ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: THE NEXT WAVE IN CRM

cloud based crmWe are living in a world increasingly interconnected through technology, where everyone and everything seems to be connected to each other. The emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled virtually any inanimate device/ object capable to communicating with one another by sending and receiving data. In the midst of all this, we are besieged by an endless onslaught of information. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the latest jargon to join the bandwagon of technological innovations, already populated with mobile devices, social media and cloud computing. AI promises to be the next big disrupter in the field of CRM. It has the potential to transform seemingly random bits of data into valuable information which can be used by the organisations to achieve their goals. 

AI is the process of making intelligent machines- computers, software etc. – in a bid to make them “think like humans.” This entails performing tasks such as reasoning, planning, learning and understanding in natural language. Such techniques are known as Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques. The heart of AI is called Machine Learning which involves teaching computers to achieve a desired outcome based on minimal programming. The input for the processes mentioned above is provided by Big Data analysis which converts raw data into the inputs for computers to enable them to recognize patterns, thereby enabling predictive analytics, and glean meaningful information.

The times have never looked so rosy for the prospects of AI. The last half-century has seen a huge improvement in the processing power and performance of systems along with their ability to handle substantially larger amounts of data. The cost of processing these data has seen a continuous decline, and will dip further lower as the efficiency and effectiveness of the modern devices improve. What’s more, AI has already started making forays into personal computing. Siri and Cortana are the two major innovations in iOS and Windows platforms respectively, which rely heavily on artificial intelligence to better understand the customer interactions to provide a truly customized solution. The image recognition software in social media sites such as Facebook, and the purchase recommendations feature in e-commerce sites such as Amazon is also the result of artificial intelligence.

There are some key arguments for incorporating AI into CRM. Firstly, the vast amounts of data and information being generated every day by businesses. One by-product of having all the devices interconnected with each other is the data that is generated due to every single activity such as sales, production, marketing, logistics etc. The second reason is that many companies are looking to increasingly move to cloud-based systems. This marks a tectonic shift from the earlier era where many functions and systems within an organisation worked in airtight silos with not much contact with each other.  The cut-throat competition today has rendered the need for competitive differentiation indispensable for the survival and growth of a firm. This can be seen from the rising adoption of SaaS Delivery Model by different companies.

Gone are the days when CRMs were looked at as mere databases. They are now being transformed into intelligent cloud-based systems that can function as digital assistants. Artificial Intelligence has helped CRM become better, more productive, personalized and of course, smarter. Natural Language Programming can help estimate the likelihood of a potential sale, identify best possible leads and recommend suitable actions based on the client interactions. All of these together result in a greater level of brand value and feedback among consumers. AI can help forecast the future values of any entity or a function, for example, whether the upcoming quarterly sales targets can be met based on the given data, predicting the future bookings etc.

It can help classify the cases intelligently and assign them to suitable personnel and departments. Deep Learning is a subset of Machine Learning that uses complex algorithms to learn domains with almost no human supervision. This is particularly useful in analysing images across social media networking sites to suggest a suitable advertising and marketing campaign. Digital assistants can help maintain the relationship by scheduling calls and issuing reminders.  AI and predictive analytics can help reduce customer churn by creating a system of continuous improvement in sales and marketing.AI helps in the developing of a smarter IT, hence the need to create smarter aps.

The global trends in CRM systems reflect the fact that businesses are resorting to AI techniques to fundamentally change the way they function and serve their customers. According to Gartner, 20% of the global business content will be generated by machines by 2018, a figure that is only set to grow higher in the coming decades. It is estimated that by 2018, 40% of the companies will be looking to adopt AI in the immediate future, thus moving away from the legacy CRM to cloud-based systems that can integrate Machine Learning and Big Data. Such a move can help the firms ride the innovation wave and capture the market before many of their competitors. According to the new IDC White Paper, AI powered CRM activities can help create about 800,000 new jobs and significantly boost global business revenues. This should put at rest any such fears that AI could herald the onset of an economy fuelled by jobless growth, as people with the right kind of skills to use AI effectively will be in demand.

A seamless interlinking and syncing of data using cloud-based CRMs such as Kapture to create an integrated view of a customer can help take advantage of AI in a better way. Also, having data is just the beginning. The companies will need to be equipped with the required analytics tools and expertise to act on the data. AI can help bridge the crippling shortage of data scientists by rendering them redundant and work smarter. The cloud-based computing can help firms bypass their problem of high costs of hardware and computing systems.

Thus, we see that AI has the power to impact every imaginable business function. Sales can predict opportunities and prioritize leads and customer service can work to effectively address FAQs and prevent escalation of service cases. Marketing can create highly personalised campaigns while smarter apps with higher intelligence have positive implications for IT sector.

In a nutshell, AI based systems are like wine; they get better with age, thanks to the continuous learning process inherent within them. Going forward, the symbiotic relationship between AI and CRM will be further strengthened.

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