CRM Solutions - virtually all of us have them, and for the most part they form the cornerstone of our sales and marketing technology stack. The technology has certainly come a long way since its early incarnation in Lotus Notes, with today’s leaders in the field helping businesses systemise relationships and sales opportunities.
However, simply having a means to capture, maintain and share a consistent record of basic account data is a bit like calling a gym membership the answer to health and fitness. Expensive and underutilised, it often doesn’t turn out to be the silver bullet that delivers real and lasting results. Growing commercial pressure to boost productivity, increased competition, and customer demand for more sophisticated, intelligent and responsive engagement, means that for many of us, CRM has become outdated.
Here is the crux of the problem. CRM solutions are static environments but the customer’s world is changing every day. Contact and account data only provide a snapshot from when it was last updated – usually manually, by time-pressured sales and marketing professionals – rather than dynamic up-to-the minute commercially relevant and actionable insights. Compounding this issue further is the sheer volume of information businesses need to grapple with. With the evolution of digital media, the amount of information grows at an exponential rate year on year. Often unstructured, this information is increasingly hard to rationalise and interpret, let alone act on.
Sales and marketing operations that function without a dynamic stream of business intelligence suffer several inevitable consequences. Opportunities to respond to real-time customer news and market insight are missed; trust and adoption for the solution wanes as the accuracy of high volumes of data comes into question; time spent updating the system reduces productivity and detracts from valuable externally facing activities. This means that customers looking for instant action and results are left disappointed, deals are lost through mistakes, errors in messaging and targeting become more frequent, and forecasting accuracy diminishes as emerging trends go unnoticed.
CRM solutions, if they are to maintain their place as the cornerstone of sales and marketing investment, need to evolve – and sooner rather than later.
The future lies in intelligent CRM’s, ones that combine static ‘dumb’ database information with automated intelligence gathering, for a dynamic 360° view of the customer ecosystem. They need to:
- Augment static contact and account information with real-time, contextualised customer insight
- Monitor and filter the latest news sources, social media and corporate data, based on a wide range of attributes, individual preferences and relevancy for accurate targeting
- Deliver the functionality to respond immediately to live customer dynamics
- Monitor market trends and customer sentiment, then rationalise and plug this into open opportunities
- Incorporate machine-based learning and artificial intelligence to find and suggest new information that the user didn’t know existed, or hadn’t even considered searching for
Commercial and competitive pressures combined with increasing demand for sophisticated customer transactions are setting the tone for innovation in the customer engagement and sales arenas, these challenges can only be met if technology keeps pace.
The CRM solutions that survive will be the ones that realise the rules have changed. In the digital era, where power sits firmly in the buyers hands, businesses need end-to-end CRM solutions that intelligently provide context to each and every customer touch point. Moreover they need this delivered straight to their fingertips with advanced level automation, real-time contextualisation of changing customer dynamics, and mobile delivery.
In short, as buyers become more sophisticated so too do sales and marketing professionals, and therefore so must their CRM solutions.