Choosing a CRM for 2019 and Beyond

As we approach the end of 2018, we've recognised the expectations of customers is dramatically different from what they were at the start of the decade. Emerging technologies such as mobile, social media and the cloud were in its infancy and have since matured over time. We're now in the deep relationship era, which means organisations need to react to customer demands by offering personalised, real-time communications with their customers. Offering a substandard customer experience means customers will quickly voice their dissatisfaction and move elsewhere.

In order to respond to the demands of the market, new technologies are emerging that enable organisations to react quickly to complex customer requests at scale. In 2019, these technologies will further integrated into CRMs, adding substantial value along the way.

Smart, connected data collection technologies are rapidly helping businesses to identify strengths and weaknesses in its supply chain and service delivery systems. Microsoft alone is investing $5 billion in the Internet of Things (IoT) - helping organisations to connect their devices, enabling them to respond to issues, plan maintenance and evaluate performance in real-time.

Looking to the future, a CRM can be the central point that monitors and administers these connected devices.

Examining the emergence of new technologies in the IT landscape and changes in the market, we've identified upcoming CRM technologies you should considering when upgrading in 2019 and beyond.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

CRM developers are heavily investing in AI to support organisations with new functionality that is delivered with high precision and speed. A survey conducted by IDC found that 28% of all respondents say their organisations have already started using AI and an additional 41% plan to adopt AI in the next two years.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is offering AI based relationship assistant which empowers end users by receiving intelligent, relevant, and actionable insights. In addition, action cards deliver the information you need to build and nurture business relationships on demand.

Dynamics 365 Sales also smarter selling with insights readily available, enabling sales users to automate sales executions, focus on the leads most likely to convert and personalising engagement with prospects.

For Marketers, AI can assist by offering highly personalised experiences for customers. AI enables them to be more proactive and it can help them optimise campaigns in real-time by utilising customer engagement with your platforms (email, web, apps). AI can also predict the success of new campaigns and initiatives using deep learning and data analysis, enabling marketers to make highly informed decisions.

Real-Time Customer Service

Customers expectations have changed in recent years. They expect queries to be dealt with in real-time and issues are resolved instantaneously. Modern CRMs are adapting to customer needs by offering increasingly efficient contact management such as priority alerts, automated communications, enhanced knowledge bases and self-service facilities.

We expect that self-service will continue to grow in the CRM market, with the best online web portals standing out and gaining extra brand recognition. Our belief is that customers will expect to see more personalised self-service experiences in the coming years. That means only displaying content and product information that is relevant to them or their organisation. This will prevent customer confusion and ensures customers are trying to solve issues on their own with the correct information. This will significantly reduce support costs and improve the customer journey and their experience with a brand.

CRM customer service agents need to have up to date information and understand a customers' issue whether they are the first, second or the third agent to deal with a case. Customers are happier when they recognise that the internal communications inside an organisation are efficient and they don't need to repeat case details to new agents. Fast and efficient internal communication is best facilitated by CRMs that are organised and easy to navigate. CRMs should have processes in place so that communication between agents can flow freely. We anticipate this will continue to develop in the upcoming years with automated prompts of the most important case details.

real-time customer service

Social Selling

The modern sales environment is about building solid relationships. The internet has changed everything. Long gone are the days of scattergun sales techniques of picking up a phone book and hard selling your products with forceful pitches. Salesforces are expected to utilise a full range of communications in order to generate leads using softer, personalised sales strategies. Included within that is social selling. Social media is quickly becoming the go-to channel for finding prospects.

Social selling is identifying prospects through social media. You can provide value by answering questions and engaging with the localised community. This associates you and your brand with authority and credibility within your industry. Traditional selling such as buying lead lists, cold calling and sales scripts is non-targeted, impersonal and unreliable. It relies on short-term gains and is now viewed as a stale and a cookie cutter approach to the sales process.

According to GlobalWebIndex, almost 50% of web users follow brands or are thinking of buying a product via social media. Therefore it's becoming increasingly important for organisations to recognise this trend.

CRMs are adapting to social selling. Powerful platforms such as LinkedIn can be integrated inside your CRM. This enables sales users to merge social media platforms contact data and communications with CRM, providing a more complete picture of the prospect and helping sales users to evaluate conversion probability. Building long-term relationships and improving brand reputation through social users recommending your services has been demonstrated as a winning strategy. 

Internet of Things (IoT)

To be broad, the Internet of Things is defined as any device connected to the internet, but more recently it's being recognised as many digital objects that talk to each other. Combining these devices into an automated system creates the potential for information gathering and analysis. Inside industrial environments, connected devices can cut down on waste and drive efficiencies. As an example, devices that require maintenance can inform field engineers ahead of time with valuable insights on part replacements. This creates more efficient schedules and saves time and money. Devices that fail in operation are costly and has a negative knock-on effect on the broader production chain.

In 2019, the stand out CRMs will centralise the view and management of these new systems and provide valuable insights using technologies such as Power BI.

