Predicting the future of CRM

The future of customer relationships depends more on context than transactions. This trend is accelerating, driven by the integration of social media into customer relationship management (CRM) and rapid gains in usability of CRM.

Thanks to the growing use of smartphones and social media channels, customers are more empowered than ever. And that means it’s more difficult for companies to retain their best customers and attract new ones.

According to a recent Accenture study, 85% of consumers who posted comments about negative online experiences with particular retail companies found other companies to meet their needs.

This is where the intersection of customer relationship management (CRM) and analytics can make a dramatic impact. As decision makers look for more effective ways to understand their customers’ needs, preferences, attitudes, and behaviors, more companies are applying analytics to their CRM efforts.

To make the most effective use of customer insights, companies are increasingly drawing upon a blend of customer data inputs from a variety of sources, including comments that reflect intent or attitudes in social channels. They’re also examining structured feedback that’s shared via online surveys and other voice-of-the-customer-type formats, as well as behavioral information that customers share on websites and in other channels.
 

What is the future of CRM?

Better Integration of Customer Touch Points

Businesses are realising that you have got to sell the way customers want to buy. CRM projects that don’t integrate customer touch points are destined for failure. Global companies who carry out direct mail/email campaigns invite people to respond any way they like, be it via the company website, call centre, branch office etc. but wherever they come in, that information should be automated so it is shown in the CRM. You don’t want potential customers knowing things their account managers don’t know.
 

Verticalisation

Vertical solutions are another trend. We are approaching the end of the one size fits all CRM market and entering an age of verticalisation and specialisation. There are different types of customers, different types of business models and selling strategies so the CRM software needs to support these different models. What you have is software companies developing a tool-set and letting users/resellers customise it for their industry.

In CRM, the most successful resellers reinvent the CRM application as a platform. They craft entirely new solutions on CRM that are instilled with their particular expertise in a vertical or a set of business processes that make CRM much more straightforward and easier to use. This innovation benefits business customers as the reseller is modifying the system to become a suitable commercial product and making CRM much more turnkey for the user.

At the end of the day, it isn’t about the particular CRM vendor or platform but more about the particular capabilities that a reseller has in their turnkey CRM offering. That’s a huge benefit to customers as they are now able to focus on picking the right reseller and their expertise to help their business versus being distracted and consumed with the nuts and bolts of hand-tailoring the CRM application to fit their needs.
 

Knowledge Management Systems

CRMs of the future should have more intelligent functionality to make them knowledge based management systems. For example, you could put a very powerful, functionally relevant view of the customer at your employee’s fingertips. We are already seeing that today with the ability to embed Google Maps, social feeds and the like in CRM. But think about how incredible it could be for CRM if you were able to do that type of embed with virtually any data source.
 

Social CRM

The internet has a vast array of information out there. People want systems that have intelligent APIs that pick up information from the web and add it to CRM. For instance a client tweets a problem with your service. How good would it be for your system to pick this up from your social feed and add to their record to let you know?

The future of CRM is bright. CRM will become more deeply ingrained as a business strategy for most companies. Technology will evolve while technical and organisational challenges are overcome. Much will change in the years ahead, but one thing is certain: CRM is a journey, not a destination.
 

Summary

Companies that have more complete views of their customers are much better positioned to identify and act on cross-sell and upsell opportunities successfully. In addition, the right mix of CRM and analytics can also provide decision makers with meaningful insights into which marketing campaigns are succeeding or failing and why.

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