By Stephen Pickett
Customer relationship management technology (CRM) has continued to grow and develop in recent years with emerging technologies working to improve functionality.
As businesses begin to move away from internally focused CRM systems and towards enhancing the customer experience, we expect these trends to become more influential than ever.
In this post, we look at four technology trends we expect to have a growing influence in CRM over the next five years.
Automated service agents
A number of predictions have been made about the proliferation of chatbots and other artificial intelligence (AI) in CRM. In recent years, American technology analysts Gartner have anticipated that digital interaction with customers may overtake human interaction within the next five years.
AI systems already exist that can mimic human interaction in various ways, such as IBM’s Watson that is capable of answering questions posed in natural language and Google’s DeepMind, which mimics the short term memory of the human brain.
While this sort of tech being common in call centres may be some way off, a recent report by Dimension Data found that call centres are experiencing increasing demand from customers for fast and immediate multi-channel services. Businesses are therefore under more and more pressure to ensure customer service transactions are as efficient and seamless as possible.
While chatbots could be a positive feature of CRM by giving more power and autonomy to the customer, at Experience Assist we believe that an element of human interaction is still a vital aspect of customer service. This is particularly true where there is an emotional component to the interaction for example in healthcare markets. Chatbots should be paired with human agents to enhance the customer service offering. We will be watching the development of this technology closely as it evolves and advances.
Social media is becoming an ever more essential tool for customers to communicate with businesses. Up to half a billion tweets are published every day, and many of these include questions from customers directed specifically at brands and service providers.
In addition to offering a more accessible two-way communication platform, social media also provides another set of insights that businesses can use to understand and target their audiences even further.
Furthermore, social communication platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts will become increasingly used for service interactions and marketing over the next half decade.
Oracle Service Cloud has committed to a number of developments that connect data and activity on social media platforms with information collated via CRM activity, bringing the platform to the forefront of customer data analysis.
In a time when more CRM technologies are becoming automated there is arguably a higher risk that the customer experience could suffer as a result. This means that personalising your service offering is now more important than ever.
Service users want to experience minimum hassle when dealing with businesses, so ensuring you have as much information about a particular customer’s history is vital to delivering swift service. Offering a multi-channel service is also incredibly important as it allows customers to contact you in a way that suits them.
CRM technology can potentially gather huge amounts of information about a person (and their issues).
Companies should be automatically mining this data to offer customers information and services of interest to them, while of course staying on the right side of the Data Protection Act.
While this is not personalising the service it is personalising the customer experience by offering them the services the system knows they need.
An efficient way to get to know the varied range of service users your agents may come into contact with is by working with them to create a number of customer profiles that align with the types of customer they’re actually serving. Although each interaction will still be unique, this will provide an opportunity for your staff to work together and share insight into the ways they can provide the best experience.
Almost 70 per cent of the UK population now owns a smartphone, meaning the demand for mobile CRM technology is higher than ever.
The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is also predicted to transform the ways in which customers want to communicate with business, with research predicting that by 2020 there will be over 30 billion connected devices.
This mobile technology is most likely to take the form of messaging apps where service agents, and eventually chatbots, will be on hand to answer queries with minimal hassle and wait times for customers.
Though this is good news for customers as it could mean round-the-clock assistance, businesses will have to find ways to make this work for them.
There is already a recognition of the need for mobile offerings, and the industry is starting to push this, but all organisations must now move to a ‘mobile first’ strategy with integrated IoT.
While 24-hour CRM will inevitably require higher staffing levels, it could also offer opportunities such as remote and flexible working.