Personalisation

Customers want to feel valued. They want to feel that they are not viewed as revenue streams for big corporations. Personalising communications with customers is an effective remedy to this. In the coming years, we believe we will see CRMs responding to this trend by developing more powerful personalisation tools. This means that audiences are finely segmented and customers only see content relevant to them. This can be done by CRM processes utilising a customers' data, personal history, and mapping content to their own personal user journey.

Segmented audiences of one are the future. These are segments of individual customers with unique preferences. These customers can also be offered personalised messaging. When someone sees a personalised offer or message targeted specifically at them, they are more likely to respond to the sender.

CRMs started personalisation by messaging customers by their first name or acknowledging their location via marketing emails. We think using personalisation tools will grow in scope across the CRM ecosystem which many organisations would be interested in adopting as part of their marketing strategy.

Intelligent Insights

Providing a variety of metrics at convenient touch points to CRM users can be powerful for turning quick insights into action. With intelligent insights, CRMS can offer a dashboard or popup of metrics with a high probability of interest to the user. Using machine learning, it will prioritise displaying metrics that have reached outside its normal parameters and also choose metrics that are repeatedly viewed by the user. In addition, users can use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to ask questions about the organisations' data. AI will interpret the question and output the data with a natural language text string.

A scripted example:

Question: How many customer cases has Paul closed this month?
Answer: Paul has closed 6 cases in August

We think these capabilities will continue to grow within CRMs in the coming years. With so much data collected, it's easy to get lost or bogged down in metrics not relevant to your CRM users. These tools allow them to be able to get precise metrics immediately, without complicated queries and tweaking dashboards.

Mobile

At the start of the decade, with the emergence of smartphones, developers needed to create interfaces that responded to the smaller screen sizes. This was adopted quickly but the user interface philosophy was to create this as an add-on to desktop devices. In 2018, it will be 'mobile first' - organisations want employee's to be able to have free, 24/7 access, enabling decisions to be made on the go or to retrieve insights in preparation for sales pitches. According to Nucleus Research, mobile access to a CRM increases the sales force productivity by an average of 14.6%. 

CRMs designed from the ground up to use mobile will provide unmatched convenience compared to user interfaces that treat mobile as an afterthought. CRM mobile interfaces that lack functionality and offer poor navigation systems will dramatically fall behind in the next few years.

Tighter Integration

In 2019, we'll see further integration between systems, providing extra capabilities and further centralisation of an organisations data. Microsoft bought LinkedIn in 2016, and have made steps to including its features inside Dynamics 365 with the Lead Gen application. In addition, they are making further steps to improve how Outlook synchronises with Dynamics, offering the potential for improved communication and synergy. This will create value for organisations who want to keep data views in one place.

Legacy CRM software that is unable to simply synchronises with external systems offers dramatically increased development costs. Additionally, it's complexity often means that the integration process is difficult to forecast leading to delays and an overrun budget. At this point, organisations may want to reexamine the viability and cost-effectiveness of its current CRM solution. 

Chatbots

Chatbots are also known as "conversational agents" are real-time software that uses scripts and AI to resolve customer service issues. In a CRM setting, they will become increasingly used to support customers as they'll be able to pull information directly from the CRM which will reduce the need for service agents intervening. A recent survey found that 60% of respondents reported that they communicated with a chatbot in the last 12 months. Many Chatbots are already on the market, but in 2019 we'll see further adoption across CRMs and further improvement in their capability as well as more complexity in their communication. 

chatbots for crm

Blockchain

A Blockchain is a secure, shared, distributed transaction ledger database that decentralises data, eliminates the need for trusted third parties, and enables the anonymous exchange of digital assets such as bitcoin.

does the business need a blockchain

Blockchain in Supply chain

Below is a detailed use case where you can leverage Blockchain for tracking a typical supply chain.

blockchain for supply chain

Impact on CRM

Enhanced security

CRMs are now looking at expanding into the blockchain space by incorporating its features. Blockchain offer enhanced security. Each block is connected cryptographically. These are secured in a way that participating users use network keys to restrict unauthorised access. Many CRMs are still centrally hosted on on-premise servers and cloud implementations still operate in a centralised system, thus having a single point of failure. In comparison, blockchains are decentralised and distributed across regularly synchronised peer-to-peer networks, making it extremely difficult to attack.

Improved Privacy control

Concerns about personal data security continue to grow, especially as we enter a post-GDPR era. CRM systems need to adapt and handle customer data with security considered as the first priority. Due to being decentralised, blockchain gives way to the idea of a self-sovereign identity. Blockchain technologies can store/encrypt personal information and verify without actually sharing any specifics with the concerned parties.

Blockchain will change how we approach CRM, contact management and data

Our belief is that as the technology matures and overcomes its own technical challenges such as scaling, SaaS developers will look to integrate it into their CRM architecture in the next few years.

Further reading:

www.rolustech.com

www.cioreview.com

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