What direction is CRM software currently heading? And what CRM trends should your company be aware of so you can be at the forefront of innovation rather than a step behind?
CRM is a competitive, growing space. Everyone talks about providing best-in-class customer experiences. About CRM strategies and solutions, integrations (like CloudCall), and about the vital role CRM plays in catapulting companies forward as marketplace demands intensify.
So how can your organization know which shiny new objects are worth pursuing?
We’ve pulled in research to provide insights you can apply at your own company.
Let’s see where CRM is headed.
Top CRM Trends
Business revolves around the customer today more than ever, making the customer experience (CX) a vital brand differentiator. What’s more, CX is on the top-five list of priorities for 65% of executives in the next three years, according to joint research from Forbes and Salesforce.
It’s not just the C-Suite emphasizing CX. Consumers agree, according to a 2020 Salesforce survey, where 80% of respondents ranked experience as important as products or services.
Trying to compete solely — or even primarily — on product and price is a losing battle in today’s arena.
People go where the best experience takes them. And Forrester research has shown that the majority are always willing to try out new products and brands. Furthermore, acquiring a new customer is a whopping 500% more costly than retaining an existing one. On the flip side, a poor experience leads consumers to spend less or stop spending at all, according to Qualtrics.
Your organization’s goal should be to deliver a better experience than competitors. Not only to draw new prospects but more importantly to boost customer loyalty and avoid revenue loss.
Today’s CRM platforms are much more robust than previous iterations. With a CRM implemented, sales, recruitment and customer service teams have a host of tools at their disposal. All of which can empower CX initiatives.
Personalization CRM trends are also worth noting. Not because it’s new to the game, but because it’s becoming more hyper focused and individualized. Particularly in response to the pandemic.
Creating relevant, personalized content is old hat, after all. The difference is that CRM platforms built with intelligent, real-time capabilities allow companies to take the next step toward a more connected, customer-centric approach.
AI is not only here, it’s experiencing the major growth people have expected, according to Salesforce research. The 2020 State of Marketing report indicated that marketers using AI jumped from 29% in 2018 to 84% in 2020.
With that in mind, here are three AI CRM trends worth paying attention to:
- Conversational Tools
While a lot of hype surrounds AI, companies need to temper their enthusiasm over new technology with an understanding of its impact internally and externally, as well as realistic expectations of what software is capable of today. This will allow technology to become the catalyst for achieving the ultimate goal: serving the customer.
Mobility has long been a central component of sales activities. An 2012 Aberdeen Group study was already highlighting the importance of extending CRM systems beyond the confines of the office.
But that doesn’t mean mobility is a bygone trend. If anything, as processes become more involved, the workforce becomes more scattered and buyer demands place more pressure on sales reps to perform, putting the power of CRM into the palm of your workforce’s hand will only serve to propel your brand further down the road to success.
Mobile CRM trends and solutions, according to a report from MarTech Advisor, have a lot to offer:
- Strong security features
- Intuitive interfaces
- Apps that work across platforms
- The ability for sales professionals to transition between online and offline environments with ease
As you evaluate your current CRM — or look at implementing your first CRM — don’t underplay the value mobility can bring to your operations, especially in a post-pandemic world where remote work and distributed teams are more common than ever before.
Reliance on Data
Another outcome of the pandemic and the fragmented nature of work is the need for data unity.
Data pours in from more sources and comes in different forms than ever before. Salesforce research predicts that marketers will leverage a median of 12 data sources in 2021 and found that the average number of data management tools used in 2020 (six) has doubled from 2018. In addition, nearly 80% of marketers say they use data-driven customer engagement, according to Salesforce.
Given the many streams feeding into CRM efforts, managing, and using data will be critical and require solutions with features robust enough to support those needs. Integrations like CloudCall, are built to do exactly that. Our suit of tools ensure that all data connected to a customer is kept in one central place. Including conversation data, call recordings, and important notes.
The Digital Age
As the customer experience bar raises to new heights, social media has become a focal point.
The most immediate and obvious response is the impact of COVID-19. With people locked down and in-person experiences grinding to a halt in 2020, digital channels became the go-to for everything from home renovation supplies shopping to food.
Digital platforms have a lot to offer — safety, speed, convenience. The level of prominence remains to be seen as vaccines roll out and the world opens again. But there’s no denying that the transformation has arrived
On the social media side, companies can connect with their audience in real time and build brand equity where prospects and customers are already spending time. It also enables one-to-one marketing and the personal attention customers crave.
A 2020 Salesforce report on marketing trends showed why social publishing and advertising are valuable. From lead generation and customer acquisition to customer retention and customer advocacy, social is among the highest channels for ROI across the customer journey.
