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  • August 26, 2019
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Making Sense of the Acronym-Laden Industry

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First there was CRM, which has been around since the 1970s (give or take a decade or two). Then, in an attempt to distance themselves from the negative connotation that followed many early CRM deployment failures, some enterprising software vendors extended their solutions and started calling them CEM (customer experience management), also seen in some circles as CXM.

From there, the industry just kept stocking up on acronyms: SaaS (software-as-a-service) paved the way for virtually anything-aaS—as long as it’s available in the cloud, it qualifies. Basic marketing automation was no longer good enough, so the industry developed ABM (account-based marketing). Companies can now use an API to incorporate AI into their KPI, all to get more ROI and provide a better UX. The hope is that they will be able to meet their SLAs with technologies like AR/VR, SFA, EFM, SPM, BI, DQ, and PRM, and if those can be integrated with their ERP, POS, and CPQ systems, even better.

In the past few years, the CRM industry has become overrun with abbreviations, and it’s only going to get worse as new technologies emerge and more capabilities get added onto existing solutions.

The latest addition to the CRM alphabet soup is CSM, and it is more about people than technology.

CSM refers to a customer success manager, a role that LinkedIn recently identified as one of the top 10 fastest-growing careers in the world, showing a 736 percent increase since 2015. In the United States, CSM job postings grew an average of 84 percent year over year in 2018 alone, according to LinkedIn’s data. What’s more, in 2018 the number of LinkedIn members with the CSM job title grew more than eight times year over year.

The CSM role requires a unique skill set that blends a lot of marketing, sales, and customer service disciplines, but perhaps as important—if not more so—is a deep understanding of all of the technologies involved.

That’s not easy in the current CRM environment. Keeping track of everything available, what it does, and which vendors offer it can seem like a full-time job all by itself. And then, it’s not enough to simply buy the most advanced technologies and roll them out across the organization. Companies need solutions that are easy to deploy and integrate with existing systems; that their employees will actually use; and that deliver the most bang for the buck.

That’s where CRM’s Market Leader Awards come in. In this issue, we make sense of the vendor landscape, highlighting the companies whose products stand out without forcing the companies that would deploy them to break the bank.

In this, our 18th annual Market Awards issue, many of the same companies that have led the industry for years continued to shine. A significant change this year, though, was the expansion of the market to accommodate many new vendors. With innovation progressing at a speed unimaginable only a few years ago, new vendors are cropping up all the time, and their influence is almost immediate.

On our leaderboards and “One to Watch” designations this year, we saw plenty of new vendors that have never appeared before. Pegasystems, Freshworks, Copper, SalesLoft, Information Builders, Infosys, and Merkle all made their debuts. And even among industry stalwarts—companies that make the leaderboard every year without fail—some of those vendors gained spots in new market segments, having tailored their products to move upmarket, down-market, or into new segments altogether.

This year’s six Rising Stars and three Influential Leaders clearly demonstrate that there is no shortage of innovation in the CRM industry and give further proof that smaller vendors can still leave a big impression.

We congratulate all of the companies cited in the awards features this year. They have already impressed their customers and the industry analysts and consultants who evaluated them. We’re sure that they will impress you as well, and we hope that this issue will help make your research, due diligence, cost-benefit analysis, and buying decisions easier. After all, you shouldn’t need a Ph.D. to succeed as a CSM.

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

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