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January 22, 2018

Five key CRM Trends for 2018

SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin looks at the the CRM trends expected for 2018 - from “bloatware” and AI, to the definition of cloud changing…yet again!

By Ellie Burns

For some people, CRM trends for 2018 seem redundant for three main reasons: drawn out technology development cycles, the industry’s fascination with concentrating on a couple of big ideas over the course of multiple years, and the fondness for trends that are either too obvious or too bizarre to really drive value. However, due to the rapid pace of change in CRM (and tech in general) driven by artificial intelligence (AI), the continued growth of the cloud and upcoming compliance like GDPR necessitating development, we’re finally on the verge of significant change fuelling new possibilities. Given this backdrop, I’d like to offer some CRM trends that are actually worth considering.


1.The end of “Bloatware” is upon us

Agile has long been viewed as the utopia of business development and 2018 will see the desire for fast, agile CRM deployments result in many CRM buyers rejecting age old systems as over-featured, expensive offerings. Instead, they will focus on systems providing strong core CRM functionality, which enable organisations to react quickly to changes in the business landscape or customer expectations.

Research into hundreds of CRM users revealed professionals are becoming disenfranchised with bloatware as nearly half of respondents felt “oversold” on their CRM purchase. People have finally started realising the bells and whistles in many CRM systems are unnecessary and largely redundant. It’s those providers which offer the marketing, sales and support teams core CRM features with a simple add-on/configuration model at a reasonable price which will begin eating into the key players’ business – if they haven’t already started doing so.


2. “Work-Life Balance” Evolves Again

The traditional eight-hour working day is largely irrelevant in the digital age and will become more so in 2018. In today’s world where results are king, the 9-5 grind is an arbitrary concept linked to a time when employees laboured at looms and assembly lines until the whistle blew.

In the modern age, professionals can be as productive in the comfort of their own home as they would be in the office. Broadband ubiquity, advancements in mobile business tools and the advent of modern video communications tools enables people to stay connected to co-workers, and customers, in ways they couldn’t even fathom in the office a decade ago.

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Modern CRM tools will help every aspect of the business discover a new world of work-life balance. We will quickly move to even more effective ways of telecommuting as we now have access to tools that increasingly take physical presence out of the equation. In addition to off-the-shelf versions of virtual meeting and collaboration tools, purpose-built mobile tools make it easier than ever to create and manage, pushing more employees out to the edge where their customers are instead of in a cubicle all day.

We call this concept “work like you live,” with less routine drudgery and more impactful moments with our associates and our customers. It’s only a matter of time before the congestion of morning commutes and the dreaded monotony of cubicle farms begin to fade away.

3. AI Drives Relationship Intelligence

Despite constant discussions regarding AI and machine learning synchronising with CRM software, very little has actually come of the hype yet. However, with AI now building more momentum within the lead-to-cash lifecycle — and especially given that we currently live in a subscription economy (more on that later) — it won’t be long before “Relationship Intelligence” is introduced as another key element of customer service which stands alongside core CRM processes.

The convergence of big data, AI and machine learning is driving insight into exciting new opportunities for customer-facing professionals, which can be delivered as SaaS/cloud services. While business may leverage CRM data, true added value is found in the vast amount of information outside the corporate firewalls. This data can turn anyone within a business a customer relationship expert if smart algorithms are utilised. This proposition has the potential to change the ways professionals work with customers in both the B2B and more retention-focused B2C worlds.


4. CRM Design Driven by the Subscription Economy

It’s widely agreed that we are currently living in the age of a “subscription economy” which has seen everything from entertainment to transport provided in this way. While we are still a long way from all products and services being offered under renewable contracts, the subscription model is affecting everything. This is why customer retention and satisfaction are more central to business success than ever.

For years, the focus of CRM systems has primarily been on new business, with customer support often an after-thought dealt with by a call centre or help-desk tool. In 2018, this simply isn’t acceptable. With analytics becoming increasingly sophisticated and easier to use than ever before, CRM must incorporate more insight into customers and organisations have to take advantage. Such insight should include customer health, likeliness to churn and how professionals can ensure a win-win growth of customer lifetime value over time.

Worryingly, the technology is currently available in many CRM systems, but businesses aren’t taking advantage. 2018 is the year this changes as providers begin offering these features as simple, out-of-the-box tools in a world growing increasingly reliant on repeat business and recurring revenue.


5. Cloud definition diversifies, yet becomes clearer

As the introduction of GDPR, an increasingly security savvy global client base and other drivers push the limits of first-generation SaaS CRM, the renaissance of truly cloud-powered CRM models is upon us. Private and hybrid cloud, dedicated SaaS — all these subtle permutations of cloud fit the more accurate use cases and requirements of global businesses of all sizes. The war over cloud CRM dominance is not over; in fact, it really hasn’t even started.

When you consider just how sophisticated cloud CRM concepts truly are, it’s clear there are vast opportunities for everyone in the sector. Both providers and CRM buyers will see some shakeup as business drivers create a need for more diverse cloud CRM alternatives.

These are just a few of the trends for how the CRM world will shape up in 2018. Although we are yet to witness these trends coming to fruition, one thing is crystal clear: the pace of change has never been faster. This will present lots of opportunities for providers and CRM users alike and high levels of innovation will continue to benefit customers the world over.

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