A Look Ahead at CRM in 2023

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As 2023 begins, we’re in a time of mixed signals. Last year was better than the previous two: The pandemic is now endemic, and inflation seems to be easing while job growth continues. On the other hand, the endemic phase can still be plenty disruptive, and a global recession still looms. Amid this uncertainty, our CRM industry insiders see plenty of opportunity for savvy operators.

Digital technologies, channels, and strategies will continue to be critical to success…

“The CX scales will tip. More than 80 percent of customers will start their journeys through digital channels rather than in-person interaction. As a result, marketing, sales, and service functions will all merge into a new digital-first, [artificial intelligence]-powered approach to doing business.” —Barry Cooper, president of the CX Division, NICE

“Digital-first businesses have become the new foundation for success. Organizations will spend more effort and budget on connecting internal back-end business processes with external customer-facing processes to reduce the chaos of managing interactions across many different channels.” —Stanley Huang, cofounder and chief technology officer, Moxo

…but businesses can’t lose sight of the human element.

“AI made significant headway in 2022 among customer-facing brands, and that momentum will continue into 2023. AI will enable brands to stay one step ahead of their customers’ needs and even flag issues before the customer calls for assistance, creating a truly proactive CX business plan. However, as technology continues to advance, artificial intelligence alone won’t cut it for businesses to truly succeed in this space. Brands will go one step further by combining human intelligence and artificial intelligence.” —Sidney Lara, service principal, Aquant

“Ever-changing customer behaviors will require enterprises to reimagine business models. The accelerated shift to digital originally driven by the global pandemic has consumers expecting total digital freedom, with the ability to choose when, where, and how they interact with brands across many industries. Analysts and experts agree that businesses must focus on customer-centricity. And they can show that they care by focusing less on one-way transactions and more on customer relationships and providing value.” —James Brown, CEO, Smart Communications

And that emphasis on the human element will extend to ensuring CRM professionals are nurtured for success.

“Celebrating and incentivizing meaningful rep performance will matter more than ever to reinvigorate a tired sales organization. In this economic environment, maintaining a strong team culture and leading with empathy is crucial.” —Mary Shea, vice president of evangelism, enablement, and alliances, Outreach

“Success in the next year is going to come down to making the sales process as easy and painless as possible. I expect to see an increased focus on ensuring sales teams are equipped, trained, and coached to bring personalized value to every engagement.” —Jon Perera, chief marketing officer, Highspot

“In the year ahead, having a holistic approach to revenue enablement will give companies a leg up. Prioritizing customer success—not just sales—as a contributor to revenue will give B2B companies a competitive edge through lead sensing. The companies that have close ongoing partnerships between customer success and sales teams and better insights into customer needs will be the ones with truly satisfied customers, long-term relationships, and higher revenue.” —Laurie Long, chief customer officer, Allego

“2023 will see the move from a seller focus to a customer-facing team approach. We are seeing the entire account team becoming more involved in deals and ultimately customer success and the need to enable the entire team to drive deal velocity and revenue growth.” —Hendrik Isebaert, CEO, Showpad

Despite possible tough economic times ahead, CRM professionals should stay the course...

“There will be a misguided, knee-jerk reaction to slash marketing budgets in 2023. With reports of looming economic uncertainty, it’s important for marketers not to panic or make rash decisions when it comes to budgeting for 2023. The marketers who will be most successful will fight the impulse to cut back on their programs, especially those that are performing well.” —Jennifer Bellin, chief marketing officer, PFL

“Due to economic uncertainty as well as continued pressure on marketers to deliver and prove ROI, performance will continue to be key. Performance doesn’t just mean direct response. The ability to reach the right audiences on the right channels with high-impact capabilities will be essential. Media is going to have to work harder, and advertisers will be looking for more capabilities around measurement, optimization, and ROI generation.” —Matt Sotebeer, chief strategy officer, Digital Remedy

“Despite the economic slowdown and reviewed marketing budgets, brands are still expected to continue to invest in influencer marketing. Even with the bleak economic context, consumers will likely be more inclined to welcome sponsored posts for temporary escapism, offering an excellent opportunity for brands to connect with their audiences.” —Alexander Frolov, cofounder and CEO, HypeAuditor

...and sometimes that means not being afraid to be creative and trying out new approaches.

