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05.10.2020

CRM Trends from 2020 through 2022

Nowadays, an excellent product and service portfolio no longer suffices to ensure enduring market success. Modern customer relationship management (CRM) and excellent customer experience (CX) is still a must-win battle, as is clearly reflected in the immense demand for CRM software. Worldwide expenditures for CRM systems have nearly doubled over the last 5 years (Statista).

#1 Customer data, AI powered analytics, and 360° view

Data, data, data!

For a personalized customer approach, for perfect timing when to be present on the right channel, and for an excellent customer experience, the matter of customer data is fundamental.

In recent years, many companies have accumulated a large data pool from various sources. The problems that occur today are often not due to no or too little data being available, but are caused by collecting and saving data distributed across too many system constellations. As a result, employees are often overwhelmed by the maintenance required for these numerous systems, resulting in diminished added value and data quality.

The following therefore still applies:

Companies wanting to place the customers at center stage must also place their customer data at center stage!

But you won't achieve the much-touted 360° view of the customer with today's "data hotchpotch".

Towards a real 360° view

The success of a CRM system depends greatly on data promoting personalization in customer approaches and customer experience in general. CRM solutions will not only evolve in terms of data collection but will also be capable of consolidating data from different touchpoints with the customer.

In the future, therefore, closer and more relevant views on the customer will be possible – thanks also to the additional use of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence will play an even bigger role in the automation environment, however.

#2 Automation thanks to artificial intelligence & RPA

Automation of first level communication

While the conversation functions of chatbots are still limited to simple inquiries at present, they are undergoing continual improvement through artificial intelligence. With every conversation, chatbots become better in understanding customer concerns.

Through natural language processing, chatbots improve and mature, until customers can no longer tell whether they're speaking to a machine or to a service agent. Thus, a large proportion of customer inquiries are not only automated, but above all are answered satisfactorily for the customer.

Besides simply handling customer inquiries, this measure also systematically collects the data, for enabling further insights and analyses. The number of productive chatbots will more than double over the next 18 months.

More mature conversation tools will also increase your own service agents' productivity. For AI-assisted CRM chatbots will be able to use historical data sets in order to anticipate the customer's next questions or make predictions about additional information customers may need. This knowledge will help the service agent be more proactive in resolving customer issues.

After digitalization is before automation

RPA (robotic process automation) is currently on the rise for automating monotonous and recurring operational processes. Not limited to back-office processes, this trend will also increasingly find its way into CRM systems over the next few years.

According to one study (Deloitte), sales workers currently spend only 34% of their working time on sales. Most of their time is devoted to administrative activities such as email management, follow-up planning, and preparation of meeting minutes.

Some CRM systems can already log calls reliably and create call summaries via a voice-to-text functionality. The IT executives surveyed believe that these voice technologies will become an essential part of business processes in the coming years. Their employees will then be spending less time on system maintenance and therefore have more time for their customers.

#3 Mobility & integration

CRM at the office, on the road, and offline

The mobility of CRM software is of great importance particularly regarding service and sales. As the saying goes:

When your salespeople are in the office, they're not selling

Special focus should therefore lie on mobile devices. Although there already exist some mobile apps that bring the CRM system to smartphones and tablets, this functionality is still limited in part. The situation will change in the foreseeable future, as you can see from the road maps of leading providers – not only in terms of mobile functionality, but also for offline possibilities and mobile UX.

But then CRM providers will also have to increase mobile security. For example, what if a smartphone is lost or stolen? This is another point on the agenda for upcoming releases.

Integration

In the 2020s, we can't possibly afford wasting that much time switching between numerous apps in order to gather needed information or copy information from A to B. Another developmental trend for CRM systems therefore lies in integrations and integration scenarios that simplify and streamline daily work.

CRM vendors are accordingly investing in more advanced integration scenarios. The goal is the much-touted 360° view of the customer as well as the elimination of inefficiencies caused by constantly switching between different apps. In the medium term, the possibilities for better integrating IoT devices with CRM software will also improve.

