Modern customer relationship management (CRM) technology is evolving to help companies stay connected to customers, streamline processes, and improve profitability.
This is achieved by empowering customer-facing employees with the right data and information about their customers at the right time so that they can focus on nurturing relationships.
While it might seem like a mature market, many CRM trends are rapidly emerging, says David Stevens, Mint Management Technologies Delivery Lead, who outlined six emerging CRM trends and the effect they’re having locally.
1. Compliance and governance
“The most important trend is compliance and governance,” says Stevens. “Organisations are going to great lengths to become POPI-compliant – but from 25 May, GDPR will come into effect, and it’s likely to blindside a lot of South African businesses.”
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an EU regulation that requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens.
“Non-compliance could cost companies dearly, yet very few organisations even know what it is, or think it isn’t going to impact them – but it is,” Stevens warns. “This is something that all companies that collect data on EU citizens need to start considering immediately.”
2. Affordable cloud-based solutions
“Another trend is the increase in Cloud-based CRM offerings – but too many providers are offering a ‘magic pill’ solution,” says Stevens. “Many of these may be fly-by-night businesses, proposing very low prices that aren’t sustainable.”
Some of these companies also present a compliance risk, he warns. “How much can we really know about newly-established international cloud providers? Do they comply with POPI, never mind other international standards?”
While cloud-based CRM offers many of the benefits inherent in most cloud-based services, Stevens urges businesses to choose cloud partners based on their reputation in the industry.
3. Personalised data-driven interactions
Another trend impacting businesses is personalisation. Customers expect stores to know what they want – yet they become suspicious if stores know too much.
“There is a fine line between tailoring your offerings to an individual and seeming creepy – knowing them like a friend as opposed to knowing them like a stalker,” says Stevens.
Advances in AI, however, are improving the ability of stores to effectively cross-sell, upsell, or even down-sell, Stevens adds. “It’s about finding the balance between what each customer really wants and how they’d prefer to be treated.”
4. Customer 360
One of the most talked-about trends in CRM is the 360-degree customer view – a single, end-to-end picture of the customer’s experience with a company, and how they felt at each step along the journey.
“This has been a trend for the last 10 years, and will likely still be something the industry struggles with for many years to come,” says Stevens. “This is because legacy business practices and systems get in the way. A startup can build a single view of their customers fairly easily, but for established enterprises, it is massively complex.”
Until businesses change the way they operate and revisit their legacy systems, Stevens believes that few businesses will truly attain a 360-degree customer view.
5. Mobility and Self-service
Mobility and self-service are also becoming increasingly important, as customers expect the ability to do things themselves and control their own data – without dealing with a person or a bot.
“The trend at the moment is to try find the balance between storing too much or too little information, while giving users access to what they need,” Stevens says. “But South Africa is competing quite well globally when it comes to mobility and self-service.”
6. Virtual assistants
“Many organisations are also trying to drive customer relationships using chat bots and voice-driven access to systems,” says Stevens. “The industry is attempting to enable self-service and automate as much as possible using these assistants.”
He notes that South Africa is lagging considerably when it comes to virtual assistants, such as Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa – mostly because local services aren’t being connected to those devices.
“You can ask Siri questions, but you can’t order a pizza from Dominos in South Africa,” he explains. “Yet the big CRM players are attempting to push this technology into our markets. Locally, it’s not a trend that is gaining much traction right now, and not something we’d advise businesses to invest in just yet.”
Relevance for South African businesses
While South African business tend to lag just behind global peers, Stevens observes that most of the trends are already being readily adopted locally. “When it comes to compliance and risk, we can largely consider ourselves to be ahead of the curve. In South Africa, we have far better views of our banking customers when compared to other countries,” he says.
“It’s important not to get too caught up in following the trends that aren’t relevant in South Africa,” Stevens concludes. “It’s too easy for companies to waste their budgets on trends that won’t make a real difference. Rather focus on the trends that will add real value to your business.”
For more information, visit the Mint Management Technologies website.