This is a guest blogpost by Larry Augustin, CEO, SugarCRM.
It’s a perennial discussion: what’s going to be making headlines in the world of business technology in the coming twelve months? Usually, this brand of prediction piece is little more than a few half-baked thoughts thrown together to fill a few column inches, not to mention the fact that change in any industry is invariably slow and difficult to frame in twelve month chunks.
However, I do believe that in 2017 we’re going to see the beginnings of some serious shifts in the CRM market: general advancements in key technology areas like Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), along with a continued focus on modernisation among legacy CRM users in areas of social, mobile and user experience. All this will lead to some interesting changes in the market for both vendors and practitioners.
With this in mind, here are six predictions that I think may well make CRM headlines over the year.
Predictive analytics becomes the norm
The promise of predictive analytics has been talked up for quite some time. But as more companies eschew old-model SaaS deployments for cloud-based CRM and data warehousing, the throughput and storage issues that hindered truly predictive analytics initiatives will start to go away. This happens because the analytics are embedded in the application, at the point of usage. In reality, what we’re really seeing is what I call “embedded analytics”; analytics that may not technically be predictive, but is an integral part of the application.
Companies looking to better know their customers, and provide truly proactive service and delivery models, will be the first to take up predictive analytics. This will be put to best use in retention and servicing – the “give the customer what they need before they realize they need it” scenario, rather than the “offer someone something they might want to buy.” The benefits to retention of the former are huge, versus the intrusive and sometimes risky path of “best offer” models of predictive analytics.
Businesses get thirsty for more
The trend towards more modern, flexible CRM technology is going to continue. As legacy systems begin to really show their age, businesses looking for a truly integrated, seamless cloud-based CRM product, with engaging mobile user experiences, are going to have a number of options. This will be the year of the CRM maverick, with rewards for those looking to break the status quo and build exciting, different and innovative custom deployments that meet the demands of tomorrow’s customer.
AI gets ever closure
There were many announcements and concept-type demos around AI-powered CRM from various providers in 2016 but nothing of any material weight has been released for general use. I believe we’ll see the same in 2017: everyone will continue to talk about AI, but we are still a couple of years away from getting the technology in the hands of users.
While both SugarCRM and Salesforce will be releasing “1.0” versions of products they are aligning with AI, truly AI-powered CRM will not be available until 2018 at the earliest. Why? Because this is hard stuff, and even deep-pocketed providers have development issues to resolve before really bringing broadly available AI-powered tools to market.
Data, Data, Data
The battle for data-enriched CRM will continue to heat up in 2017. Data is a great way to extend the value of CRM to businesses of all sizes, especially those in the small-to mid-size range. By providing pre-populated data sets, the amount of “busy work” done by sales and other CRM users is reduced, and the better the data, the more effective individuals can be every moment of the day.
A lot of mergers and acquisitions as well as in-house development and partnerships, will fuel more data-powered CRM announcements in 2017. The key, of course, is seeing which providers provide the most seamless and most sensible use cases out of the box for their customers.
Customer experience – the key differentiator
Some may find it a bit ironic, but it is actually more disappointing that most CRM user organisations do not have a great relationship with their CRM vendor. If we are truly selling the promise of exceptional customer relationships as an industry, we need to walk the walk as well.
I hear all too often from prospects how the “market leaders” come to the table with arrogance, terrible terms and an overall unfriendly demeanor. That has to change. In short, just being “number one” or a multi-billion-pound company means nothing. CIOs and line-of-business decision makers know that there are alternatives on the market.
Mobile CRM takes a new direction
Mobile CRM is nothing new, far from it. However, at a time when both internal users and customers are demanding truly flexible interactions with companies then mobile development is more important than ever before.
Mobile CRM is no longer about “shrinking” the mobile app to fit the smart phone or tablet screen real estate. It is no longer about offline access; to really nail mobile CRM in 2017, organisations will need more than just extension apps but rather entire platforms, inextricably linked to their core CRM. It should be fast, easy and cost-effective for companies to build wholly new and customer-focused mobile experiences (whether the user be an employee or a customer) but if this isn’t done in the coming year then it’s probably going to be too late.
So, those are my handful of predictions for the CRM world in 2017. If there’s a unifying theme, then it’s that customer demands continue to change quickly and companies need to work harder than ever to keep up. It’s a challenge but also an exciting opportunity to make headway in a world that’s increasingly customer-centric.