Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a number of predictions put forth in the CRM space. As pundits look into their crystal balls, it’s no surprise to see them home in on the “Internet of Things” particularly after Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff announced his vision for the “Internet of Customers” whereby every Internet-connected device becomes a touch point for connecting with customers.
CRM tools will certainly advance as consumer devices are increasingly Internet-connected. That’s definitely where we’re headed in the long run. But from a shorter-term perspective, two things stand out to me as absolute certainties for CRM in 2014.
Mobile becomes the norm—anything less won’t be good enough
First, anything not built for mobile will be left behind. Companies have come to terms with the bring your own device (BYOD) phenomenon after consistent demands from employees. As a result, companies have either allowed staff to bring their own tablets and smartphones or opted for a choose your own device strategy, in which the company issues the device of choice to the user. In fact, Gartner has said that by this year 30 percent of sales organizations will issue tablets as the primary device for sales staff. With iPads and Droids in hand, users won’t embrace any systems or processes that can’t be done while mobile. Whether it’s an off-the-shelf tool or a homegrown custom application, every new CRM undertaking will count mobility as a core requirement.
In addition to mobility, usability will be a key driver to adoption of new CRM applications. If it doesn’t make the process easier for sales teams, they won’t use it. Forcing sales teams to use a cumbersome legacy in-house system will no longer work. With SaaS solutions a click and a credit card away, it’s easy for business managers to go around the company system that fails to meet their needs and get what they truly want.
CPQ steps into the limelight for CRM
We’ll also see more of the sales process benefit from automation. Most organizations continue to lack a unified view of customers that includes current and past quotes, contracts and transactions. They still live with the manual inputs and lost cycle time spent crafting quotes for products and services. This translates into longer sales cycles that lose deals and lack visibility into workflow and contracts. For the rest of 2014, this will change and we’ll see a surge in organizations connecting their CRM systems with configure, price and quote (CPQ) processes.
By automating CPQ, companies can maximize return through contract management and provide sales teams with an end-to-end view that allows for execution of cross-sell and up-sell opportunities and minimizes costly errors. Ultimately, linking CRM and CPQ will increase the value of every customer relationship.
Stronger software solutions for automating quoting and contract management are now available and will fill a void on the technology front. However, it’s not necessarily the technology that is driving CPQ into the limelight and stimulating change. Rather it’s the customers’ requirements for better service. Overall, businesses are increasingly reshaping their perspectives by putting themselves in the shoes of their customers. They’re asking right question—how does the customer want to do business?—instead of forcing the company’s outdated processes on customers.
In the case of CPQ, customers demand that businesses be more responsive and CPQ systems provide the sales force with the tools they need to make the sales process easier on their customers.
The customer experience is the common thread among each and every evolution that has taken place and will take place in the CRM space; in 2014 the customer will continue to drive significant change.
What do you think will be the biggest change to CRM in 2014?