• January 23, 2020
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Let Hope, Not Hype, Be Our Guide in 2020

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IStar Wars: Return of the Jedi, in the lead-up to the climactic showdown between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine warns the young Jedi knight, “You will pay for your lack of vision.”

Luckily, the CRM industry has no shortage of vision. If anything, just the opposite is true. Industry experts of all sorts—from analysts and consultants, to vendors, to end users—have plenty of thoughts about where technology needs to go and what needs to happen to improve customer experiences.

Admittedly, some of that prognostication is biased, as technology vendors look to sway sentiment toward the solutions they offer. But most of it is quite forward-thinking, looking toward a utopian view of customer service where everything is seamless, personalized, instantaneous, integrated, proactive, and targeted.

We present roughly a dozen such predictions in this month’s Insight section. Among the technologies these experts expect to make waves in 2020 and beyond, artificial intelligence, not surprisingly, was top of mind for many. People in the industry have been talking about AI for years, and all the talk is at long last turning into action. CRM system vendors are finally incorporating it into their solutions in meaningful and useful ways.

While AI is a powerful addition to CRM, it is worth noting that the technology took a long time to get here. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is in this industry.

In some cases, it’s because the industry is simply too slow to act. In others, the vision is too far ahead of the technological realities of the time. And in some cases, the technology fails to live up to the hype, causing an industry backlash after just a few failed implementations.

“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,” observes one keen CEO.

Like most in the industry, though, he remains very optimistic. “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,” he predicts.

A big part of the reason that innovation is so slow to take hold in the industry is the short time frame that customer experience leaders are given to prove a return on their technology investments, another story in our Insight section points out. Very few executives have more than a year to show the value of these investments, and if they cannot quickly prove a project’s worth, technologies are too hastily abandoned.

That is already the case with wireless 5G networks, the subject of this month’s cover story, “2020: The 5G Revolution Begins.” In the article, industry experts weigh in on the wide collection of benefits that 5G will bring to marketing, sales, and customer service, but they also warn that it could take, conservatively, between five and 10 years for the technology to live up to the hype.

It’s the same with customer data platforms (CDPs), as highlighted in our second feature, “Customer Data Platforms Emerge as Marketing’s Latest Holy Grail.” The CRM industry has been crying out for decades for technology that will finally give business leaders a single view of the customer. And now that CDPs have stepped into that role, the technology has not yet fulfilled marketers’ dreams, for most of the same reasons, the article points out.

And let’s not forget the omnipresent promise of omnichannel. Despite the most ardent desire to accommodate all consumers on their preferred channels, only 13 percent of consumers believe that companies can actually do so, as highlighted in our third feature, “Channels Collide as Physical and Digital Converge.” 

Some delays are just part of the normal course of business. Others are not, causing needless and unacceptable delays. As long as new technologies are available, the industry shouldn’t have to wait so long to take advantage of them. So in 2020, let’s resolve to do better. Let this new year be filled with hope, not hype, and let’s give technology the chance to lead us where we need to go.

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

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