By Barton Goldenberg
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is red hot and for very good reasons. Coca Cola is a shining example of a company that leverages AI to squeeze every drop of insight it can from the customer data it collects. Ever wonder how Cherry Sprite came about? Coca Cola created Cherry Sprite as a new flavor after monitoring data collected from ‘smart’ self-service soft drink fountains, which allow customers to mix their own drinks. With over 100 million Facebook fans and 35 million Twitter followers, Social Media is another hugely important source Coca Cola uses to gather customer insight and to engage their customer base.
Unilever is another example of a company that leverages AI at their 26 data centers around the world to synthesize insights from a large range of customer inputs including social listening, CRM and traditional market research. Ever wonder about the origin of cereal-based ice creams under the Ben & Jerry’s brand? This resulted from Unilever using AI to find more than 50 songs that featured lyrics on “ice cream and breakfast.”
You may not be into drinking Cherry Sprite or eating Ben & Jerry’s cereal-based ice cream. Nor will you likely find AI applications like advanced numerical analysis, voice/speech recognition, text analysis and machine learning listed in your current job responsibilities. But if you are responsible for marketing, selling and servicing your customers, now is the time to understand how AI will impact your company’s future CRM efforts:
Lead scoring provides sales reps with the opportunity to contact the most-likely-to-buy prospects. In the past, sales prospect algorithms classified each lead via fixed rules set by humans. With the advent of AI, lead scoring starts with these algorithms and adds to them user-defined factors. AI self-learns by weighing each factor that makes up a sales rep’s lead scores and consequently derives more attractive prospect lists than the algorithms could on their own. Salesforce’s Einstein platform and Infor’s Coleman AI platform are good examples of CRM software applications that use AI for predictive lead scoring.
Chatbots is the name for robots that simulate human conversations. Chatbots are increasingly being used by CRM applications to assist customers in finding the answers to their inquiries as well as ensuring that customers are guided to the suitable channel (e.g., self-service or a company employee). While chatbots are currently focused on enhancing customer service platforms, there is much future potential to apply chatbots to a variety of customer interactions. Oracle predicts that 80% of major brands will be using Chatbots by 2020, and the Gartner Group predicts that 85% of customer interactions will be automated by 2020.
Applying AI to sales forecasting is the top growth area for sales teams. While historical sales data can be used to predict future sales, changing circumstances inevitably lead to inaccurate sales forecasts. AI offers a comprehensive understanding of each customer’s needs and past behaviors, thereby reducing recurrent ‘blind spots’ in sales and account scoring. AI also allows marketing and sales to assess customer experience and customer journeys and to gain real-time insight into customer pain points, preferences, sentiments, and other buying triggers, all of which helps to create more accurate sales forecasts. Gartner predicts within five years, more than 50 percent of the Fortune 500 will be using a combination of Neural Sales Data and Sales AI to optimize sales.
Future of AI in CRM
The future of AI applied to CRM is bright. AI-powered virtual assistants will automate sales and service tasks. Chatbots will assist customers to complete simple tasks. AI content-generation tools will create one-to-one personalized marketing materials. AI will help make data entry and data cleansing easier. AI-powered internal and customer training will become the norm.
While AI may have had a checkered past in terms of delivering meaningful ROI, two drivers will continue to propel the application of AI to CRM: (1) the continued explosion of customer and market data, which has created the need to better process and analyze this data and (2) the acceptance of the Cloud, which enables CRM systems to integrate with data from different digital sources (e.g., Social Media communities, websites, third-party data).
To be successful in our digital world, great companies make tremendous efforts to better understand their customers’ behavior, create unique products and services to address their customers’ needs, and communicate with their customers in a more targeted manner. AI provides powerful tools to accomplish these objectives. Perhaps this explains why Coca Cola and Unilever continue to lead the pack in their respective industries.
Help with AI in CRM:
ISM would be happy to discuss AI developments impacting your business in more detail with you over a call. You can also choose a good time here: https://calendly.com/ismguide/increasecustomeradvocacy. The link will take you to our calendar where we can arrange a time to speak. Other options: contact us page or call 301-656-8448.
Barton Goldenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of ISM Inc. (www.ismguide.com). Since 1985, ISM has established itself as the premiere strategic advisor to organizations planning or implementing Customer Strategies to address Digital Transformation, Data Analytics, CRM, Digital Customer Communities, Customer Engagement, and Emerging Technologies initiatives. He is in high demand as a keynote speaker (www.bartongoldenberg.com) and is author of four books including his latest – The Definitive Guide to Social CRM. He is currently completing his new book titled: Engaged Customer Strategy: Your Roadmap to Success in 2030.