Many businesses are recognising the value of using customer relationship management (CRM) software, with firms in all sorts of sectors finding it a valuable means of cultivating close links with customers and expanding their operations.

It is therefore safe to say this technology has established itself firmly in the mainstream, with Bill Faley of professional services firm CBIG Consulting saying recently that it “is not going away anytime soon”.

So with this in mind, how are CRM systems likely to evolve in the next few years. Well, Mr Faley has several predictions and has shared them with Information Management.

For instance, he believes sales force coaching could “take on new perspectives if sales presentations were recorded with consent”.

Mr Faley suggested these recordings could be submitted to speech-to-text translators, with the software subsequently analysing the word clouds that are created. This, he said, could help businesses establish what differentiates a successful call from a discussion that failed to yield results.

CRM and big data

Of course, this approach would work best if the software has a sufficiently large sample size, but it’s an interesting idea and one that could help firms engage with customers and clients much more effectively if it comes to pass.

Mr Faley also pointed out that since brands are getting richer and more detailed insights into people’s purchasing habits all the time, they will continue to benefit from a “heightened awareness of consumer patterns”.

As a result, they would be able to offer a “much more individualised experience”, perhaps in the form of a virtual assistant who could respond to questions and understand their tastes and preferences.

This could manifest itself through a tablet or mobile device and potentially be a hugely valuable resource when a person is out and about on a shopping trip.

Mr Faley also raised the idea of firms using this approach to garner even more data, as it could perhaps be linked with a loyalty programme. That will make the company’s use of big data actually valuable and will bring value to customers in the long run.

“There are many ways the sales process can become smarter through intelligent use of data,” he commented.

“Although selling has traditionally been regarded as a soft skill, the post-digital age has provided no shortage of ways sales data can be measured.”

Going into detail

Indeed, Mr Faley noted that the most successful businesses are asking increasingly complicated questions – and taking action to get the answers they are looking for.

For example, he pointed out that they are looking to find out everything from whether different purchasing patterns are apparent in certain demographics and whether there is a correlation with the “type of sales interaction they experience”.

In addition, Mr Faley said brands want to find out the extent to which a customer base should be segmented to optimise returns, as well as establish how much they can reduce sales costs without harming their financial returns.

“In order to begin to answer them, one must have access to the right information,” he said.

“And that information is at the heart of CRM analytics and is what makes it such a valuable commodity.”

CRM and your competitors

Mr Faley went on to point out that in a competitive business environment, it is impossible to understate the importance of a CRM system, since it is a vital tool for maintaining and growing a firm’s customer base.

As a result, he believes that companies must examine their technological infrastructure to make sure they are getting the best possible returns on their investments.

Businesses were advised that a CRM implementation can be optimised in several different ways, but Mr Faley said data analytics is a particularly good way to “drive innovation in the sales cycle”.

“CRM data analytics can enable a business to make the sales process smarter as well as empower field reps with easy access to business intelligence,” he observed.

Mr Faley noted that this is achieved not by examining CRM data in isolation, but by complementing it with additional information garnered from various other internal and external sources.

He went on to state that while CRM analytics can help to “ensure that a sales interaction is the best it can be”, much depends on whether or not a firm has the right CRM information architecture in place.

For instance, he argued that CRM software should be used to do more than track accounts and contacts, as it can also monitor the actual sales materials that are issued to these customers.

Mr Faley said this approach offers many advantages, as it means sales and marketing materials can be “stored centrally and consumed by the field agents as necessary”.

As a result, CRM applications that are based in the cloud can mean firms no longer have to search email folders for the latest version of a presentation.

They can in turn go on to track the usage and adoption rates of these materials, in much the same way they can track how people navigate their website.

Staying ahead

By gaining such insights into how well their marketing content performs, businesses could ensure their promotional campaigns are designed with these findings in mind, so they can boost their chances of presenting a relevant and well-targeted strategy.

Mr Faley added that data analytics can also help to encourage cross-selling within a business, as it may discover that other products or services might be useful to existing customers who have not yet taken up these options.

Customer engagement white paper