CRM Technology Trends: New Tech for Customer Experience Transformation
The days of competing solely on product and price are over. Now more than ever, business revolves around the customer—and the experiences you provide them will make or break your brand.
How do you create the type of experiences that woo prospects, inspire customers, and keep everyone coming back for more? By using CRM technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), and the Internet of Things (IoT) to your advantage.
AI and CRM: turning data into value with artificial intelligence and machine learning
Customer and market data volumes are exploding—streaming into CRM systems from more channels and sources than ever before. But humans can’t keep up, at least not without AI and machine learning (ML). These technologies can make sense of big data, harness it, and learn from it in ways we simply can’t. And when AI and ML are applied to CRM, the possibilities are endless.
Intelligent CRM automation
Intelligent automation—the combination of AI and robotic process automation (RPA)—is having a profound impact on CRM. With intelligent automation, bots can not only automate manual, time-consuming tasks like data entry, they can automate more complex processes like customer segmentation, predictive lead scoring, and sales forecasting.
Lead scoring, for example, used to be based on salesperson intuition and educated guesses. With AI, machine learning algorithms can study massive data sets, understand how deals are won and lost, recognize patterns, and identify triggers in the customer’s journey. The algorithm can then automatically apply its learning to the entire sales pipeline and score each lead based on fact, not instinct.
By automating key CRM processes, sales, service, and marketing teams can free up their time to focus on more valuable activities—like meeting customer needs and improving their experiences. Automation can also help you widen your net as it gives you the bandwidth to nurture more relationships through the buyer’s journey, identify cross and up-sell opportunities, and increase your overall revenue.
Traditional personalization includes strategies like using a customer’s first name in a subject line or sending out a special offer to everyone tagged with the same buyer persona. But hyper-personalization goes way, way beyond these now old-school capabilities.
Hyper-personalization takes everything into account—not just customer profiles and transaction history, but online behavior, social media posts, conversational styles, timing and context of past purchases, device type, GPS data, and so much more. Using this big data along with artificial intelligence, hyper-personalization can more accurately interpret customer intentions, pick up on subtleties, and deliver highly tailored customer experiences. It can display specially curated products, services, promotions, content, and recommendations to each and every customer—automatically and at scale.
Chatbots are a game changer for CRM. These AI-powered programs simulate conversations with customers via websites, text messages, messaging apps, and over the phone in a natural, increasingly human way.
Chatbots are used for customer service, marketing, e-commerce, and sales. They can answer basic questions much faster than a rep can—no cheesy hold music required—and they work 24/7. Chatbots can follow-up post-purchase, offer support, collect feedback and conduct surveys, and recommend personalized products and content based on past interactions.
They can also act as virtual assistants for the sellers, marketers, and customer service agents who use CRM—making their jobs easier and improving their productivity and effectiveness. CRM chatbots can empower users with in-the-moment insights, prompts and alerts, recommendations, and next-best actions. During live interactions, chatbots can even determine the next likely question, suggest resolutions, and help the employee strike the right conversational tone.
AI-powered customer analytics
Too often there is a mismatch between what customers want and what companies think they want. AI-powered CRM analytics can fix this issue—analyzing an ocean of data from all sorts of sources to uncover customer insights that would otherwise remain hidden. The technology has the power to research and analyze thousands, even millions, of customers to pinpoint their needs, preferences, and interests and help customer-facing teams deliver the products, services, content, and experiences they actually want—in real time.
AI customer analytics can also dramatically improve sales forecasting, enhance behavior and sentiment analysis, predict potential churn and retention issues, and power one-to-one marketing initiatives.
Creating immersive customer experiences with virtual and augmented reality
AR and VR are beginning to play a larger role in CRM and CX. The immersive technology—and low-cost hardware—have moved beyond the gaming industry and into the realm of marketing, sales, e-commerce, and customer service. Many forward-looking companies are connecting AR and VR apps to their CRM systems to deliver delightful—and differentiated—experiences throughout the customer journey.
