According to Forrester, we’re five years into the Age of the Customer, where consumers have the ability to shift markets and define a company’s success in a matter of seconds. Their expectations are changing and they want to be cared for more than ever. There is no doubt the digital age has transformed the way we shop and share our experiences, therefore there’s no going back to a pre-Web mentality – If you want to remain agile that is. At the end of the day, satisfied customers spend more and exhibit deeper loyalty to your business.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is at the forefront of digital innovation and an important tool if you want to succeed in the Age of the Customer. Evolving constantly towards engaging with customers through every channel, CRM is set to help win their hearts, quite literally – but in 2018, it will do even more than that….

Artificial Intelligence (AI) to supercharge business efforts

Artificial Intelligence is a system of connected platforms and devices able to learn from our interactions and data, to help us with what we ask and anticipate our needs. As consumers, we are already using AI without even realising it. Google harnesses AI to predict what we are searching for while Amazon product recommendations are tailored for us via machine-learning algorithms.

AI adoption is predicted to grow in the coming years, with IDC forecasting a $1.1tn boost in global business revenues between 2017 and 2021. Next year, AI will power up our CRM systems to learn from our interactions, taking care of our tedious and time consuming tasks so we can focus on the important ones.

The rise of social selling

In 2018 social selling will no longer be a buzzword, but a powerful tool for prospecting and relationship building. Integrated with your CRM system, social selling will work wonders. From making recommendations about what content to share by analysing millions of social posts in your network to supporting you through the entire sales process, from prospecting to a closed deal.

The upcoming LinkedIn and Microsoft CRM integration will bring your LinkedIn leads into your CRM and help you analyse social conversations, users’ updates and their articles in order to create buying personas and strategically nurture prospects with the right message. Similarly, LinkedIn Sales Navigator for Infor CRM will arm sales professionals with valuable data to deliver more valuable customer interactions.

Your own personal assistant

Another trend for CRM in 2018 will be tighter integration with external tools and services across sales, marketing, and customer support applications, such as the already popular Cortana.

In 2018, Microsoft will bring Cortana to the next level, making it your personal assistant – so instead of running a report, you could literally be asking Cortana for your latest Sales figures or using it as a meeting prep tool with related account and deal details just a click away – as easy as pie.

The productivity hub

Manual labour and inefficient business processes are no friend of a modern, dynamic business. CRM systems will continue to aid productivity, adjusting workflows automatically for added efficiency.

In 2018 Microsoft will enhance automated process flows to ensure people follow the same steps for various processes to ensure consistency. For example, you can create a business process flow to have everyone handle customer service requests the same way, or to require that people get approval for an invoice before submitting an order, the possibilities are endless.

From Big Data to Artificial Intelligence

According to Gartner, data and analytics will continue to expand more rapidly to meet new organisational requirements for agility and deeper analytical insight. Underpinned by AI, “business intelligence (BI) will delve deeper into a business’ unknown unknowns, finding insights in previously unexamined data”, to help you identify trends in marketing and sales and more.

This will go hand in hand with data security and the upcoming GDPR regulation so many fear profoundly. But Microsoft has already got an answer to that. Introducing Compliance Manager, the vendor aims help businesses conduct real-time risk assessments, providing one intelligent score that reflects compliance performance against data protection regulatory requirements.

The year of partnerships

The explosion of digital technologies and software applications has made it challenging for businesses to deliver a truly unified experience that customers demand today. Therefore the upcoming year will see an outbreak of partnerships that allow businesses to build lasting relationships and drive revenue.

Marketo’s Engagement Platform is to partner with Infor’s Customer Experience Suite to help businesses create personalised customer campaigns, taking them from acquisition to advocates.  Xperience Group is to tighten Dynamics 365Sage 200 integration to allow users to check complete information and convert sales opportunities into new orders for immediate invoicing and processing – all  in a single interface without duplicating processes in multiple applications. It’s all about productivity and removing the number of clicks!

Intrigued?

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