What Lies Ahead for CRM?
For the past few years, CRM analysts, consultants, system integrators, and vendors have been touting artificial intelligence and related technologies for their potential to reshape how marketers, sellers, and customer service personnel do their jobs. And every year we hear countless predictions that this will be the year that AI takes over. Well, it looks like that notion is finally gaining steam and might happen in 2020, as reflected in the thoughts of industry insiders this year. Read on for more of what your peers are thinking.
"In the past, marketers have been focused on vanity metrics like clicks, but what they want now is to drive conversions. The power of artificial intelligence- and machine learning-assisted customer intelligence will play a much larger role for marketers and deliver on actual conversions."
—JAMES MCDERMOTT, CEO OF LYTICS
"AI will continue to make its impact on retail stores. However, in 2020, the technology will allow stores to market to each single customer, and not just a segment of individuals. Companies will become more interested in exploring direct-to-consumer selling options, which allow them to collect customer data to create more personalized shopping experiences and lifelong customers."
—CHARLES NICHOLLS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND GLOBAL HEAD OF UPSCALE COMMERCE AT SAP CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
MORE SOPHISTICATED BOTS
"Bots are no longer limited to simplistic customer interactions. They use natural language processing to better comprehend the user's intent and deliver useful, appropriate responses. With more conversations being successfully navigated by bots, brands will increase their usage to improve response times and drive greater contact center efficiencies."
—IDO BORNSTEIN-HA COHEN, CEO OF CONVERSOCIAL
"In 2016-2017, chatbots were the future of business, but when the high expectations met the technical brittleness of technology, the market quickly cooled on the idea. Now four years later, better natural language processing algorithms and a more mature technological infrastructure means we’ll start seeing some notable success stories and enthusiasm will climb."
—JEFF CATLIN, CEO OF LEXALYTICS
"One universal theme we hear over and over is how gnarly the marketing tech stack has become, with 50 to 100 different tools with little to no real integration. It's time to look beyond marketing technology designed for lead-based models and retrofitted with AI insights. Leading marketers will replace disparate solutions with one cohesive account-based platform built with AI and Big Data as the core."
—LATANE CONANT, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER AT 6SENSE
"2020 will become the year of experiences. Promoting products will no longer be the marketer's main end game. As more businesses reposition themselves as service providers, they will need to retool their marketing strategies to demonstrate the full experience of what it's like to engage with the brand. Examples are already taking hold in several markets. This trend will only accelerate in the new year."
—TOM LIBRETTO, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER AT PEGASYSTEMS
"In 2020, we can expect to see the user experience undergo a significant shift in how customers perceive the digital world and engage with brands. Key technologies, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality, will shift the horizon of experience design by combining perception and interaction models to help create a multisensory approach to brand experiences. As a result, customers will look beyond products and will be loyal to brands that can deliver consistent experiences across all sensory touchpoints."
—NALI GILIANA, VICE PRESIDENT OF DIGITAL EXPERIENCE AT OPENTEXT
"Mobile CRM is moving from being an add-on to becoming a piece of core functionality. CRM systems need to enable sales teams to track and update their complete sales cycles from their phones. Going further, we can expect numerous core CRM features, including customization, to be mobile-first as opposed to features getting adapted for mobile usage after they've been built for desktop."
—RAJU VEGNESA, CHIEF EVANGELIST AT ZOHO
BIGGER AND BETTER DATA
"Customer data quality, internal accessibility, and predictability will continue to improve and expand. This information will be viewed as a valuable asset that yields great competitive advantage, as evident by how loyalty leaders use customer information and insights. In parallel, organizations will greatly expand the gathering, analyzing, and actioning of many existing new customer signals that are not captured today."
—BRIAN ANDREWS, A SENIOR CX PRINCIPAL AT MEDALLIA
THE ROI OF CX
"CX leaders will have to prove ROI more concretely, and CX initiatives will have to tie more closely to financial results, such as reduced churn or revenue growth. As such, CX will move toward business unit leaders, and the role of the [chief customer officer] will grow in prominence."
