6 CRM Trends to Help Make You Stand Out
[Estimated read time: 4 minutes]
“If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”
We’ve all jumped off a bridge at some point or another, falling under the spell of the latest craze or caving to peer pressure. It’s not easy to distinguish a fleeting fad from a lasting shift in technology or best practices, but we’ve made it easy this time. Here are 6 CRM trends you can trust:
In the past year, self-service channels finally edged out live-assist channels: 84% of American adults used self-service through a smartphone app or company website, while only 83% had a phone conversation with an agent.
This CRM trend shouldn’t come as a surprise. Fewer and fewer consumers are using their phones to talk, while more and more are demanding the immediate, always-on service that can only be provided by virtual agents.
Although self-service has gained popularity, it still has room for improvement. Truly smart self-service replaces outdated FAQs and keyword searches with advanced technology like artificial narrow intelligence (ANI), machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP).
2. Emerging technology is changing how we communicate
Consumers want casual, yet smart interactions with companies. They’re accustomed to the high standard set by Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, and thanks to liquid expectations, they’re holding everyone to the same standard. No matter how small your business, your customers want a seamless, painless, and intelligent experience.
Thankfully, new technology is putting that bar in sight. Bots—virtual “concierges” who use ANI and NLP to provide self-service with simulated human conversation as explained in this short video—are leveling the playing field.
Bots can be used in channels where you already have a developed presence, including websites, mobile apps, and messaging apps (e.g. Facebook Messenger). They integrate with your existing knowledgebase. And they use deep learning to maintain and continually improve themselves with little human effort.
3. Agent guidance is contributing to a consistent customer experience
CRMs are increasingly incorporating technology that guides agents through interactions, improving speed, accuracy, and consistency. These guidance tools analyze data and context to anticipate consumer behavior and then give recommendations for the appropriate next steps.
The tools use deep learning technology to hone recommendations based on industry- and company-specific feedback, and some can even adapt to each agent’s skill level.
4. Support and engagement are becoming proactive
Companies are using automation and the growing Internet of Things (IoT) to provide support before the customer asks for it, and sometimes even before they know there’s a problem.
For example, Tesla Motors connects its cars to the IoT so it can automatically push software patches instead of requiring customers to take their cars in for service. And Nintendo constantly monitors its gaming systems so that when one fails, the company will know what happened right before the malfunction and be able to provide specific and personalized technical support.
A similar CRM trend is proactive engagement—anticipating the customer’s needs and preemptively providing the right information. An inContact survey found that 87% of consumers would welcome proactive customer service contact.
A simple example is the email you get from Amazon that lets you know your delivery date. While other companies wait for you to ask for that information, Amazon provides it automatically. Proactive engagement can also drive sales: customers who have an idle shopping cart could be offered a discount specific to the items they’re considering purchasing.
5. Robust data and feedback are improving customer experiences…
Most companies recognize the importance of gathering “voice of the customer” data, but many are having trouble putting a process into action. While 96% of companies collect feedback through structured surveys, only 33% do so through unstructured data like call notes, chat, emails, social posts, and call transcripts. And even fewer measure the impact of their customer experience across channels.
A shift is happening, though, as companies discover that performance on journeys is a better indicator of customer satisfaction than performance on individual transactions. Therefore, they’re starting to dedicate more resources to broadening their customer feedback programs, particularly focusing on understanding common journeys and the pain points along the way.
6. …and empowered agents are improving them even more
As self-service gets smarter and more popular, agents’ roles are evolving too. They are being asked to tackle more complex questions, and when they are empowered correctly, they are rising to the challenge.
Companies are finally understanding that to the customer, an outstanding experience isn’t about whether their issue was resolved in five minutes instead of 6, and efficiency metrics are giving way to ones that highlight customer satisfaction and lifetime value. That CRM trend is allowing agents to use their knowledge and experience to make decisions that prioritize the customer.
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Source: Forrester’s “Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service”