform.
Ben Holtz, president of Watertown, Mass.-based reseller Green Beacon Solutions, has been one of the most outspoken MS CRM partners since the product's introduction, and he admits his company recently lost a customer because of the GUID tracking system.
"It wasn't the only issue the customer had with the platform,
Holtz said his company had planned to use the unnamed customer as a reference for MS CRM implementations, but a lack of strong marketing functionality, coupled with the GUID design, eventually proved too much for the user to stomach. Another firm, Promarketing Gear, based in Bellevue, Wash., reportedly received back the money it invested in MS CRM; Microsoft returned the money based on Promarketing's disapproval of the e-mail tracking system.
Industry experts agree that before Microsoft began taking steps to address the GUID function, the company may have turned off some potential customers. Joanie Rufo, CRM research director at Boston-based AMR Research, said that some midmarket CRM buyers would likely take a cautious approach before committing to the Microsoft offering.
"The last thing you want is for your company or campaign to be associated with junk mail or spam," she said. "There are going to be a lot of people who look at issues like GUID and say, 'let's wait and see how they address it in future releases."
Another issue that appeared during the last week is the perception on the part of some resellers that Microsoft is recruiting too many channel partners to market the MS CRM package. Holtz said that, beyond his own desire to create more opportunity for Green Beacon, the message around MS CRM might become "too diffused," especially if the company lowers its channel partner certification requirements.
"It seems to me that the message to the marketplace hasn't been: 'here's a bunch of really good partners to buy from,'" Holtz said. "It's more like: 'let's get as many people as humanly possible to be MS CRM partners, and maybe something will stick.'"
Holtz said he doesn't feel that this practice will impact Microsoft's ability to "move boxes" of MS CRM, but he fears it may keep the company from having valuable client success stories to reference in the short term.
AMR's Rufo recognized that, while it may be frustrating for resellers to see MS CRM available from so many sources, she has been impressed by Microsoft's ability to manage its channel partners in the past. However, Rufo indicated that Microsoft's inexperience with CRM and the enterprise applications sector could make it hard for the company to determine which resellers can truly succeed with MS CRM.
"CRM is a very different kind of sale from the financial or back-office products that most Microsoft partners have expertise with," Rufo said. "How stringent a process they've put resellers through to determine if they can sell and support CRM is a big issue. You have to wonder if these partners can drive the kind of business process alignment, change management and cultural support necessary to succeed with CRM."
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