January 9, 2020

Welcome to 2020

Chuck Ganapathi

As we move into the 2020s, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software will begin to disappear into the background as the technology becomes more pervasive and personal.

Businesses diversifying their workforces have realized the impact new technologies have on hiring, employee retention, and productivity. Why is it that everyday tools we use in our consumer lives offer a superior experience over the tools we use in the workplace? Workers young and old alike intuit how much better their digital workplace could be.

Meanwhile, the tools to bridge the gap are coming together for those prepared to seize the opportunity:

  • A shift from the browser to AI and Edge Computing
  • Software designs that are human-centric, rather than database-centric

Multi-Experience Software for Multigenerational Workforces

Industries including global pharma, manufacturing and industrial, insurance, hardware, and technology are all investing creating what we call the multigenerational work stack, built to unify multiple devices, work styles and experiences within the workplace and outside of the office. Wherever possible, they are moving away from a computing experience based on filling out forms in a desktop or mobile user interface and toward conversational, contextual capabilities powered by AI. Text chat with bots is part of that picture, but the keyboard is giving way rapidly to voice interaction – on the phone, over smart speakers at home or in the office, and particularly in the car.

In fact, Capgemini mentions that they see voice assistants overtaking mobile in a couple of years, specifically by 2021, when 31% will prefer voice assistants over mobile or browser with more than 51% of Gen X and Y having adopted voice assistants.

Talking with a good voice assistant on the drive to and from a customer meeting can help a salesperson be as prepared as possible, document the results with a minimum of hassle, and get assistance from other members of the sales team.

Enterprises Will Start Building Their Own CRM Software

CRM has never been more important to business, making it perhaps the most important enterprise software category in recent years. At the same time, frustrations over CRM’s limitations and the mounting costs of implementation and integration have never been greater.

One underlying issue with CRM software of the past 25 years is that the user interface hasn’t changed much. The CRM experience for end users in the 2010s barely deviated from that of the 90s. Today’s CRM continues to force users to act as data entry robots.

As a result, leading companies are beginning to create their own, far less generic CRM software – a task made practical by modern APIs and programming frameworks. Facebook has been doing this for years. Google built its own type of CRM software years ago because the products available in the market didn’t match Google’s needs for its Ads business.

The latest public example is Tesla: during the automaker’s renewal time with its CRM vendor, Tesla had such an unwanted experience that it responded by building its own CRM system. We'll see others follow as CRM fatigue hits a tipping point.

The Consumerization of CRM Software

In the 2020 s, the concept of CRM may change entirely. In fact, many have seen this departure from the original customer relationship management definition of the 90s for some time now.

Initially designed as an online contact and account management tool, CRM has since morphed into a term so ubiquitous with enterprise software that it is now spanning beyond marketing, sales, and service. Some even use CRM when talking about managing personal friendships . Despite its origins, however, salespeople—the users that CRM depends on—always seem to be the last to use the software.

It’s time to turn that model on its head with software that revolves around CRM’s most important users. Because much of what needs to be known about a customer lives outside of the CRM database, the new sales productivity software will be pervasive, gathering information from wherever it lives and making it available wherever it needs to be, whether that is the VP’s desktop or push notifications to your Apple Watch while you’re at the gym. Data entry will migrate from blank fields on a form to voice, text, touch, and even unstructured data like video. This consumerized experience will ensure CRM’s longevity with Gen Z users – and finally engage the salespeople for whom it was first designed.

Stepping into the Future

Ultimately, whatever fragmentation persists on the back end of the enterprise infrastructure for sales and customer management will be hidden and made irrelevant by user-centric software. Make software conform to the user, and for organizations to harvest the best of the new technologies available to us to create processes whereby technology frees them and allows them to spend time on higher value activities. It’s time for the seller to come first.

An earlier version of this article (Tact.ai’s 2020 Software Predictions) appeared as a guest post on the blog of the technology analysis and advisory firm TEC.

Chuck Ganapathi
Chuck Ganapathi
Founder & CEO at Tact.ai. Former SVP Products at Salesforce.com

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