“In 2023, we will see a surge in identity-blind strategies and non-addressable advertising activities like in-store displays, audio out-of-home advertising, and product placements.” —Paul Brenner, president and chief strategy officer, Vibenomics

“For years, email developers have pleaded with marketers that open rates are an unreliable measure of a campaign's success. In 2023, email marketers will continue to deprioritize open rates, opting for a broader definition of success for campaigns and remembering that even small bumps in sales or decreased abandoned carts mean that something’s working.” —Kate Nowrouzi, vice president of deliverability, Email by Sinch

“Brands and publishers are building on their first-party data capabilities and ID alternatives, but these tactics alone will not solve for the tightening of privacy regulations and deprecation of third-party cookies. 2023 will be the year that marketers shift their strategies from ID-based personalization to creative-based personalization.” —Alistair Goodman, CEO, Emodo

“While contextual advertising has been part of the digital landscape for some time, its challenges with scale have held it back. Brands looking for new targeting methods in 2023 will look to utilize widely accepted contextual classification tools that allow for strategies to scale across publishers and platforms.” —Mimi Wotring, senior vice president of publisher sales and client services, DoubleVerify

“We’ve learned in the past year that success on social isn’t about the platform; it’s about authenticity. People crave genuine stories that can spark new ideas and foster creativity rather than direct selling points. Whether taking a people-first approach to native content or tapping into creators to share their personal experiences with brands, creating an authentic story should be the clear north star for brands as they navigate the future of social media.” Mike Blight, senior market research manager, Sprout Social

“In 2023, marketers will need to focus on diversifying their content distribution to reach wider audiences and boost the customer experience.” Chris Savage, cofounder and CEO, Wistia

“We predict more marketers will leverage [account-based marketing] in 2023 to fuel their sales pipelines and increase revenue for their organizations, helping them justify budget increases and more resources for ABM, even amid financial turmoil.” Tom O’Regan, CEO, Madison Logic

Personalization will remain a top goal, and not just for marketers.

“Consumer behavior continues to evolve, and it’s harder than ever for companies to keep up. As a result, brands and retailers must prioritize personalization in 2023 or they will begin to lose customers at the beginning of the customer journey.” —Bradley Hearn, product marketing manager, ChannelAdvisor

“Because there’s currently so much noise for consumers, personalization is no longer about what to say and how to say it. In the year ahead, we’ll see brands shift toward when to deliver a message, which channel they use, and why it’s appropriate for that moment, using what they know about a particular customer’s context. In 2023, those that don’t will get left behind by savvier businesses converging the power of AI and mobile to target and personalize the customer experience better than ever before.” —Matt Nolan, senior director of product marketing for 1:1 customer engagement, Pegasystems

“AI-driven customer retention and personalization is going to be extremely important to successful marketing in 2023. Companies looking to increase their consumer loyalty and remain competitive will need to implement AI-powered marketing and sales acceleration technologies to better predict and act on consumer needs, helping customer service and sales reps to make more strategic recommendations.” —Michelle Tilton, vice president of marketing, Gryphon.ai

“As brands look to navigate their customer experience strategies during an economic downturn, they need to prioritize and invest in AI and personalization tools that foster long-term trust and loyalty with customers. By integrating AI into their workflows, brands can deliver the most accurate and tailored messages to customers at scale.” Lisa Spira, head of content intelligence, Persado

Consumers are becoming increasingly digitally native, and, as a result, brands must ensure that every touchpoint is a personalized, visual-first message. In 2023 personalization will go one step further. We’ll start to see augmented reality, virtual models, 3D spin sets, and interactive videos enter the mainstream shopping experiences as brands strive to create an emotional connection with consumers in a bid for increased brand loyalty.” Gary Ballabio, vice president of technology partnerships, Cloudinary 

Speaking of extended reality technologies, they'll continue to find their way into the mainstream…

“Augmented reality is gradually growing out of its infancy and could soon become an indispensable part of a digital marketing strategy. More and more brands have started integrating AR features into their apps and online campaigns. Consumers are trying out AR and experiencing upgraded customer journeys. Whoever scores here in the coming year with the most creative and intuitive implementation can set new standards and secure a long-term competitive advantage.” —Florian Hübner, CEO and founder, Uberall

“Consumers are becoming increasingly digitally native, and, as a result, brands must ensure that every touchpoint is a personalized, visual-first message. In 2023 personalization will go one step further. We’ll start to see augmented reality, virtual models, 3D spin sets, and interactive videos enter the mainstream shopping experiences as brands strive to create an emotional connection with consumers in a bid for increased brand loyalty.” —Gary Ballabio, vice president of technology partnerships, Cloudinary

...but one notable channel is not yet ready for prime time.

