18 Apr CRM and AI
CRM, the most popular software application for businesses, is expected to continue its torrid rate of growth and become a $40 billion market by 2019. Analysts believe a good part of the growth will be driven by the emergence of the “smart” AI-powered features within CRM platforms that are now coming into the market.
Despite all the hype, however, I’m skeptical about the tangible impact that AI (artificial intelligence) will make on CRM systems in the short-term, while I remain VERY OPTIMISTIC about its potential long-term impact.
Salesforce recently launched its AI-powered Einstein to much hoopla at Dreamforce. Zoho launched its AI offering with Zia. Microsoft, with its CRM Dynamics and its Azure machine learning platform, will also be a big player in the AI-powered CRM competition.
Yet, the hype currently is running ahead of actual reality. There is so much focus on the potential of AI, that many long-term promises are being misconstrued as current reality. Such misalignment of expectations with current capabilities will surface soon, causing a brief period of disillusionment.
Here are three reasons why there will be some initial hiccups with the AI powered CRM promise:
- The data in most CRM systems are not good enough to make the AI-powered features compelling. Most systems rely on humans to enter information into the system, which creates a ripe environment for cumulating bad data. People make mistakes, create unique fields for one-off customers, and they don’t always enter data into the system. Without good data, AI cannot be effective.
- Furthering the data problem, the CRM systems launching AI capabilities are working primarily with its own data sets. Greater value can be gained when “external” data sets are used to triangulate the internal information. All the CRM systems will eventually make it easier to ingest external data sets but it is currently a complex endeavor.
- Time will work in AI’s favor in the long run. But for the short term, there will inevitably be some lull in tangible benefits given the unrealistic hype of AI’s impact on CRM systems. AI is a self-training approach that gets better over time ingesting and analyzing larger and more diverse sets of data. In time, AI will fulfill its promise for CRM systems.
Over the long-term, the AI algorithms within CRM systems will be trained with better and broader data sets. With time, much of sales operational functions will be automated, and deep predictive insights about the sales process and customer behavior will result in much higher productivity per sales person.
Until then, there is an emerging ecosystem of specialized predictive analytics and sales enablement tools that can enhance your current CRM system. These use some basic elements of AI to help sales organizations gather better-qualified leads, automatically capture contacts, automate initial emails and phone calls, gather customer insights, among other functions.
For example, TenPoint7’s Customer-Signals gathers and analyzes all the different conversations with customers/prospects for predictive insights to a company’s relationship with its customers and prospects. It’s a powerful tool, especially for Professional Service organizations where everyone touches the customers but only a few have access to the internal CRM system.
John (Co-Founder, John@TenPoint7.com)