It’s that time of the year when we look deep into the crystal ball and predict — based on our work with both customers and vendors — how the CRM landscape will evolve in 2014.
Where predictions are concerned, it’s already been a busy year. Notably, I’ve already shared my counter-predictions for 2015, as well as my essential CRM predictions for 2020. But after playing futurist, it’s now time to chart how we see CRM evolving over the coming year as organizations look to the technology to keep improving their business efficiencies, revenues and customer satisfaction levels.
Here are six of the biggest CRM trends that I expect to see in the coming year:
1. Must Have: Linking Configuration, Pricing, Quoting
Throughout 2013, we’ve seen a number of businesses continue to link their configure, price and quote (CPQ) processes, and we expect this trend to continue well into 2014. The business driver is simple: by linking together marketing, sales and any other essential processes, businesses can automate many tasks that are otherwise quite manual and, thus, time-consuming and prone to errors.
One Cloud Sherpas insurance industry customer, for example, tapped CPQ technology to enable its salespeople to more rapidly generate quotes. By also automating more of the underlying processes, including underwriting, the business has enabled its salespeople to generate quotes not only more quickly, but also more accurately, which has cut down on costly errors. Most importantly, the firm has been able to close more deals and book more revenue.
2. Self-Service Portals: Adoption Surges
Internet-savvy customers today often rate the quality of your business’ products or services based on the quality and sophistication of your organization’s self-service portal, all before they’ve ever made a purchase. That’s part of the reason why, throughout 2014, more businesses will continue to adopt self-service community portals, for example via salesforce.com Communities for Service.
Of course, these user-led communities can also significantly lower service costs for the business by offloading many support activities onto volunteers. But just as CRM systems must be implemented in a way that fosters high levels of adoption in order to be successful, so too must portals be designed to draw in users, for example by adding underlying reward systems or gamification features, adding knowledgebase tie-ins and ensuring that the business doesn’t over-moderate the forums.
3. Service Firms Get Field Force Management
Throughout 2014, more field force managers will adopt CRM-driven field force tools — for example from Cloud Sherpas partner ServiceMax — to ensure that they’re maximizing the efficiency of their service force. Some of the leading related business drivers will include:
improving scheduling efficiency to enable service personnel to handle a greater number of customers
increasing automated inventory review and management
simplifying problem escalation and emergency scheduling
tapping the field force to help marketing teams generate more leads
As that suggests, businesses will tap field force tools to create new ways of increasing both revenue and customer satisfaction.
4. Siebel Keeps Dying Its Slow Death
We’ve been sounding the Siebel is dead warning for years. Recent Siebel upgrades notwithstanding, the technology has been obsolete for almost a decade. In the interim, businesses have, by and large, been adopting Salesforce and never looking back. Come 2014, this trend will continue as more businesses ditch Siebel using one of the three business cases — and there are only three — that justify an SFA replacement plan.
While many businesses will look to a new CRM system to lower costs, I’ve long argued that they should instead focus on how a modern CRM system can better support their organizations’ long-term business goals. Because cloud-based CRM systems are much more flexible and adaptable, easier to manage and designed for mobile workers, migrating to these solutions in 2014 remains a no-brainer.
5. Mobility Becomes “Must Have”
Come 2014, every new CRM project must involve mobility. To put that differently, by next year, don’t expect any users to adopt a system that isn’t built to be used by mobile workers. Because let’s face it: everyone today is mobile and critical business applications must be designed accordingly.
While businesses in some industries may still be prohibiting employee-owned devices from touching the corporate network, the majority of businesses have either given in to the “bring your own device” (BYOD) movement or issued iPads to their employees and set about finding the best way to turn mobility into a sales advantage.
For many organizations, the best results will come not just from routing data to mobile devices, but also from actually designing custom applications that deliver essential features in a user interface and are tailored to employees’ precise needs. That’s why, in 2014, I expect to see more businesses build custom mobile apps that connect to Salesforce, FinancialForce and their other essential business applications.
6. Connecting To The “Internet of Customers”
At last month’s Dreamforce, salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff made a big splash by announcing a new approach to the so-called Internet of things — meaning anything that connects to the internet — called the Salesforce1 platform. The aim is simple: take all of these Internet-connected devices and turn them into touchpoints through which businesses can connect with customers.
That’s a crucial distinction: an Internet of things is just a bunch of Internet-connected devices. But seeing that connectivity from a higher-level viewpoint will allow businesses to trace how these devices connect to customers. In the future, it won’t matter if it’s an eBook reader, tablet, 3D printer or jetpack. Customers, and everything they own, will continue to become more Internet-connected and CRM tools must adapt accordingly.