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Due to the pandemic, disruption to business operations has offered the industry an opportunity to deliver better value to the customers and stakeholders. But are you leveraging the best in the business CRM strategies and applications to understand and respond to your customers’ changing aspirations? We highlight the top five CRM trends that will accelerate change in the industry in 2022 and beyond.

1. Personalization

The consumer is not looking at products and prices alone. They are also looking for a good consumer experience. Over eight in ten consumers rank experience as necessary as products and services, according to a Salesforce survey of over 15,000 consumers worldwide. In a recent Salesforce-Harvard study, 82% of retailers say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. The retailers who do not focus on enhancing their customer experience will lose market share.

Experience is always personal to a customer, even if they engage with an automated sales and ordering system. While most customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, only third feel companies treat their customers as unique individuals. Consumers invest time, tell you about their preferences, and expect value for their time.

Over seven in ten consumers expect personalization and get frustrated when the brands and businesses do not do so, according to a 2021 McKinsey study. A similarly high proportion of consumers expect relevant and tailored communication from brands. Over half of consumers expect a positive onboarding experience during their first buy, and want the company to celebrate their achievements, follow-up, and send recommendations.

Companies risk revenue and reputation if they are not catering to the increased demands for personalization. According to the McKinsey report, companies that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue from such marketing actions and tactics than average players, ensuring a high return of investment in knowing your customer.

This move to a more personalized customer experience will become an even more critical CRM trend in 2022. Responding to such high customer expectations would require intelligent, real-time capabilities that are now possible through artificial intelligence (AI).

2. AI

AI has been around for a while, but the recent surge in the integration of AI in CRM is a good sign of changing times. Between 2018 and 2020, the number of marketers using AI grew by an incredible 190%, according to the State of Marketing report. Machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, and other innovations are reshaping the industry.

As more people are getting online for longer hours than ever before, these new tech tools have moved from opt-ins to must-haves for any business. The power of AI is its ability to make sense of large amounts of data in a short time and provide actionable information. But not AI systems are equal, and they are only as valuable as their ability to provide actionable insights.

2022 will be a year where we can see more integration between AI and CRM. AI’s analytical and predictive capacity excels in identifying current and future marketing, sales, and support opportunities for a brand. AI also helps customers make intelligent decisions by better understanding their behavior patterns. AI’s forecasting ability helps team leaders and managers be vigilant and alerts them in advance so that the response is strategic and not out of panic.

3. Seamless connection

Customers expect a seamless consumer experience. They may find a product while browsing pictures on their laptop, look for it on their mobile phone, share it with their friends on messaging apps for their recommendation, and finally buy it online or in-store.

This multi-channel delivery of content and product will become even more important and apparent in CRM as more consumers will continue to shop online than in person. The Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report found that while only 42% of customer touchpoints were digital in 2018, it shot to 60% in 2020 and 2021, with a similar decline in in-person interactions between consumers and companies.

People use about nine different touchpoints to interact with brands. Much of this time is on social media, via information not directly controlled by the business, such as Google search results, review sites, social media. This shadow information about the company can encourage or derail a customer’s journey.

In a survey of senior marketing industry leaders, 67% percent of marketing leaders say that creating a connected customer journey across all touchpoints and channels is critical to success. However, only 23% are currently satisfied with their ability to connect the data dots to create more relevant experiences.

CRM will help optimize your customer’s journey that is medium positive. But to do so requires better integration of business processes. How CRM systems provide both front-end and back-end device-neutral experience will be a transformative move for customer relationship management.

4. Self-service

Many people are becoming increasingly digital literate. About 7 in 10 customers would rather use self-service to solve simple issues. Indeed, the number of customers who expect a brand or organization to offer a self-service customer support portal has increased dramatically. The new Gen-Z customers prefer to do ‘their own research’ and have low trust in traditional advertising messages and channels.

Digital self-service includes a community element where people can freely ask questions and share their genuine experience with a product or service. Building an eco-system for the community of consumers to share information, peer-to-peer recommendations, and loyalty rewards are different ways to realign your business strategy with the changing internet habits of consumers. Public concerns about health and well-being are also on the rise, particularly after COVID-19, and brands that do not speak to these concerns risk losing their customers. Empowering your customers with the tools they need to share their experiences with fellow customers—and understanding them—will be a crucial trend in the future.

5. Engaging employees

Lack of CRM integration with business strategy and process is one of the biggest challenges to getting the most out of a CRM system. A Gallup study found that only about 34% of US managers and employees are actively engaged in their workplace. They estimated that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy between $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity.

If a company’s culture does not support the rapid adoption of innovation and learning, there will be gaps and lags in CRM adoption among product, marketing, and sales teams. Engaging your employees will be one of the top trends in 2022 for businesses to unlock the potential of CRM systems such as Salesforce truly.

As we look forward to a post-pandemic world, remote work and distributed teams will be more common than ever before. Adapting and making CRM systems available to employees anywhere and anytime—with the support they need—will ensure your employees can put in their best for the consumers. According to Simon Mulcahy, chief innovation officer at Salesforce, “The people who interface between your organization and the customer are the single most important people. What they hear from the customer is the best intelligence that your organization has.”