8 CRM trends to watch

Last year, the two hot customer relationship management trends to watch and adopt- were social CRM and mobile CRM. To find out whether they will continue to dominate the CRM landscape and what other trends organizations should pay attention to, we talked to leading CRM solution vendors and analysts. In the process, we came up with eight CRM trends to watch and implement- in 2012.

1. Cloud-based CRM Services Will Continue to Gain Traction.“Old CRM was people inside the company talking about [customers],” saysPeter Coffee, vice-president and head of Platform Research atSalesforce.com. Increasingly,however, “the information that’s mostimportant in a CRM system originates outside [company] walls, inconversations on social networks and in other external sources.”Cloud-based applications are ideally suited to capturing thisinformation and turning it into actionable intelligence, Coffee says.It no longer makes sense “to continue investing in on-premiseinfrastructure whose job is to go out into the cloud and scoop upintelligence when cloud-based [software] can do that better as well asmore cost effectively,” he says.

2. It’s All About the Interface.
“Application usability isbecoming a more important issue within the enterprise, and CRM is noexception,” says Mitch Lieberman, vice-president, market strategy for Sword Ciboodle,a global provider of customer engagement solutions. “Users are pickyabout their workspace, now more than ever represented by the screen infront of them,” which could be a laptop computer, an iPad, or a smartphone. In addition, users don’t want to have to remember keystrokecombinations such as alt-tab to make things work. “Data needs to beavailable through one UI [user interface], in context,” he says. So theCRM software you use (or choose) should be accessible andcomprehensible on both a traditional and mobile platform – with acustomizable, user-friendly interface.

CRM gets more integrated
3. CRM Will Be the Place to Pull It All Together.
As thenumber of ways in which companies interact with customers continues togrow, CRM systems will play a bigger role in building qualityrelationships, says Pamela O’Hara, president of Batchbook, a socialCRM solution provider. “Businesses that use CRM effectively willbenefit from pulling all the loose strings together in one place anddeveloping a stronger bond with each customer,” O’Hara says.Furthermore, by centralizing customer data, she argues, “companies willbe able to provide better service and more targeted offers tocustomers.”

4. CRM Integrates With Other Critical Business Systems.“Buyers will expect CRM to be woven with ERP, ecommerce andprofessional services automation applications, to get more integratedand efficient business processes,” says Paul Turner, senior director ofproduct marketing at NetSuite.”Organizations want integrated lead-to-cash processes, an integratedview of the customer, and more comprehensive cross-functional reporting- and vendors will try and adapt their offerings to meet this demand.”But he warns decision makers to beware of applications that grew upseparately and are glued together. “Look for systems that are designedfrom the ground up to work as a single solution to get the maximumbenefits,” he says.

5. It’s All About Flexibility. “As users better understand the options in delivery models, interfaces, data practices and other technical aspects of CRM, they are factoring these variables into their buying decisions,” notes Clint Oram, co-founder, CTO and vice president of Product Strategy for SugarCRM, an open source CRM vendor. “That will give CRM applications designed for ease of integration and user self-customizability an advantage, and will leave vendors whose products come in a single flavor of SaaS [software as a service] scrambling to expand customer options, often through cumbersome workarounds.” To that end, Oram believes open source software, because it allows users to easily make changes and customize the software, will continue to gain on older on-demand CRM models in 2012.

6. CRM Will Continue to Go Social. After making significantgains last year, social networks are becoming amore influential partof the decision making process for consumers, O’Hara says. As a result,CRM software vendors “will continue to incorporate social into theirproducts, allowing businesses to better understand subtle trends andniche adoptions of their sales and marketing efforts,” she says. “CRMswill also use social networks to provide ways for business teams tobetter communicate across sales and support channels within the CRMplatform.”

CRM goes mobile
7. Mobile Applications Will Empower Customer-Facing Workersand Consumers. “In 2012, CRM systems will be bought in termsof the strength of the mobile component,” Oram argues.”Vendors withstrong mobile components will gain a significant advantage over thosethat lack it, and many vendors will play catch-up around native clientsand security.”WilliamBand, vice-president and principal analyst at Forrester,agrees. “Mobility has become a key corporate priority,” he notes. “Inparticular, the ability to use handheld mobile devices to supportcustomer-facing workers like sales contacts and customer serviceactivities in the field has clearly moved beyond its previous status asa specialized nice-to-have option and into the mainstream.”

Voice of the customer

8. Crowdsourcing Process Improvements. “Organizations willincreasingly try to harness the voice of the customer to prioritizeprocess improvements and help back-office employees better understandcustomer expectations,” Bland predicts. “Providing more customerfeedback to employees across the organization in the form of surveyresults, customer visits, social sentiment data and the like [will]help employees better understand the impact their decisions have on thecustomer.”

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