• March 29, 2022
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Connecting in a Post-COVID World Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

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Many states, and even some countries, have slowly started to roll back the COVID-19 restrictions that have, in some cases, been in effect for two years. At the same time, though, many companies have decided not yet to abandon the work-from-home policies that kept them afloat during the pandemic.

Remote or partially remote workforces are likely to be with us for quite some time, which serves as the backdrop for our three feature stories in this month’s issue.

While COVID cases are on the decline again, companies are continuing to see huge spikes in the number of contact center interactions that their agents and automated systems need to handle. But companies can’t just go ahead and hire additional agents; the pool from which to hire is just as limited as ever, and possibly even smaller thanks to vaccine mandates, agent burnout, the Great Resignation, and socio-economic concerns.

It’s no surprise, then, that companies are turning to productivity tools to get the most out of the people they already have. Cloud-based contact center platforms, chatbots, conversational artificial intelligence, intelligent routing, multichannel handling, messaging, workflow automation, real-time agent assistance, and workforce optimization are among the tools highlighted in our third feature, “Productivity Tools Advance to Assist Remote Workforces.” 

All of these productivity tools have benefited from rapid advances in artificial intelligence, which have made just about every CRM tool more capable, turning insights into recommendations with incredible speed.

This begs the question: How reliable is the insight and guidance provided by AI? That’s a question our cover story, “Can AI Really Be Trusted?”, seeks to answer. The conclusion should come as no surprise to anyone who’s worked with AI recently.

“Without AI and machine learning, marketers are largely left with their gut instinct to predict customer behavior, and despite what many marketers might tell you, AI has the ability to make stronger predictions than humans,” says Ingrid Burton, chief marketing officer of Quantcast, a provider of AI-driven real-time advertising and audience insights and measurement, in the feature.

Though the quote refers specifically to AI in the context of marketing, the sentiment applies equally to sales and customer service people and processes.

Our second feature, “Keys to Keeping the Consumer Connection in a Digital World,” details the ways that AI and productivity tools are allowing companies to better address the needs of their customers as sales, marketing, and customer service functions moved to—and at least for now will stay on—digital channels.

Another common thread in all three features is the need for quality data to be fed into CRM systems. That’s as true now as ever, and it’s been a recurring theme in the CRM industry for decades.

All three features also highlight the need for humans in marketing, sales, and customer service operations. “AI will never be able to perform all the tasks that a human can,” says Muhammad Fahad Alam, a data science intern with Data Science Dojo, in the cover story. “It is incapable of independent thought.”

So as you think of how to improve your operations going forward, keep in mind the one truism that has applied to CRM from the beginning: CRM systems are only as good as the people, processes, and data supporting them.

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

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