Today’s businesses are growing faster and are being held more accountable for their actions and performance than ever before, thanks to increased competition and customer expectations, which are by-products of an online, mobile-centric economy. A solid customer experience at every touchpoint has become essential. Jargons like automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, analytics etc. will soon become indispensable terms in the world of CRM, and the process is already underway.
CRM has indeed come a long way, from front-office applications such as Contact Management Software used in 1980s, which stored and organized customers’ contact information, to the 1990s, when business automation processes took off in a large scale. With the turn of the millennium, mobile CRM became widespread, aided largely by the boom in the telecom sector. CRM today is used as a tool to manage the entire spectrum of business relationships by analysing customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle. The evolution of CRM is a reflection of an underlying trend that has remained constant through all the changes: delivery of good customer experience.
Come 2018, here are some trends we need to watch out for:
AI entails making intelligent machines- computers, software etc. – in order to make them “think like humans” using 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. AI will enable CRM systems to learn from customer interactions through data, help answer our questions, predict our needs and takes care of the laborious secondary tasks, to help us focus on the important ones.
AI can create automatic actions, help automate sales and marketing tasks and reconfigure interfaces according to the person’s usage patterns. AI can also help collect relevant information about a lead or customer, analyse the data, predict trends and make decisions. CRM systems coupled with AI will start adjusting workflows automatically and help increase the overall efficiency.
Internet of Things (IoT)
In the near future, CRMs will seamlessly integrate with IoT devices and take inputs from various devices like wearables, phones, cars, home devices etc. to help get a clearer picture of the customer. Integrating IoT into different processes like sales, marketing, delivery and service can enable CRM to capture varied data and unify it into dynamic and actionable information, thus contributing towards superior customer experience.
We have already seen some futuristic advertisements depicting the application of IoT into our everyday lives, such as that of a car alerting its driver through the dashboard of a low tire pressure, or of a refrigerator that alerts you of depleting stock of groceries. IoT can help record customer preferences on connected devices and upload them to CRM software, thereby enabling companies to target specific audiences and track performance in real-time.
It is the use of tools of big data to make predictions related to factors such as customer behavior. It deals with finding the insights that help us understand what might happen in the future by recognizing patterns in historical data, repeated transactions etc., thus facilitating a more proactive business approach. An added advantage is that this is not a completely new and unfamiliar technology.
It is essentially an off-shoot of existing business intelligence initiatives which use analytics to mine and sort useful corporate data in order to decipher patterns. CRM predictive analytics can enable sales staff to devote more time on customer-oriented activities and help generate actionable suggestions to drive the sales in the desired direction. It uses advanced algorithms to infer data from several online sources such as websites, social media accounts and data companies and help identify key behavioural trends among specific customer groups, which is useful to companies for developing their business goals and strategies.
Emergence of Social CRM
Social CRM helps companies optimize the power of social networks in order to build a closer relationship with their customers based on trust and a one-to-one interaction. It is a two-way broadcast tool and also a lead nurturing process which helps reduce marketing costs and boost sales. Social media drives businesses towards subscription-style models that results in a regular stream of revenue. Social CRM helps in better engagement and interaction and can considerably influence a company’s image and perception, besides giving them information about customer behavior and opinions. LinkedIn, the popular business- and employment-oriented social networking service, is already being integrated into different CRM systems used by organizations worldwide.
Third Party Collaboration
CRM developers will constantly find new ways to improve the usage of CRM systems through tighter integration with external tools and services. Organizations are moving beyond the realm of providing an omnichannel customer experience through first-party data across sales, service and marketing, and are licensing third-party data to gain a deeper understanding of their customer and enhance user productivity. Future CRMs will need to use information from different, but tightly related sources over time, including social signals, communication frequency, omnichannel support, and customer analytics; and collect them to generate meaningful relationship intelligence.
Cloud CRM is the technology which enables accessing the IT networks, servers, storage, applications and services that are shared with multiple users through the internet. It has many advantages, such as minimal IT personnel and management involvement from users, cost minimization, better accessibility etc. Cloud computing makes it possible for firms to engage in real-time analytics and help them become more competitive and proactive in their approach. Deployment of CRM in cloud facilitates easier social integration and communication with customers. An article written in Forbes website states that by 2018, majority of CRM will be cloud-based, and that the cloud computing market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 22.8% from 2014 to 2018.
Better availability of CRM solutions
2018 may very well be an year of CRM software solutions for small businesses. This will be made possible by different means like more affordable subscription packages, unique small business CRM solutions etc. The quest for small business CRM solution will be driven by the need to produce tools that provide personal assistant level of service for a fraction of the cost.
Irrespective of the way CRM evolves, all the changes will be guided by the overarching theme of customer experience. The cut-throat competition and access to online media reinforces this trend of making customer experience the top priority for every business. All said, the next year will be an exciting one for CRM, what with all the innovation and enhancements around automation and a whole lot of experimentation to deliver quality customer experience.