• September 1, 2023
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

AI Profoundly Influenced Our Awards This Year

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CRM vendors have been toying with artificial intelligence for years, embedding it into a few apps here and there, seemingly generating more controversy than successes. Issues of privacy, inherent biases, flawed data being used to train the models, and generalized fear about giving machines too much power to make decisions surfaced quickly, slowing the pace of adoption and further development. Then along came ChatGPT late last year, and it completely upended the entire industry almost overnight.

Suddenly everyone was talking about generative AI and how it could be used in sales, marketing, customer service, e-commerce, and many other business functions to automate processes; develop more personalized communications with customers, prospects, and internal stakeholders; provide customers with the most helpful answers to whatever types of questions they might have; create content; predict business outcomes; forecast sales and revenue; and ensure that every opportunity to grow the business is seized.

Not surprisingly, ChatGPT collected more than 1 million signups within its first five days alone, and now, less than a year after its release, it would appear that just about every CRM vendor in the world has either worked ChatGPT into its solutions somehow or developed its own generative AI large language models to run within its software portfolios.

As you read through this issue, you’ll find just about every CRM vendor or service provider highlighted among the Leaders in our awards section has done something with generative AI. It has, after all, touched each of the 11 technology categories that we cover, all five of the companies that our pool of analysts and consultants named among the top five in those categories, and the five additional companies that we have labeled as our 2023 Conversation Starters.

“I have never seen a technology with so much potential to upend everything we do from a business standpoint for the better,” says Daniel Rodriguez, chief marketing officer of Simplr, a customer experience outsourcing solutions provider.

It didn’t take long, though, for employees to feel threatened by generative AI, and so began the assurances from technology vendors, industry analysts and consultants, and managers of frontline workers that AI would only be used to assist humans, not to work unattended or replace them. The fear still exists, and it’s not completely unfounded.

But at the same time, the potential for good cannot be overstated. At its core, AI in CRM helps businesses better organize and make sense of customer data—including contacts, demographics, interaction and purchase history, preferences, and behaviors—and access that information more quickly and easily. With this intelligence, companies can fine-tune their marketing and sales segmentation to build better, more lucrative relationships with prospects and customers. They can respond faster to customer inquiries and provide more informed answers to requests. They can ensure that incoming calls are routed to the best agent to handle the particular issue. They can better score leads and forecast sales, make more informed upsell and cross-sell recommendations, and automatically generate follow-up emails after sales meetings or when customers abandon their online shopping carts.

And, to be sure, this is just the beginning.

Do you need artificial intelligence in your CRM system, or is it something that won’t provide any real value? As is the case with most business decisions you make every day, the answer will depend on your business’s unique needs, goals, and plans for the future.

Some organizations, particularly those already on the cutting edge of technology adoption, will likely find a lot to like about AI. Companies still struggling with the CRM basics will likely find AI tools unnecessary for the time being or too complicated to be worth the investment after a cost-benefit analysis.

In either case, it’s hard to overlook the fact that the more data your business collects about prospects and customers, the more use you will derive from AI and the insights it can generate.

We thoroughly expect the flurry of AI announcements from the leading CRM vendors to continue for the remainder of 2023 and far beyond. And we promise to keep bringing you all the information you need to identify the most effective, real-world applications of AI for your business.

Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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