Current State of CRM 2019

Monday, December 31, 2018
Christopher Sirk
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CRM.ORG is a knowledge hub for all things work: digital tools, customer service relationship software, and other innovative methodologies for exploring work-related relationships. In “What is a CRM?”, we break down the meaning of the three-letter monster that is CRM and explore the history, benefits, and features of the customer relationship software.  
 
 

On the cusp of 2019, CRMLand is a crowded place. Over 500 different platforms vye for your precious everyday usage.

2018 saw CRM software moving further afield from its roots in early 2000s Office Space ugly-chic. Time-consuming and pricey legacy software is way out. Eye-pleasing, streamlined, and affordable software is in.

New wave CRMs are refining the user and customer experience, emphasizing intelligent, holistic relationship management from supplier to customer, from team to public. Increasingly sophisticated automation and data-driven features are changing the game when it comes to team productivity and scaling your business.

There’s never been a better time to ditch the app jumble and go in on an all-in-one communications platform.

It’s no longer super annoying to implement a CRM

2018 confirmed the year-on-year uptrend of CRM adoption rates. The software’s market size has tripled since 2010 and is now probably the fastest growing type worldwide.

New wave software is much, much easier to learn and implement than legacy programs. Drag and drop, customizable modular interfaces are becoming de rigueur. A new general emphasis on graphic design and minimalism has been heightening the curb appeal of CRM.

In the past, tedious manual data entry requirements of legacy CRM created a demoralizing barrier to using them. That’s all over now. Automation of data entry is a major feature of new wave CRMs.

Meanwhile, cloud-based services have almost totally replaced on-site software deployment. That means it takes far less internal resources to maintain a CRM system and makes them accessible cross-platform from web to mobile apps.

More and more developers have embraced complete accessibility across the spectrum of iPhone, Android, PC, and Mac.

Small businesses are now able to implement a CRM platform without breaking their brains or budgets. Now that there's easy-to-use CRMs that are either cheap or free, even contract workers and freelancers are starting to use them.

Beyond the sales process: key features of new CRM systems  

CRMs were traditionally dedicated to sales and marketing, full stop. But the sales process is no longer as linear as it once was. The social media savvy public has become ever more picky and inclined to being influenced by word-of-mouth, rather than any targeted ad campaign.

As a result, competition to reach users and keep up with trends in online behavior has only intensified.

Social media continues to be a key platform for advertising, customer engagement, and communication with the public at large. These days, a positive interaction on social media is worth its weight in cryptocurrency, making a user 71% more likely to buy stuff from your business.

Hence the rise of the social CRM. Social media management has gone way beyond aggregating posts, finding new ways to get to the bottom of this ever-deepening social media wormhole.

Sprout and Hootsuite both stake their value on social media derived insights for marketing, sales, and general visibility.

To get a handle on the increasingly atomized sales process, CRM developers have been beefing up the three A’s: analytics, AI, and automation.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence have brought in new streamlining automation and assistance in managing relationships.

CRM data tracking can cull an incredible amount of information across platforms, while analytics and reporting functions help direct overall sales strategy. Intelligent syncing of cross-channel data and marketing automation has made it possible for sales teams to rapidly personalize interactions with customers.

Select platforms have implemented speech recognition and NLP (natural language processing) technology to transcribe sales and support voice calls in real-time, automatically generating relevant insights on important details.

Part and parcel to this is the development of real-time sentiment analysis. Trainable AI can listen in on text and voice conversations, providing real-time feedback and applicable information about product pricing, features, and a customer’s specific case history.

Predictive intelligence uses analytics to sift through data and find patterns in customer behavior, offering tips to your sales team about what offers to make and when based on precedent and observed probabilities.

Speaking on a more general level, analytics tools have improved to offer major insights on long-term strategy, allowing you to see all the potentially crucial, evolving micro-details the naked eye can’t.

Re-focusing customer experience and user experience

With all the relevant information at your fingertips, it’s easier to harness customer empathy and provide an authentic, informed interaction. CRMs can now enhance the overall customer experience in a profound way.

On the other side, workflow and collaboration tools have evolved to produce a more cohesive communications experience for your business. CRMs have gotten better and better at facilitating interactions between team members, as well as coordination with external stakeholders like suppliers and distributors.

Meanwhile, contact relationship management tools like Radar have emerged to address the needs of creative agencies, with their ever-rotating project-to-project talent rosters. Finding, retaining, and coordinating talent is finally becoming less of an app jumble.

From a user and customer standpoint, the net effect is reducing structural friction. That’s a game changer on so many levels—from hiring the right person to targeting the right customer, facilitating more authentic and empathetic interactions all around.

CRMs in flux

CRMs are getting more lean, more agile, and more intuitive over time.

The irreversible trend is moving towards intelligent automation that lets the human element shine through. By getting rid of guesswork, tedious tasks, and scavenger hunts across different apps and hard drives, more and more time is freed up for what’s important—the customer relationship.

Looking back over the past year, some key features on the up-and-up emerge: natural language processing, AI, predictive intelligence, and advanced voice and social media analytics.

CRMs are getting better and better at social, letting you compete in an era of decentralization and mind-bogglingly huge volumes of data production. They’re also getting more serious about what’s on the inside (of your business), addressing the equal trickiness of maintaining top talent and growing your network.

In other words, they’re fast becoming something like a business necessity. And somehow, some way, they’re also becoming more ‘cool’ at the same time.

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