“The adoption of the metaverse as a contact center channel has been greatly exaggerated. We’re definitely seeing some companies beginning to experiment there. However, we don’t predict broad adoption of the metaverse either in 2023 or the foreseeable future. It would require too great an investment for an organization to make and build out services, particularly given the current addressable market is so small.” —Steve Kezirian, CEO, Waterfield Tech

Customer service will remain a top differentiator, but companies will need to balance self-service with more consultative roles.

“The skills expected from customer service providers will change. Customers will have a greater need for consultative services to enhance the customer experience, replacing traditional transactional offerings with robotic process automation and artificial intelligence. Those working on the front lines in call centers will need to hone their conceptual thinking skills as their jobs change to be more client/customer partners in continuous improvement.” —Elaine Coffman, senior vice president of human resources, Majorel

“In 2023, businesses will pay closer attention to CX by taking advantage of the wealth of data now available to them. Smarter, progressive organizations will continue to invest in advanced analytics and AI to connect more closely with their customers, anticipate behaviors, and identify issues and opportunities in real time. We expect to see a rise in conversational AI and chatbots as the front line of customer support and service by automating high-volume, repetitive processes.” —Helena Schwenk, vice president and chief data and analytics officer, Exasol

“Now more than ever, customers want to address customer service issues themselves. The increased reliance on self-service and web chat customer support options serves as a great example of where company and customer priorities meet when it comes to striving for efficiency. In the next year, we will see a stronger convergence of the qualitative and the quantitative across agent experience, customer experience, and total experience.” —Linda Chen, chief marketing and strategy officer, Cyara

“Educate (or train), engage, and empower your agents to address all customer queries. This will be a big priority in 2023. Having siloed teams, whether because of hybrid, remote, or different work schedules, is challenging. Companies will rely on quality management software to keep them up to speed, motivated, and involved. Companies that follow this approach will have happier employees and customers.” —Kristyn Emenecker, chief product and strategy officer, Playvox

“Taking care of your customers right now becomes the single most important thing any company can do. In the foreseeable macro environment, every minute a company waits to improve customer retention is a minute too late. Your customers are not sympathetic to your cost constraints or staffing challenges, not when so many other companies are vying for their business. 2023 will force businesses to recognize that support interactions may be one of the highest-leverage touchpoints they’ll have with customers. Some companies, unfortunately, will arrive at this realization too late.” —Mathilde Collin, CEO and cofounder, Front

“There’s no reason a brand should be placing a customer on hold in 2023. It’s frankly inexcusable given the other options available to connect and transact with consumers, such as SMS and chat apps. At the end of the day, customers are not usually calling support due to a problem with the brand, just a product. However, a poor and outdated customer service practice in 2023 can and will turn a customer’s anger onto the brand itself.” —Pieter de Villiers, CEO and cofounder, Clickatell

“2023 will introduce the customer-obsessed enterprise. These COE’s will be the most competitive in the future, approaching customer experiences as a critical metric across every part of the organization. That means that sales, service, engineering, and legal will all subscribe to the COE model, making their organizations ready to compete for the future. Satisfaction is baseline, exceptional service is necessary.” Jonathan Rende, senior vice president and general manager of product, PagerDuty

“In 2023, contact center technology that can translate and transcribe conversations in real time will not only break language barriers across the globe but will help businesses drive revenue by allowing agents to have conversations with anyone, regardless of dialect.” Zayd Enam, CEO, Cresta

“In 2023, transcription accuracy of omnichannel customer-brand interactions will transition from a nice-to-have to a critical capability. The most successful organizations in the coming year will understand the direct correlation between transcription accuracy and the quality of customer insights and then use that better intelligence to drive even greater CX value.” Eric Williamson, chief marketing officer, CallMiner

“In 2023, we can expect to see early signs of audio and video in customer support, from businesses prompting customers to record short videos or audio recordings to explain issues they’re having, which will then be transcribed and submitted to a support agent. AI-powered surveys that dynamically morph to get maximum feedback from customers based on prior responses will reshape the customer feedback game, and textual analysis will be able to pull together a much more integrated sense of how customers feel.” Colin Crowley, CX advisor, Freshworks

“Although the world started to feel somewhat normal again in 2022, the business landscape has forever changed in the past few years. Customer expectations are at an all-time high, and how you interact with your customers can make or break your relationships, arguably, even more so with the emergence of new challenges. With the current business climate, 2023 will be the year when customer experience truly separates fast-growing companies from the rest of the pack.” Anthony Smith, CEO, Insightly

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