Software Advances Are Propelling CRM to New Heights

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During my years in the CRM industry, I've witnessed many changes in the quality and richness of CRM software. My company has just completed testing software solutions for the 19th year of our Top 15 CRM Software Awards, and I am excited to report on seven trends ISM believes will have a meaningful impact on our industry over the next several years:

Trend #1: Integration with social media applications. CRM vendors are beginning to offer integration with third-party, comprehensive social media applications, adding a new social element to traditional CRM processes. These applications enable a business to introduce customer conversations and relationships from social networking Web sites into the CRM process. Look for social CRM to become integrated into CRM platforms and applications for a more complete view of customers through the use of feeds from social media channels.

Trend #2: Increased availability of social media functionality. CRM vendors are increasingly providing direct access to social media functionality. We forecast that the monitoring, filtering, and analyzing of relevant social media posts for sentiment and other organizational purposes will be an increasing focus in the next few years.

Trend #3: Increased social media customer assistance options. Many CRM vendors see social media as a cost-effective method for improving customer assistance options. We see more organizations building online communities for customer assistance, which increasingly come with tight integration into other CRM processes.

Trend #4: Increased use of big data analytical tools in CRM solutions. These tools are used to profile customers based on their behavior, segment markets, and predict customer purchases based on past purchase information and psychographic and/or demographic data.

The expansion of Internet traffic, social networking, mobile devices, and cloud applications will generate a tremendous increase in unstructured data, leading to an increased demand for business analytics software that combines text analytics, sentiment extraction, and related technologies to find patterns and trends among social network, mobile device, and cloud application users.

Trend #5: Increased mobile CRM offerings and a move toward real-time CRM. Vendors continue to develop mobile CRM application modules, especially those that are bundled with or that work on a large variety of handheld and/or wireless devices. We foresee mobile apps extending their influence as CRM applications continue to look and behave more like apps that are accessible on mobile devices.

Trend #6: Increased CRM offerings via the SaaS model. CRM software vendors are increasingly offering CRM software solutions via the SaaS model. The model can circumvent traditional problems with the CRM client-server model, including initially high costs, time-consuming deployments, and the need to perform software upgrades.

Trend #7: Increase in gamification applications in CRM software. Business leaders are increasingly conducting trials on CRM programs which leverage game elements that provide a clear sense of progress, an instant feedback loop, and reward incentives—and which directly accelerate the accomplishment of measurable performance objectives.

While these trends offer forward-thinking organizations an opportunity to stay one step ahead of the pack, I want to emphasize that technology is just one of three core components (and about 20 percent) of a successful CRM system implementation. The others are process (30 percent) and people (50 percent). While the listed trends will, over time, propel our industry to new heights, it will be critical that your organization automates core business processes aimed at securing internal efficiency and productivity gains as well as a better external customer experience. It will also be critical that your company takes the time to understand what change management activities (e.g., training, communications, rewards and incentives) will be required to ensure the goal of high CRM software user adoption, and that it allocates the appropriate level of time, money, and effort to achieve this goal.

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president and founder of ISM, Inc., a consulting firm that applies CRM, social CRM, and social media to successful customer-centric business strategies. He is the publisher of The eGuide to Mobile and Social CRM.

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