Is CRM finally ripe for disruption in 2020?

For so long, CRM (customer relationship management) systems have stayed the same. It was the established tool of sales teams and marketers — Salesforce, Hubspot, Marketo, etc.

They are great aggregators — and to an extent organizers — of data. But they couldn’t tell you what to do with the data you had to improve the customer journey, shorten the sales cycle, deepen engagement, grow prospects and improve the customer experience. 

It’s one thing to have a lot of data, and it’s another to know what to do with it. We’ve seen CRMs adopt new features, programs to help marketing and sales teams figure out what to do with their data, but for all the marketing hype, no CRM has proven it brings something new to the table. 

Perhaps 2020 is the year when this changes.

The new focus: customer satisfaction

“AI will continue to make its impact on retail stores. However, in 2020, the technology will allow stores to market to each single customer, and not just a segment of individuals. Companies will become more interested in exploring direct-to-consumer selling options, which allow them to collect customer data to create more personalized shopping experiences and lifelong customers.”

That’s from Charles Nicholls, SVP and Global Head of Upscale Commerce at SAP Customer Experience, when asked about the future of CRM by Destination CRM

Customer satisfaction is at the core of all marketing techniques now. Customer expectations of personalized everything are sky high. The CRM platforms that meet that expectation will win. 

Today’s customers accept and expect the trade-off between sharing their data and getting relevant messaging from the first interaction to beyond the sale. 

From the Salesforce 2018 report on the State of Customer Experience:

  • 88% of customers will trade their info for personalized discounts and offers 
  • 79% don’t mind sharing personal information to receive relevant engagement

Keywords: personalized and relevant. 

CRM can and should serve marketers on the challenge of attracting new prospects and keeping existing customers. The answer to that challenge is staying relevant and in step with customer preferences and expectations. 

But CRM applications and their current interfaces are fast becoming outdated and irrelevant. 

This is where AI comes in. The very concept behind the Wrench.AI platform stems from the need for marketers to deliver meaningful personalization at scale, with the data they already have in their CRM. After all, that’s where marketers can find some pretty valuable data sets! 

They just need a tool where they can automate and distill hours of client research into easy-to-apply insights for marketing campaigns. 

Integrated with CRM, AI can extract data, analyze and interpret it, and produce personalization insights ready for marketers to execute. 

2019’s Need-to-Know Marketing Stats identified the key areas where AI can improve the customer journey in combination with the data in a CRM: 

  • Brand building (92%) 
  • Lead generation (86%)
  • Customer retention (85%)

Customer intimacy

All the above — brand building, lead gen and customer retention — are in the basket of customer satisfaction and engagement. Sales reps are now transitioning to personalized selling, more focused on customer care. That job is made easy by CRM aided by AI, in creating and sending effective and relevant drips and campaigns. 

Bots are a prime example of personalization and CRM at work together. It’s technology-aided customer intimacy, which has always been the CRM selling point. And these days, with AI, bots are better than ever. 

“Bots are no longer limited to simplistic customer interactions. They utilize natural language processing to better comprehend the user’s intent and deliver useful, appropriate responses. With more conversations being successfully navigated by bots, brands will increase their usage to improve response times and drive greater contact center efficiencies.” 

This is from Ido Bornstein-Hacohen, CEO of Consersocial, from the same Destination CRM article.  Tom Libretto, Chief Marketing Officer at Pegasystems agrees about the importance of responsiveness when customers engage with a brand.  

“2020 will become the year of experiences. Promoting products will no longer be the marketer’s main end game. As more businesses reposition themselves as service providers, they will need to retool their marketing strategies to demonstrate the full experience of what it’s like to engage with the brand. Examples are already taking hold in several markets. This trend will only accelerate in the new year.”

Smarter CRMs

CRMs are at the frontlines of customer engagement. CRMS are getting smarter and they should take advantage of new technologies to get even more precise and user-friendly with predictive analytics marketers can use to anticipate customer needs and behavior. 

I’m excited to see how CRM technology will evolve with agile and customizable application interfaces. 

Agile means customization and setup takes minutes, not weeks. Customizable means workflows and interfaces with changeable fields for sales and marketing teams and every individual team member’s needs. 

There are entire classes devoted to learning how to work with these established CRM platforms. It’s nice to see them adding flexibility so their interfaces can work with sales and marketing teams, not vice versa. 

That’s smart. And it will mean continued growth for CRMs. According to Gartner, the global CRM market is predicted to grow at a 13.7 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) through 2021. Businesses need CRMs, and AI bridges the gap between CRM data and marketing implementation for customer satisfaction. 

From silos to one fluid and effective system

Any marketer who has used CRM is familiar with the sales, marketing and service silos. But the high expectations of customers for personalized experiences mean businesses need a platform that enables a seamless system between the three for a frictionless customer experience. 

The customer journey is not linear, so it needs a fluid system. No more silos. Learn about your customer and use that data to send the right message at the right time, every time. 

You can see where CRM and data should be used in tandem, not apart. 

Latane Conant, Chief Marketing Officer at 6Sense, says as much. 

“One universal theme we hear over and over is how gnarly the marketing tech stack has become, with 50 to 100 different tools with little to no real integration. It’s time to look beyond marketing technology designed for lead-based models and retrofitted with AI insights. Leading marketers will replace disparate solutions with one cohesive account-based platform built with AI and Big Data as the core.”

CRM, revolutionized and combined with AI, can make use of its huge trail of data to generate insights showing exactly where your customer is in the buyer’s journey, how they got there, and where they’re likely to go next, including prompts on the next steps your sales and marketing teams can take. 

Dan Baird

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