These findings point to the importance of incorporating social channels into CRM platforms and strategies. From providing data to offering social listening opportunities, social media has set itself up as a lynchpin of CRM activities.
Taken a step further, social CRM also facilitates better customer service.
MarTech Advisor suggests that social CRM is to customer service agents what mobile CRM is to sales reps.
CRM integrated with social media platforms enhances the customer experience. To illustrate, say a customer needs a problem solved. They can hop onto their preferred social media site and connect with the company via messaging or by @tagging a handle dedicated to customer service issues.
Traditional channels like email and phone, however, are far from dead. They’re the top two preferred channels for making purchases and getting advice, per Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report.
The point isn’t to favor social over this or that. it’s to give people the option to choose which platform to connect with your organization, on their terms. And since 76% of customers want to interact on different channels depending on the context, this flexibility is a fundamental part of winning.
Integration is at the top of the CRM trends buyers should pay attention to right now.
A MarTech Advisor article by Surajit Nath identifies several key systems companies should integrate with CRM. In addition to standbys such as marketing automation, customer service tools and email, he makes the case for analytics software and customer data platforms (CDP) among others.
The internet of things (IoT) also presents substantial integration possibilities. The number of IoT connected devices is projected to climb to more than 41 billion by 2027. Furthermore, CRM systems are beginning to incorporate connections to IoT feeds.
IoT/CRM integration will allow companies to take advantage of feeding more data into the system for deeper insight that leads to more strategic marketing efforts.
As a CRM buyer or user, it’s important to consider which integrations will best support your operations. If you’re looking for an communications integration that will allow you to better understand your business, and how your customers are interacting with the business, for example, CloudCall is the best place to be.
Other CRM trends worth attention include the ability to self-serve, even B2B customers.
From a business perspective, CRM is starting to evolve. And that means less about just capturing interactions and customer touches, or logging support calls. More customers want to be able to find the things they need without the assistance of an actual person. This means that companies are investing more in self-service customer portals and systems that give clients the tools they need to do things like look up and pay outstanding invoices, find documentation about products and log support issues.
Data from Salesforce backs this up, indicating 65% of customers would rather use self-service to solve simple issues.
How does this growing expectation affect the CRM solution you may be considering? Well, in order to support self-service, it’s important that the CRM system be tightly coupled (or a part of) the back-office ERP system. This level of self-service requires data from multiple functional areas to be available to the CRM.
This is a relatively recent development but one that is believed to be the biggest opportunity moving forward for CRM users and vendors. And it applies not to how CRMs can aid customers but to how they can streamline internal activities.
Right now, there are so many different ways you can communicate with a company. And while this approach makes it easy for people to reach a company, it creates an environment where the average full-time service rep is switching screens up to 1,100 times a day.
The solution, is to build technology that enables a customer experience that’s channel-less (a term coined by Jeff Nicholson, VP of CRM Product Marketing at Pegasystems).
Where omnichannel refers to multiple communication lines between a customer and company, a channel-less approach doesn’t care about the specific channel used. Interaction can happen on any channel.
Such technology will centralize all communications for service agents to view and act on.
CRM’s explosion has been well documented, and it’s predicted to continue strong, reaching a market size of £82 billion by 2027 and achieving a 11.6% CAGR from 2020-2027.
The reason, is that CRMs have become such a central part of a business’s tech stack, showing other companies the gains to be had.
Now that CRM has become a ubiquitous term, a lot of smaller sales departments are starting to see the value in having structured data and are beginning to utilize true CRM systems to manage their data.
This industry growth has brought changes at the vendor level as companies seek to strengthen their offerings. Such as Salesforce’s acquisition of business intelligence vendor Tableau. Some companies are even transforming. One notable example was Mailchimp upgrading its email marketing solution to an “all-in-one marketing platform” in 2019.
What to make of all this?
The popularity of CRM is a good thing for vendors. Even though the landscape is getting more crowded, there will be room for everyone.
However, CRM providers need to be specific in who they’re trying to serve with their product. Is it the business that has two salespeople and the sales manager is also the CEO or General Manager? Or the business with 20 outside reps, 10 inside reps and a whole customer service department? It’s important to distinguish that because those solutions look very different.
CRM trends are like ocean breezes — the companies that stay aware of which way the wind is blowing can manoeuvre so they’re better positioned to sail toward success.
That doesn’t mean putting so much stock in each trend that your business ends up choosing different end goals to accommodate every wave of new development. The destination should always be the same. But tacking effectively will get you there in a faster, more efficient manner.