Q Event Briefs

Q Event brief - CRM Evolution 2017

About CRM Evolution

CRM Evolution is a conference organized by Paul Greenberg, one of the most influential CRM experts today and the author of the best seller “CRM At The Speed of Light”. The conference sessions and keynotes focused on artificial intelligence as it relates to CRM, market trends such as digital marketing or the future of CRM.

The expo floor was also an interesting mix of past, present, and future technology (Salesforce even created a CRM museum - see photos on the right). Through candid conversations I learned that some CRM solutions are indeed of the past, as they are no longer generating net new sales but continue to be supported by vendors for existing customers. In fact some of these legacy products are still being promoted as active solutions - a way for vendors of giving users the peace of mind that they won’t be left behind.

The most remarkable vendors are those who are looking at disruptive technologies with an eye on the present - pondering the actual impact of artificial intelligence on various generations of users. And finally, I met vendors who almost exclusively champion the future, that is, bots, machine learning, virtual reality, and so on.

Q Twitter Brief 2017 CRM Evolution (2).pdf

It seems to me that both most vendors and customers hesitate between hype and proven technology. While everyone agrees that companies need to change in order to adapt to their customers, not everyone feels comfortable with this new reality. Here are a few observations that made me come to this conclusion:

- It is obvious that artificial intelligence is a hot topic this year both in CRM, and business software in general. What is less obvious is how it works and if it’s ready for business use. While during the panel on AI we heard exciting conversations on its potential, an attempt to use Amazon Alexa during another session was not very successful. If a personal assistant like Alexa still requires improvement, one can wonder what is the level of maturity of AI for businesses, which is much more complex than Alexa.

- I just happened to attend two sessions where speakers were talking about CRM governance and I noticed that often times this can be a more important issue than technology. This doesn’t seem to be a very trendy topic in CRM and it’s definitely not very exciting but it can have the greatest impact on the selection, implementation, and adoption of a CRM solution. The main challenge with governance is that it takes a certain company culture and mentality to be successful. In other words, executives and employees need to be ready to change despite our natural tendency to resist it, but also understand why it’s important and work together to make it happen.

- There still seems to be a disconnect between customers, companies, vendors and experts when it comes to technology use for customer interactions. While social media is considered extremely important by pretty much everyone, the perceived value of its different elements seems to vary quite a lot. For instance, when a speaker showed how Facebook Messenger can be used successfully for customer service, it turned out very few attendees were actually aware of it.

What I would like to see in 2018

Since today everything is connected, i would like to see sessions and vendors that are not necessarily CRM centric but who are contributing to improving customer experience.

CRM has traditionally been one of the most open business software solutions because data about customers is important for most other types of software (ERP, SCM, PLM, etc.) But CRM and related (marketing, sales, customer service, etc.) solutions still focus almost exclusively on customer facing activities and not enough on back office or operations (which are hidden from the customer but critical to deliver a good customer experience).

Long before customer experience and customer service were cool and trendy, some companies successfully created service lifecycle management software. An example is Servigistics (now part of PTC) - while focusing mostly on manufacturing related services, its ability to provide product service intelligence (knowledge and data on product characteristics, history, performance, etc.) makes it a good complement for CRM solutions focusing on customer experience.

Also, CRM vendors are not the only ones working on software to manage experience. Dassault, a PLM vendor, is innovating in this space with its 3D Experience platform, which they define as a “business experience” solution. Its goal is to connect departments like product development and marketing so they can work together on improving the customer experience.

Finally, let’s not forget that no technology or strategy can work well without qualified and motivated employees. It is proven that there is a link between employee engagement and customer satisfaction (http://www.harvardbusiness.org/client-stories/vi/employee-engagement-yields-strong-customer-satisfaction), a topic that I am hoping to see covered more during next year’s event.