Six Top Innovating CRM Companies for 2021: The CRM Conversation Starters

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The pandemic has been tragic and tough for all of us, full stop. But if there has been a small upside, it lies in how we all have adapted to the digital methods necessary to keep us connected, not to mention businesses operating and connected with their customers. It’s in that spirit that we’ve rechristened our Rising Star awards as the Conversation Starters, meaning the companies that have drawn the most attention in the past year for their innovations and activity and, just as important, contributed to keeping the conversation alive between business and customer—that all-important bond through which both parties’ needs are met, leading to richer relationships. Whether it’s by personalizing service, offering new options for business-customer communication, or securing trust by protecting sensitive data, these six vendors did their part to continue the conversation. Read on for more of their accomplishments. —the Editors

The engine that drives Amazon is clearly e-commerce, but customer service is certainly not an afterthought. The Seattle-based tech giant’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2017 launched Amazon Connect, a suite of cloud-based contact center services that leverage the artificial intelligence powering Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant to handle contact center interactions, and it has been steadily improving Connect ever since. Read more here.

Facebook, together with its Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger services, has been providing businesses with opportunities to interact with customers—and vice versa—for quite some time, but until recently, few would consider Facebook a customer service company. That all changed in December 2020 when the social media giant acquired Kustomer, a provider of CRM systems that enable businesses to manage customer interactions across channels, for $1 billion. Read more here.

It’s been a bumpy ride for Qualtrics the past few years. In late 2018, the company was acquired by SAP for $8 billion. Then in July 2020 SAP announced that it was spinning out Qualtrics, giving it back its independence. The company, which maintains headquarters in Seattle and Provo, Utah, has made a few significant acquisitions on its own since then. Its most recent was the purchase of Clarabridge, a provider of omnichannel conversational analytics, for $1.1 billion in late July. Read more here.

Uniphore has been in business since 2008, but for much of that time, it operated mostly in India. Then in December 2019 it opened a U.S. office in Palo Alto, Calif., and the company has been seeing tremendous company and customer momentum ever since. An office in Singapore is also providing a base for expansion into Southeast Asia. A conversational artificial intelligence technology company, Uniphore sells software for conversational analytics, conversational assistance, and conversational security. Read more here.

Zendesk has been providing customer service software since its early days and just last year launched Sales Suite, a fully integrated solution that automatically tracks all sales-related activities to provide sellers with context and insight. Sales Suite includes Zendesk Sell, Chat, Reach, and Voice and allows companies to access multiple channels, such as email, texting, and voice; speak with prospects directly on the website and convert them to a lead from a single interface; and give access to prospecting and data enrichment powered by Clearbit to personalize the sales dashboard. Read more here.

Zoom Video Communications last year became the de facto platform for businesses’ internal and external communications amid COVID-19 lockdowns, when in-person meetings were not possible. But like Facebook, the San Jose, Calif., company couldn’t really be considered a CRM company. That changed with its recent acquisition of Five9, a provider of cloud contact center systems, in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $14.7 billion. Read more here.

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