• April 10, 2023
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Across CRM Industry Verticals, There’s More That Unites Than Divides

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I’m not one to heap a lot of praise on too many of our politicians these days, but I have to commend the Biden administration for proposing $500 million in new funding to support customer experience improvements at many federal agencies as part of its 2024 budget request.

These funds would be used to stand up or expand customer service operations at many of the 17 federal agencies and hire 120 full-time customer service professionals to staff them, begin voice-of-the-customer initiatives, improve website content, make text messaging and virtual chat agents available as consumer interaction channels, improve access to information, and scale up and modernize data systems.

“This will enhance capabilities to learn directly from the public and identify pain points, analyze customer feedback, and use that information to improve service delivery,” states a Biden administration fact sheet.

Improved customer service by public-sector agencies would certainly be welcome, and it is long overdue. However, unfortunately, the spending spree only applies to the federal government. Sadly, state, city, county, and town governments are not opening their coffers. These are the agencies with which people deal most often, and the services that most of them provide have been notoriously horrible for decades.

The move by the federal government is indeed surprising. After all, the government doesn’t operate under the same business model as private-sector organizations. If I don’t like the service I received from my local motor vehicles, buildings, or police departments, I don’t have the same options to seek the same goods or services somewhere else without relocating to another municipality.

The government is just one industry vertical that is investing heavily in CRM initiatives right now, as our 2023 Vertical Market Spotlight reports indicate. In this section, we look at government and seven other key markets for CRM systems: retail, healthcare, technology, manufacturing, travel/hospitality, financial services, and nonprofits.

While each of these sectors is widely different, there are quite a few commonalities that surfaced in our research. For starters, spending is expected to increase in each of them. Then, there are some technological innovations on which each of them is already relying more heavily or will do so soon: artificial intelligence, automation, cloud, mobility, analytics, data management, and connectors to other key business systems. The reasons for amping up CRM programs are also much the same across most industries: expanding their customer bases, retaining the customers they already have, and getting customers to spend more with them, all while doing so with greater personalization and efficiency and at a lower cost. These are particularly important amid the current economy, which appears to be heading into a recession.

The challenges among many of these sectors are also unique, but here, too, there are quite a few similarities: Customer expectations are higher than ever; good employees are harder to find and keep; data is harder to collect, manage, and analyze; employees need to access systems and information from anywhere; customer calls for privacy protections are growing louder; and the old rules of marketing, sales, and customer service no longer apply.

Every year, there seems to be a new shiny object around which the entire CRM industry rallies. This year, without a doubt, that shiny object is generative AI, with OpenAI’s ChatGPT leading the way. As you read through each of this issue’s eight market spotlight reports, you’d be hard-pressed not to find some discussion of content automation somewhere on those pages. Its uses are many: creating marketing and sales materials, replying to emails and text messages, crafting responses to customer service inquiries, writing blog and social media posts, and making next-best-action and product recommendations.

Across the CRM industry, there is considerable disagreement about whether generative AI is ready for full-scale deployment, whether it has staying power, and how long it will take for bad actors to corrupt it in the same way that they ruined Microsoft’s now-defunct Tay chatbot.

There is one more commonality that cannot be ignored, regardless of the industry in which you work: It’s an exciting time to be involved in the CRM realm, and the business climate couldn’t be better. Make the most of the opportunities that are before you.

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

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