• April 10, 2024
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

CRM Is Good, Even in the Bad Times

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Regardless of how the politicians try to spin it, the economy is a top concern this election year. Consumers are struggling, and so are businesses across just about every industry vertical. Consumers are spending less; competition is tougher than ever; and it’s getting harder and more expensive for companies to retain existing customers and acquire new ones. Add to that changing consumer habits, preferences, buying patterns, and expectations; a growing need and desire for buy-now-pay-later arrangements that delay revenue collection; ongoing supply chain issues; a rise in shoplifting and other retail crimes; mounting cost pressures and limited resources that have led to higher prices; staffing shortages and worker productivity problems; and low consumer confidence, and it’s no wonder so many companies are having a hard time these days.

Our writers heard this over and over again from many of the sources they interviewed for our eight Vertical Markets Spotlight reports this year. The market segments we cover in this issue—education, gaming, telecommunications, media/entertainment, transportation, utilities, real estate/property management, and professional services—face some challenges that are unique to their specific industries. Real estate pros, for example, are being knee-capped by high home values and interest rates. Transportation companies are being undermined by high gas prices, aging equipment, and a shortage of qualified personnel. Utilities are being pushed to their limits by aging infrastructure and the push to find and adopt greener energy sources. And media and entertainment companies are being forced to embrace digital channels and formats and de-emphasize or abandon the traditional channels and formats they’ve used since their founding.

And unlike the eight verticals that we covered in 2023—financial services, healthcare, government, manufacturing, retail/e-commerce, technology, travel/hospitality, and nonprofits—many of the companies in the eight verticals this year are smaller firms that don’t have the same resources and revenue sources as their larger counterparts. Last year’s verticals expected to see sharp increases in spending on CRM initiatives and technologies. This year’s reports show much less likelihood for huge budget outlays and resource allocations for CRM.

But that’s a bad prescription for companies looking to address lingering marketing, service, and sales problems. “It’s the perfect time to make investments in CRM solutions,” says Mark Wilkinson, senior vice president of the Utility Solutions Group at Ibex Digital.

“While upfront investments and adjustments may be required, the long-term benefits in improved efficiency, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth justify the investment,” says Erman Kuplu, CEO of Analyzify.

For companies in this year’s eight verticals, the biggest gains from CRM deployments can be expected in worker productivity. Essentially, these companies need to work smarter. They must manage their time more effectively, prioritize tasks more intelligently, and meet deadlines more consistently.

Unlike in 2023, CRM in 2024 is far more empowered by artificial intelligence, specifically generative AI, which is making these productivity gains possible. In early 2023, generative AI was just starting to appear on the scene; today it is far more embedded in CRM solutions from just about each and every vendor. The new AI technologies that have come out in just the past year support the intelligent automation, data optimization, streamlined workflows, content generation, and personalization efforts that all positively affect how frontline workers in customer service, marketing, and sales roles across verticals do their jobs every day.

“By leveraging the latest CRM technologies, companies can gain a deeper understanding of their audiences, personalize marketing efforts, streamline sales processes, and enhance customer service,” says Kayden Roberts, chief marketing officer at CamGo.

The bottom line for businesses in this issue’s eight verticals, but also in all other verticals, is that customers today have more choices and higher expectations and generate more data than ever before. The need for industries of all kinds to have 360-degree views of their customers, employees, and business processes has also never been greater, and that’s where CRM becomes crucial, regardless of company type, size, and industry.

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

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