In today’s technology fueled world, trends shift rather quickly. Technology is advancing at a break-neck pace and what was popular last month may be out of style today. The future is tough to predict and even the experts can be caught by surprise. In most cases, however, it’s possible to see what’s on the horizon and at the end of the day it may prove to be the difference between you and the competition.
One clear trend that seems to be fueling them all is a focus on customer related technology. At the heart of this technology are CRM systems, or Customer Relationship Management systems. CRMs help organizations big and small to manage all of their contacts, whether they are customers, vendors, leads, and even the organization’s employees. The primary functions of a CRM relate to automation within sales, marketing, and support. Most CRMs also offer analytics, reporting, and serve as a central hub for collaboration within an organization. Recently Gartner estimated that by 2017, the CRM Market will reach $37 Billion (USD), which would imply that CRMs are an aspect of our business environments not likely to disappear soon. Therefore, looking at expert predictions for CRM trends may be a good bet to understand what lies ahead in our future.
CRMs will have user-friendly, intuitive designs
For many organizations, CRMs operate as the central console helping us to manage our data and business relationships, including those between various departments. Therefore, smooth operational consistency is a must, and while many CRMs provide all of the tools you would need to streamline an organization, most of them are built with interfaces that seem intuitive only to a programmer. This can result in inefficiency gaps, but it also has the potential to cause damage due to oversight, negligence, or operational error.
For this reason, many analysts speculate that even by the end of 2016 we’ll start to see more user friendly systems in place. In many cases, this means more automation and we can already see that most of the top CRMs in the market today are integrated with customer interfaces. There are also many third party integrations that unify the experience completely, adding greater visibility into the customer journey.
Employees will have more access to customer insights and knowledge.
“Customer engagement” and “excellence in customer experience” are terms that are often thrown around in the marketing and sales departments of many organizations. But, with the antiquated tools and resources that the majority of customer-facing employees are given, how can we expect them to actually meet those lofty expectations? Many companies don’t recognize the value of providing employees, especially in sales and customer support, the type of solutions and tools needed to deliver more personalized and proactive engagements.
While analytics and various metrics are handy tools for many marketers, they can also be useful to an account manager trying to explain the benefits clients are receiving by staying with the company. Sales teams can use the same reports to develop strategy on how to approach a potential customer and customer success can demonstrate performance to suggest upgrades. These are myriad of examples that can be given and the benefits of giving employees access to this type of reporting are limitless.
Another area that is often lacking when it comes to preparing employees for engaging customers is knowledge management. According to the IDC report, “Unlocking the Hidden Value of Information”, 44% of the time employees are unable to find the information they’re looking for. Moreover, 61% of employees regularly access four or more systems to get the information they need to do their job, and 13% find themselves accessing 11 or more systems. It’s pretty clear that the way we structure knowledge within an organization is vital to the long term efficiency and success of a company, which is why Knowledge Management solutions are quickly becoming significant additions to existing CRM systems.
CRMs play a central role in the “Age of the Customer”
It has been declared by analysts far and wide that the Age of the Customer is upon us. Customer centricity is no longer just a discussion, it has become an approach. Customer personalization is the next big thing and self-service is the newest engagement platform, but we’ve only scratched the surface. Predictions will continue to be made about the way customer experiences will be designed and what type of features will be offered to customers. At the end of the day, however, it is the technology helping us to manage our relationships with existing and potential customers that will provide the framework enabling these changes to take place. As CRM technology continues to advance, it will lead to better performance and greater efficiency, helping organizations meet the demands of today’s convenience customers.