Hong Kong is one of the weakest markets in Asia for implementing customer relationship management (CRM) programmes to boost corporate revenues, despite increased competition in all major industries. A study by global CRM and interactive marketing services firm OgilvyOne found a lack of urgency among top management of SAR firms to become involved in CRM projects compared with their counterparts in Australia, India, Japan and Singapore. The company's survey of 100 marketing-based companies in 12 Asia-Pacific markets ranked the SAR just ahead of Indonesia among markets with the weakest senior management participation in CRM projects. Chris Riley, managing director at OgilvyOne Hong Kong, said CRM in the United States and Europe was adopted on a strategic scale because of cross-departmental implications for enterprises. In Asia, CRM had been largely implemented only as a tactical marketing or information technology related project that warranted the direct attention of marketing or IT system managers. The OgilvyOne survey found only 15 per cent of chief executives in the region became directly involved with corporate CRM initiatives. 'These findings spell a serious management risk,' Mr Riley said. Gartner has defined CRM as a business strategy designed to optimise revenue, profitability and customer satisfaction. The research firm said groups that included IT vendors, practitioners and consulting organisations had taken a narrower view of CRM. They defined it as a set of processes or technologies focused on the point of customer contact, which embraced technology-enabled selling, customer service and support and technology-enabled marketing. Worldwide CRM software and services spending is expected to reach US$76.3 billion in 2005, up from US$23 billion in 2000. Some of the most admired CRM strategies in Asia, found by the OgilvyOne survey, included those of American Express and Sony in Hong Kong, as well as Cathay Pacific and Sogo in Taiwan. If the number of seminars and conferences was any indicator, then Asia seemed submerged in a wave of CRM development and implementations. But Ogilvy Hong Kong principal consultant Mark Newton said the reality of enthusiasm in CRM projects was far from that, although marketing executives in Asia now found CRM an important issue. He said there was a dose of cynicism alongside this increased awareness. Companies were wary of many reports of failed CRM projects. Those that had recently started CRM projects in certain departments were keen to swiftly determine their progress as shown by the business generated. The OgilvyOne survey found there was a high level of uncertainty among companies in Asia with CRM projects on stream. The survey respondents felt they were unsure of their abilities and the 'roadworthiness of their solutions'. Of the companies surveyed, 54 per cent had an official CRM strategy in place. Australia showed strong commitment to CRM, with 85 per cent, while Thailand had the smallest number of companies pursuing CRM programmes with 42 per cent. About 2 per cent of those surveyed claimed they would never implement a CRM strategy. Mr Riley said chief executives of Hong Kong companies still needed to pass a steep learning curve about CRM. The scientific measurement of existing projects should give these officials more confidence in undertaking improved customer-relations projects over the short term. Although recent market estimates had shown that seven out of 10 CRM projects worldwide were expected to fail, Mr Newton said OgilvyOne's new customer management assessment tool (Cmat) provided companies with a platform of more than 260 best practices to measure their CRM projects with those of others. Mr Riley said: 'Our goal is to help companies in Asia improve their customer commitment to stay ahead of the competition. We have been able to show a high level of correlation between good customer management and healthy profit margins.' Cmat was developed five years ago by British CRM consultancy QCi, which OgilvyOne recently acquired. It is used by more than 250 major companies worldwide. Logistics giant Federal Express in Hong Kong recently completed a Cmat assessment by OgilvyOne. Malcolm Sullivan, managing director for FedEx China and mid-Pacific region operations, said: 'The Cmat process allowed us to confirm the viability of our customer management approach.'