First, a quick note on the difference between AR and VR:
VR is a computer-generated environment that shuts out the real world. Immersive VR experiences are delivered via headsets, or more economically, via smartphones mounted in a cardboard box, like Google Cardboard.
AR, on the other hand, overlays digital content on a real environment. AR-based customer experiences can be delivered via smart glasses, AR apps on smartphones, or specialized screens.
With VR, for example, construction companies can walk investors through an immersive virtual environment that shows how a building will look when complete. Or realtors can deliver VR walkthroughs and real estate tours to provide a better buyer experience, speed up sales, and cater to overseas clients.
AR has even greater potential. Augmented shopping experiences, for example, are one of the biggest trends in the retail industry. With AR technology, consumers can point their phone at a product and get more information—or extras like recipes, games, and offers. Shoppers can also virtually try on anything, from clothing and shoes to accessories and makeup, using the camera on their device. They can picture how furniture will look in their homes, or even experiment with different paint colors.
Some innovative retailers are also using AR to transform in-store experiences with smart mirrors. These mirrors have a range of capabilities. Fashion-lovers can see a 360-degree view of themselves in an outfit without physically trying anything on. They can compare outfits side-by-side, change the size or color, get recommendations for complimentary items, ask friends for their opinions on social media, and much more.
Businesses aren’t just using virtual reality and augmented reality in marketing, sales, and e-commerce—they’re also applying it to customer service. AR apps, for example, can let customers hold their phone up to a broken product to get more information about parts, explain complicated issues to agents, or access relevant troubleshooting tips. Many companies are also offering AR user manuals—where users can point their phone at anything, like a car part, and get information on how to complete routine tasks and maintenance.
IoT: getting more personal—and proactive—with IoT data
IDC estimates there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices by 2025. That’s about five smart devices for every person on Earth.
Companies are clearly working hard to design and build these smart products, but the real magic happens when they connect them to their CRM system. By leveraging the massive amounts of IoT data coming into their CRM, they can dramatically transform the customer experience.
IoT in customer service and field service
In customer service and field service, if there was an issue or product malfunction pre-IoT, the customer would have to explain the problem as best they could to a service rep, the rep would try to troubleshoot, and, failing that, the rep would dispatch a technician. By connecting IoT device feeds to CRM, service departments can monitor product data, detect lapses in performance, and identify the cause of the problem before the customer even notices there’s an issue. The CRM system can automatically create a service ticket, order the right part, and schedule a field service technician with minimal involvement from the customer—if any.
This proactive approach to maintenance and service increases customer satisfaction—as well as rep and technician efficiency. It’s a win-win.
IoT in marketing and sales
In marketing and sales, sensor data flowing into your CRM system can let you know how, when, and where your products are being used by individual customers. Using this insight, marketers can deliver hyper-personalized content and offers at just the right time. And sales teams can identify highly relevant cross and up-sell opportunities—and encourage repeat sales.
With IoT data, sales and marketing people can get to know customer needs, wants, and behaviors on a much deeper level—and deliver the types of experiences that make them feel valued and understood.
Mobile CRM: putting CRM into employee pockets and improving their responsiveness
Mobile CRM—apps that let sales, service, and marketing teams access their most important tools on the go—has been on every major CRM technology list for a decade. But it’s not a bygone trend. Mobile usage has only continued to grow, along with employee expectations for intuitive CRM apps, remote work, and flexible hours.
Employees expect to be able to access customer information, track and complete daily tasks, receive notifications and reminders, easily respond to customers, nurture relationships, and collaborate with their teams—from anywhere. Integration with third-party tools like calendars is a must, as is high-quality activity tracking, excellent security, and an offline mode.
In addition to empowering on-the-go employees, mobile CRM can help your team ensure customers are getting the best possible experience at all times. With real-time notifications and alerts, your people can quickly respond to customers on any channel, including social media. And with access to up-to-date information, they do so with the right background and context.