—GANESH SUBRAMANIAN, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AT GAINSIGHT
THE ELEVATION OF CUSTOMER SUPPORT
"In 2020, the digital transformation conversation that has become commonplace across IT will extend into the customer service center. We will begin to see the impact and value of support data being shared across the enterprise. Customer feedback, sentiment, profile data, and more will be securely shared across organizations, helping teams such as marketing, sales, and product development to make more strategic decisions. And as a result, the importance and value of customer support will be elevated as a whole."
—ANAND JANEFALKAR, FOUNDER AND CEO OF UJET
Editor's Note: Since the print deadline for CRM magazine's January/February 2020 issue, we received several other predictions from CRM industry insiders. They appear below:
“While personalization has been segment-driven in the past, in 2020 the technology will be used to create more contextually relevant experiences for the shopper, from the offer to the products and content, even how the content is displayed. Customer-centricity will be fully realized because machine learning models will actually understand each customer individually, giving retailers the ability to send relevant emails to customers if they haven’t visited their websites recently or have outstanding wishlist items, for example.”
--- GRAHAM COOKE, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER OF QUBIT
"In 2020, the valuation and competitiveness of companies will increasingly be linked to intangible assets of customer experience and brand valuation. This requires CMOs to take greater ownership of the customer journey, product innovation, sales enablement, corporate values, and employee experience. Marketers must ensure brand promises are met across the organization, responding to the needs of an increasingly diverse, demanding, and global customer base."
--- PATTY NAGLE, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER AT OPENTEXT
"AI will play an integral role in a delivering superior customer experience in 2020. Today, we still have traditional IVRs and call centers where customers need to wait in queue, use dual-tone multifrequency signaling (DTMF) input, etc. In 2020 and beyond, that process will be automated, and customers will immediately be connected to a smart voice assistant that can solve the problem with ease. Not only that, the customer experience will be personalized according to the customer profile. Because of this, we can expect to see a hyper-personalized business model emerge as businesses use AI to reach their customer demographics and delivery support options in the preferred format of the customer."
--- ALEXEY AYLAROV, CEO OF VOXIMPLANT
"As retailers and brands fight to capture attention, they're embracing AI technologies to deliver personalized promotional messages. They recognize the importance of context, timing, and relevancy in offering customers the right product or discount, but it will become increasingly important that the appearance of the message is personalized too. The human brain is built to retain and respond to visual information, and winning retailers will be the ones that realize it's just as critical to personalize the underlying image as the message served up with it."
--- GARY BALLABIO, DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AT CLOUDINARY
"Consumers will be more loyal to brands that let them choose how to interact. This means the option to choose the content of the communication they get, the channel on which they receive it, and the ability to opt out. Recent research from Twilio shows that seven out of 10 consumers will reward brands for communicating with them in the ways they prefer."
--- SARA VARNI, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER AT TWILIO
"In 2020, the companies that succeed will focus on coaching employees at scale and keeping it fresh with market trend changes. AI will be necessary to scale these efforts—especially in a function like sales where churn is high and career moves are fast—but coaching too often takes a back seat compared to meeting targets."
--- ROBIN GROCHOL, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF PRODUCT MANAGEMENT FOR SALESCLOUD AT SALESFORCE
"In 2020, companies will need to figure out how to seamlessly introduce new technologies into the service center to drive real business benefits like margin improvement or cost reduction. The key to success in service will be taking a human-centric approach that combines AI-powered tools with human agents to deliver intelligent service while ensuring empathy remains a priority."
--- BILL PATTERSON, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER OF SERVICE CLOUD AT SALESFORCE
"Elite brands, such as Amazon, Google, Nike, Starbucks, and Target, are driving consumer expectations higher every day. Customer experiences with these brands impact the interactions consumers have with other businesses, no matter how big or small, online or offline. Creating a CX strategy should no longer focus on what competitors are doing; the goal is now striving for best-in-class CX.
Walmart founder Sam Walton was known for his personal dedication to observing and directly interacting with customers. As Walmart grew, Walton maintained the same level of curiosity and empathy, talking to customers, and even Walmart truck drivers, to learn as much as he could about the experience the company was providing. More CEOs will begin to follow this example and work to establish a customer-facing initiative at their organizations tied to immersion hours in which employees at all levels will be required to devote time to specific tasks that involve interacting with and better understanding customers to build greater customer intuition."
--- JANELLE ESTES, CHIEF INSIGHTS OFFICER AT USERTEXT