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10 CRM Trends to Watch in 2017

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To gain an edge on their competition, salespeople, for instance, will rely on tools to streamline product and price configurations, personalized customer recommendations, price negotiations, and general support interactions. If a salesperson can save 10 minutes or a half hour speaking into a mobile device to log notes about a sales meeting, that’s time better spent elsewhere.

It’s fortunate that with technological developments, “more firms are starting to mine the gold they have in their CRM systems,” observes Jim Dickie, a research fellow at CSO Insights. For decades, he says, managers have told salespeople to enter data into CRM, and now with more options, users can analyze that wealth of Big Data to glean insights into prospect profiling, pricing optimization, fact-based forecasting, proactive churn identification, and other areas that demand attention.

8. ADOPTION WILL RISE (FINALLY).

Look for technology to also continue to help the CRM industry overcome the adoption challenges that have long been its greatest obstacle. Because it was a chore, many professionals simply didn’t like to use CRM. Gamification is one way software vendors are making it more enjoyable to use CRM systems. Companies like Badgeville (recently acquired by CallidusCloud) offer tools that are meant to stimulate competition and participation among sales teams and individuals.

But if they have any hope of driving employee engagement across the board, gamification tools will need to be easy to use, experts maintain. Indeed, vendors have placed a heavy focus on making tools that resemble what professionals have grown accustomed to in their personal lives.

Liu-Thompkins observes, for example, that compelling visualizations and displays have helped marketing and sales professionals make better use of Big Data to gain actionable insights that lead to desired outcomes. “It took the technology role out a little bit, because the regular marketing and sales individuals might be able to use these tools and not have to struggle a whole lot in terms of what the data really means,” she says.

At the same time, the ability to leverage complex technologies is reaching everyday users, according to Leggett. One need not be a data scientist in a lab coat, capable of building out sophisticated algorithms and models, to make an impact, she says; CRM vendors have been making concerted efforts to infuse their products with predictive and prescriptive analytics that put intelligent recommendations in the hands of ordinary business users.

9. CRM WILL BECOME A LITTLE MORE VERTICAL.

While it is by no means becoming the norm for companies to invest in CRM systems that are designed specifically for use in one industry or another, analysts point out that larger CRM vendors are offering additional software and services that apply to a number of verticals.

Ament says that “embedding industry-specific and repeatable workflow business processes into customer engagement interactions” will pick up even more steam in the coming months. “This is especially evident in process-driven industries such as pharmaceuticals, financial services, and manufacturing sectors.”

Leggett argues that the trend is veering toward a more “lightweight verticalization.” The new software packages, she says, are “not the heavyweight vertical offerings that people had a decade ago that scripted the end-to-end industry process. It’s more the lightweight verticalization to offer data models, user experiences, UI labels, and extensions for a particular industry.”

Leggett points out that Microsoft has 32 industry templates, and Oracle 16 or 17. Similarly, Salesforce.com offers Financial Services and Health Clouds. “And again, it’s not end-to-end, deep verticalization, but giving companies a jumping-off point to allow them to leverage [the] industry expertise of CRM vendors for these lightweight vertical processes,” she says.

10. CRM WILL START TO EXPLORE ENHANCED REALITIES.

Cutting-edge technologies that involve enhanced realities, notably virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), are still in their early days, but the future of CRM has room for them all. In fact, Forrester Research predicts that limitations around AR/VR/MR tools will start to erode as companies experiment with them and set the stage for larger implementations.

The foundation was laid in 2016 with the Pokémon Go game, which inspired consumers and businesses alike to take notice. While the use cases for augmented reality are still a bit narrow, more widespread adoption isn’t far off.

“Augmented reality is there for field service,” Leggett says. For instance, making use of video can allow a service technician to call a more senior employee to get a second opinion. By layering on augmented reality, he can guide the junior technician without having to be there himself.

When it comes to these types of applications—or any other business application, for that matter—company leaders this year will be inundated with all sorts of new technologies promising to revolutionize customer experiences. They will have a world of choices, from both tried-and-true industry staples to some innovative and unfamiliar start-ups. That’s why, when entering into any of these spaces, business leaders will need to do their homework now more than ever.  

Associate Editor Oren Smilansky can be reached at osmilansky@infotoday.com.

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