It’s now been years since CRM solutions don’t restrain themselves to traditional customer relationship management processes. This broadening of their functional scope has even led editors to rename their solutions. CRM solutions have become cloud-based powerful, scalable and extensible platforms that can welcome a great deal of new business objects and processes. While these processes are still customer-oriented (or partner, employee, citizen, patient, student… depending on what is tracked within them) they go well beyond basic follow-up of a sales or service process.
New customer expectations have encouraged CRM editors to deeply transform their solutions. Modern CRM solutions must meet two crucial needs: to be customer-centric, and to offer an optimal and smart User Experience (UX).
Customer-centric so that customer experience and engagement are the beating heart of the application. Consumers expect more and more from organizations: they expect proactiveness, intelligence, and no more barriers between departments who must speak with a single voice. And this is the very least! Today, each detail and attention that is added at touch points between the customer and the organization contribute to making a unique customer experience. These details and attentions have become major competitive advantages. Emotion is now the currency of experience, but it is crucial to respect intimacy and not be intrusive when providing these emotions.
User Experience because to remain competitive, organizations must do more with less. Applications must effectively guide users by being more intelligent, intuitive and simple. Expectations in terms of productivity and operational efficiency are higher than ever. Users expect great tools to achieve their business goals, and the tasks they perform must be of high value.
So what are the trends for 2018?
Social Selling and LinkedIn integration
Salespeople already use LinkedIn to forge ties with existing relations and to find new potential customers. CRM solutions are now also connected with LinkedIn. On top of helping to target the right people and companies, they make intelligent leads suggestions depending on organisations’ needs.
To start the conversion and engage with new leads, LinkedIn also suggests icebreakers (relations in common, shared interests, societies…). To continue the work as a team, leads can be imported into CRM and go further within the sales funnel.
Targeted ad campaigns on LinkedIn can also push interested leads directly into CRM. They can be automatically qualified based on the rules that have been defined, and teams can pick up from there and collaborate on the opportunity.
IoT and connected field service
The Internet of Things and connected objects are a huge opportunity for consumers and companies. Maintenance activities can be optimized, failures can be anticipated, and reactivity to incidents can be strongly increased. Management platforms for connected objects are now mature and are integrated with CRM solutions for customer service and field service.
When a failure is detected on a connected object, a case can be created in CRM. Next, the customer can receive a notification, and an available technician can automatically be assigned a work order on his or her mobile phone, in order to take action. All of this is done in a smart way: depending on the task required skills, the customer’s preferences, availability and distance.
With connected field service, companies can broaden their offering with new services. They also improve customer experience and satisfaction while optimizing resource use at the same time. And all of this within a single platform.
Big Data, Data Science and Machine Learning at the service of customer insights and a complete and smart 360° view
The volume and diversity of data related to customer is constantly increasing. Beyond a basic transaction history, organizations now track marketing interactions, clicks, web or mobile navigation, online but also offline behaviors, on their own platforms or on social networks… They also receive large amounts of data coming from connected objects. Traditional databases cannot handle such volume of information and variety of formats, but Big Data solutions are here to take over.
Of course, the idea is not to store all these information within the CRM database, but instead to have the possibility to cross-reference them, detect patterns and identify models. Setting up analysis models help organizations define relevant indicators for the business: consumption trends, anomalies (are you losing your customer?), potential additional business, forecasts, and in the end, smarter Next Best Actions to suggest to their teams. These KPIs and Next Best Actions can reside (or be displayed) in CRM, as they are useful to users.
Modern Big Data and analytics solutions have become more simple and they can be put in the hands of business users. These tools can enable them to define advanced marketing segmentation, cross multiple data source, and perform smart predictive matching between a social network username, a website visitor, and a customer record sitting in the CRM database. This profile matching is a big challenge today for organizations, even though they are crucial to define and follow an end-to-end customer journey and offer a complete 360° view.
IA, Chatbots and Intelligent Automation
Customers can engage with organizations thanks to chatbots deployed on their websites, mobile applications, Facebook pages, or via SMS. Chatbots can leverage multiple data sources (including CRM of course), and the idea is to handle part of the customers’ requests with Artificial Intelligence: fixing an appointment, following up with a request, suggesting a solution to a problem from the Knowledge Base, opening and qualifying new cases…
Smart services can automate similar recurring tasks. For example, a robot can make a first analysis of the picture of a damage before creating a case. Text-recognition technologies (OCR) can also be used to scan sales orders and create associated guarantee contracts in CRM.
In addition, CRM users can be pushed smart action cards that help them go through their work day, directly from their dashboards or from their mobile application. Action cards can be pushed for diverse topics: an email in their inbox that has been identified as urgent based on keywords, an opportunity closing soon, or a customer with no activity for too long…
Portals to open CRM data to a broader audience and customers
A large part of customer requests can be handled without any interaction with your teams. How? By providing customers with an access to their data (contact details, deliveries, orders, requests, invoices…)
When creating a new request, customers can be automatically suggested relevant Knowledge Base articles and avoid low added value interactions with customer service.
On May 25th 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be unilaterally enforced. Companies of 28 European Union countries will have to be compliant, as this will deeply change how personal data will have to handled. Will your CRM be ready?
Advanced integration of CRM with Digital Marketing solutions
It’s all about bridging the gap between marketing and sales teams. Digital Marketing and CRM solutions are often distinct, especially the ones that can handle large entreprise scenarios, but they are increasingly better connected and integrated. Marketing teams can identify and define lead scoring models within a marketing automation tool, and those leads can be sent to CRM to be qualified by a salesperson as soon as they reach a certain score.
Marketing automation workflows can be defined to leverage data coming from marketing campaigns, social networks, websites as well as CRM. Cross-referencing these data allow to refine customer segmentations and as a result to better personalize customer experience on websites, applications or even in stores.
Even after putting the best reports at the service of users, their needs will continue to change, and always have to be treated urgently.
With modern BI tools, users can create their own reports and dashboards with simple self-service data visualization tools. These tools not only let users access CRM data, but they can also connect to many other sources that can be mixed in order to create more relevant cross-applications KPIs.
Users can then share their reports and dashboards with other users and teams within the organization. Whether they are embedded within CRM solutions or whether they sit in dedicated applications, reporting and analytics options are now at the hand of users who can easily create their own dashboards, reports, document templates, and formatted spreadsheets.
An increasing variety of business processes handled in CRM tools
CRM solutions keep getting enhanced with new modules. These modules go beyond traditional sales and services, or industry verticals. In fact, the new business applications that get integrated in CRM cover processes that were often managed in separate software. The similarity between them and traditional CRM processes is that they revolve around the customer. The goal is to achieve better experience as well as a complete 360° view within a single platform.
With Field Service, organizations can increase customer satisfaction and optimize resources with intelligent scheduling, mobile support, and remote asset monitoring. Project service automation is dedicated to projects and resources management, in order to increase productivity and by bringing people, processes, and automation technology together through a unified experience.
Transforming and realizing results by empowering teams
By broadening their functional scope and by being increasingly integrated, modern CRM solutions question the current distribution of business processes across the Information System applications. CRM solutions are more than ever a crucial cornerstone of any transformation strategy.
This article was first published on my LinkedIn profile (in French).