• February 5, 2021
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

CRM’s Changing Role as We Look Past the Pandemic

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2020 was certainly a historic year, marked by a global pandemic, an extremely contentious presidential election, all sorts of social and political upheaval capped by months of protests that often turned violent, and a complete disruption of business at every level.

Thankfully, 2020 is behind us and an end to the COVID-19 pandemic is hopefully within sight. But is the world ready to go back to business as usual? Many of the industry insiders quoted in this issue’s Insight section, “What’s in Store for CRM in 2021?”, don’t seem to think so.

At the same time, there are signs that many business sectors are speeding toward recovery. For starters, merger and acquisition activity among CRM tech vendors has definitely resumed. Between the start of December and mid-January, we at CRM magazine reported on more than 20 deals. Some, like Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack for $28 billion and Facebook’s acquisition of Kustomer for a reported $1 billion, were huge. Others, like Pegasystems’ acquisition of Qurious.io, Confirmit’s merger with FocusVision, Hootsuite’s acquisition of SparkCentral, and Enghouse Interactive’s acquisition of Altitude Software, weren’t as large but were no less significant. They all signal that the CRM industry is poising for growth and that vendors are positioning themselves to capitalize on new markets, geographies, and technology segments once the economy comes roaring back.

Another positive sign is the fact that COVID-19 vaccines are already being administered, and we in the CRM industry can be very proud. Some of our colleagues, including Salesforce, NICE, Nuance Communications, and Genesys, are right on the front lines of vaccine distribution, managing and dispensing critical information to patients, healthcare providers, and government agencies and guiding people through the vaccination process with pre-appointment engagement, online appointment scheduling and reminders, and post-appointment wellness tracking.

And though many people would love for everything to go back to the way it was before the pandemic, that’s just not going to happen.

2020 saw the majority of marketing, sales, and customer service teams all over the world start working from home, and since it doesn’t appear that these employees will be returning to the office anytime soon, we have dedicated a large portion of this issue to helping companies manage their dispersed workforces for the long term. Companies will need to maintain—and in many cases, step up—their focus on employee engagement and empowerment, data security, supervisory oversight, and technological and process agility.

By and large, companies have found that the work-from-home model has served them and their customers and employees well. In fact, many contact centers that made the shift to remote work are realizing significant benefits, as our cover story, “For Contact Centers, Going Remote Wasn’t Easy, but Opportunities Emerged,” points out. The article highlights research from Frost & Sullivan that found that the retention rate for at-home agents is now at 80 percent, up significantly from the 25 percent when agents work in an office.

Sales teams are also seeing the benefits. In our feature “Tips for Remote Selling During and After COVID-19,” Jamie Anderson, chief sales officer at Xactly, reports that because his sales reps don’t need to travel and set up face-to-face meetings, they’ve had an easier time connecting with high-ranking executives. “They are setting up meetings and landing deals they never previously thought possible,” he says in the article.

Some companies had plans to take at least some of their operations remote long before the pandemic; COVID-19 just accelerated these plans. Many others, however, never intended to operate virtually and had to venture into completely uncharted territory almost overnight.

CRM technology was there to help. Hardware and software advances introduced in just the past year or two made it possible for companies to be as accessible as possible through as many channels as possible at all hours of the day and night.

Lessons learned about connecting and engaging with customers during the pandemic will need to be applied post-pandemic. A new normal is taking hold, and companies can’t count on going back to the old ways of doing things. The world has come too far in the past year to turn back now.

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

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