Once upon a time, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems used to be little more than a tool to keep track of customers’ names and contact information. In the early 90’s, when CRM started incorporating powerful data warehousing technologies, most marketers and sales reps were apprehensive about the effects. The high cost of implementing on-premise CRM solutions, coupled with one-channel interaction approach of traditional marketers made CRM adoption pretty rare, especially among mid-size and small businesses.
Then in 1999, cloud CRMs made the appearance. And, did they take the world by storm!
The low implementation cost made cloud CRMs perfect fit for mid-size as well as small businesses. Simultaneously, the dotcom boom of the early 2000s forced marketers to consider multi-channel marketing approach with increased focus towards digital-marketing.
Thus, CRM evolved to organise, synchronise and automate business processes; not only in respect of sales activities but also in the areas of marketing, customer service and technical support.
Today, a typical CRM system uses data warehousing technologies to facilitate a range of functions, such as:
CRM technology has definitely come a long way.
With disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning entering the field, CRM is likely to evolve manifolds in years to come.
Here are some trends to watch out for.
From direct mails to phone calls to emails, marketing conversation is slowing shifting towards social media. While tweets and posts have been potent brand building tools for quite some time now, marketers are increasingly testing ROI of direct social media messaging against that of e-mail marketing.
Moreover, with social media becoming omnipresent in greater parts of the world, the platforms have become effective in checking consumers’ pulse.
Today, most social media monitoring tools offer CRM integration. However, in next few years, native CRM tools with powerful social media functionalities will become inevitable.
The social CRM will be capable of matching and appending customer’s data as per their social media profile and updates.
The power to analyse a tweet or a facebook post and turn it into a defined task or opportunity will provide deeper understanding of customer satisfaction, better mapping of customer journey and optimal use of influencers.
AI uses machine learning to analyse data, patterns and trends to deliver predictions and create recommendations accordingly.
In recent times, AI has been the centre of much discussion. And not without reason!
The technological marvel offers deep insight into customer behaviour and creates effective recommendations for creating focused marketing efforts and increased sales.
For example, Zoho’s AI assistant Zia monitors the time when customers open your e-mails, the type of e-mails they open, the kind of surveys they take etc. By analysing these data Zia recommends you the type of e-mails to send to a particular customer group, and also when to send the emails to generate best response.
Salesforce’s Einstein is another such AI program that has garnered much positive response recently.
Today, these AI assistants powered by machine learning technology can not only predict customer behaviour but also can detect and predict crisis situations before they actually happen.
In years to come, AI will have deeper integration with CRM and play a crucial role in practically every aspect of marketing, sales and service.
This is one aspect of CRM which will definitely get more complex. With data becoming the currency to run a business on, data protection is going be crucial.
Cloud technology where CRM data is usually hosted on a server that may or may not be located in the same country as the business, drafting and implementing data protection laws will be difficult.
So, while other aspects of CRM will definitely become user-friendly, data security and data protection laws will become increasingly complex.
CRM eco-system has evolved to be a multi-tiered one.
Major players like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Zoho, Oracle, Hubspot are offering general, extendable and customisable solutions which offer amazing breadth. Interestingly, thousands of vendors, partners and standalone players have made it their business to verticalize the solutions and add serious depth to them. Many third-party players are also offering useful CRM plug-ins.
In short, the CRM eco-system has become a multi-layered environment where users can seek and receive support from every level.
With major players broadening the CRM solutions, even more, this eco-system is likely to thrive in years to come.
With technology advancing by leaps and bounds, the coming years are sure going to be interesting for CRM industry. Social media intelligence, deeper predictive analysis, near accurate forecasting and tighter security are going to become CRM characteristics in years to come.