On the whole, CRM vendors have been notoriously bad at CRM. Their high-pressure ways and
sales-driven cultures have been an ironic contradiction to what they preach. Some vendors (SAP, for
example) have been consciously implementing internal CRM strategies to make sure they provide the
improved customer experiences that their sales folks promise to potential customers. But Siebel in
particular has been chastised for its heavy-handed tactics when it comes to both prospective and
existing customers. Horror stories about their treatment of customers and shareholders have been
played up time and again in the press.
Yet, I'm heartened to find that some vendors, including Siebel, are adopting "compassionate capitalism" -- a term coined by Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.
Compassionate capitalism is an attempt to integrate philanthropic and charitable work and efforts into the very fiber of a corporate culture. At Benioff's company, it's the salesforce.com foundation, a venture so successful that it led to salesforce.com receiving the Award for Excellence in Corporate Community Service from the Points of Light Foundation and the first ever U.S. Chamber of Commerce Corporate Stewardship Award.
It is no surprise, but the level of social interaction with the community and benefit provided to that community by a company directly impacts the sense of pride an employee has about their employer, or the respect a customer has about
As it turns out, Siebel is no slouch when it comes to compassionate capitalism. This is surprising, but welcome in light of what we all usually read (and I, among others, usually write) about Siebel.
The Siebel Scholars Program is their important contribution. The program is established at eleven universities and recognizes outstanding graduate students in business and computer science. Each of the eleven schools, including the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, and 5 others, received $2.6 million as an endowment invested to support the program indefinitely. Siebel not only provides the money for scholarships, $25,000 per student to help with tuition for the second year, but also provides mentoring services, job hunting assistance, and support for business and public service initiatives. Tom Siebel even gave $32 million to the University of Illinois, his alma mater, for the Siebel Center for Computer Sciences to be opened in April.
Siebel's generosity for this worthy program is refreshing. Does it make me go all squishy inside for Siebel? No. They still have a long way to go. But it does provide me with hope that soon all CRM vendors will do some public good.
Paul Greenberg is President of The 56 Group, LLC and author of CRM at the Speed of Light (McGraw-Hill).
What do you think about Siebel's culture? Does it have an influence on whether you do business with them? Let us know.
This was first published in March 2004