Thanks to the integration aspect, the decision for a particular CRM provider ideally occurs not only on the functional and financial levels but on technical and strategic levels as well. Integration advantages can arise here when using as many software solutions as possible from the same provider, for example – not only within the scope of the initial implementation but also during operation (maintenance, release management).

#4 Internet of Things (IoT)

The number of IoT devices will more than double from approx. 30 billion units in 2020 to over 62 billion units in 2024 (Statista).

As a result, according to one study, 53% of the companies are expecting data from the IoT to contribute to revenue increases over the next few years. Accordingly, half (51%) of the companies surveyed expect the IoT to help open up new markets (Forbes).

Connecting IoT devices to CRM platforms allows new sales and service scenarios, leading to lasting changes in customer relation management.

For example, industrial IoT devices could transmit information about performance issues and maintenance to the device manufacturer. Through the connection to CRM software, product performance issues will become proactively identifiable and potential customer satisfaction issues will be identified in advance. Predictive maintenance will then become possible, to the tremendous benefit of all parties concerned.

This trend will receive a boost from the rapidly increasing availability of IoT devices in the coming years, but will continue to preoccupy CRM providers for a long time beyond 2022.

#5 UX as decisive success factor

A system not in use doesn't generate any added value. User acceptance largely depends on the usability of the software. User experience (UX) is accordingly an important lever for the potential of CRM software. Three out of four CRM customers said in a survey that they would trade functionality for ease of use. 43% even use less than half of the theoretically possible CRM functions of their system (CSO Insights).

Experts assume that investments will continue to be made in the user-friendliness of CRM systems. Easier operation, still easier access to data and analyses, better and native mobile UIs or even easier contacting of customers by their sales and customer service staff will further increase the added value of CRM systems.

For example, one leading provider recently revised its interface concept not only to make the software more visually up to date, but also to achieve a major leap in usability and ease of operation. But the roadmap has still other improvements in store.

A CRM with a good UX can bring immediate financial benefits to your business:

1. Time will be used more productively.

2. You'll spend less money on training and support.

3. Communication between teams will be more consistent

4. With higher acceptance and usage, you'll lose fewer leads and automate sales tasks.

Here's how you can tell you need a CRM system with a better UX:

1. Navigation is difficult.

2. Data is poorly presented.

3. Key features are difficult to find.

4. Email is not integrated.

5. You can only access it with certain browsers or devices.

6. It doesn't integrate with your other applications.

Especially in CRM cloud applications, continual improvements in UX are the order of the day. At the beginning of the 2020s, however, we may expect major leaps to be made from some providers.

CRM takes place in the cloud

The demand for CRM software solutions is growing as companies seek new ways to analyze information from a growing customer base and bring customer service to maturity. In 2019, SaaS solutions accounted for three-quarters of CRM software spending. And the cloud business continues to boom: By 2021, sales worldwide will increase by a forecast EUR 8 billion to EUR 52 billion (Statista).

Owing to the new technological possibilities, it is essential to stay up to date and keep up with the competition, especially in the front office, i.e. within the customer-facing processes. The top 5 CRM trends for 2020 through 2022 show what will already be standard in the near future. Cloud software enables providers continually to implement the latest technologies and deliver added value out of the box. That's why CRM takes place in the cloud.

Other trends – even beyond 2022

CRM for verticals

Companies from the vertical markets are especially benefiting from new industry solutions: These include health care, finance and insurance, along with manufacturing. Highly regulated industries, such as health care, also utilize niche-oriented CRM systems.

AR and VR: new possibilities for CRM

Technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will change the way companies approach their customers. For example, several retailers have already started using smart mirrors, while some furniture stores allow customers to use VR when browsing and "trying out" products.
By integrating AR & VR, CRM platforms can provide advanced tools for marketing campaigns and sales.

From omni-/multichannel communication to "channel-less" communication

CRM experts predict that these communication channels will soon converge in a single software serving all channels. This will streamline workflows for sales and customer service staff, since it will no longer be necessary to switch between multiple channels in order to maintain communication with customers. AI-aided technologies will recognize the same customer profile even if that customer interacts with the company through different channels.