CRM To Get Smarter With Artificial Intelligence

by Sohini Bagchi    Jun 20, 2017

crm

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by businesses was more like a science fiction than reality until recently. Today, however, innovative companies have already put AI backed solutions into use to enhance customer experiences. In fact several CRM vendors are gearing up to enrich their platforms with intelligence and incorporating AI into their solutions.

These IT majors such as Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle—are betting that with AI, businesses will be able to deliver more predictive and personalized customer experiences across sales, service, marketing, commerce, and more. For instance, last year, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff stated on the company’s launch of Einstein product, that “… it is now every customer’s data scientist, making it easy for everyone to take advantage of best-in-class AI capabilities in the context of their business.”

These vendors are making substantial investments to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in the hopes of transforming enterprise operations, and in turn impressing shareholders and gaining market share. A good example could be Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion to bolster its software solutions, including Dynamics. With this acquisition, Microsoft will be able to leverage data from millions of LinkedIn profiles.

According to the new IDC White Paper, by 2021, AI-powered CRM activities could increase global business revenues by $1.1 trillion and create 800,000 net-new jobs. The study commissioned by Salesforce, estimated that the global market for AI in CRM is estimated to jump from $7.9 billion in 2016 to $46.3 billion by 2021.

Read more: Analytics Empowering Sales; Moving Towards a Progressive Future

“The year 2018 will be a landmark year for AI adoption. More than 40 percent of companies said they will adopt AI within the next two years,” it said. In fact, by 2018, IDC forecasts that 75 percent of enterprise and ISV development will include AI or machine-learning functionality in at least one application. AI-powered CRM activities will cover a large spectrum of use cases and touch almost all facets of an enterprise, including accelerating sales cycles, improving lead generation and qualification, personalizing marketing campaigns and lowering costs of support calls.

 Given this, it is worth considering the opportunities AI-infused CRM will create. First, with AI and machine learning, enterprise sales and marketing teams can expect dramatic changes in their overall effectiveness. With the rapid proferation of customer data, AI-infused CRM software will enable businesses to prioritize audiences, alerting them to the prospects that have the highest propensity to make a purchase.

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According to IDC, from predictive sales lead scoring to service chatbots to personalized marketing campaigns, AI could provide every employee with tools to be more productive and provide smarter, more personalized customer experiences.  

Over time, this system will teach itself to do an even better job of targeting potential customers and decision makers by identifying which personal or professional attributes hold the maximum value. As the software evolves, it will effectively create a system of continuous improvement for sales and marketing teams. For example, AI and predictive analytics will make all aspects of CRM better, from sentiment and intent analysis to lead scoring, product recommendations, and upselling. This intelligence will also minimize or prevent customer churn.

Read more: How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing The Enterprise

Finally, AI will have a substantial impact on the overall CRM marketplace. Researchers believe that machine learning and artificial intelligence will revolutionize CRM in the next 3-4 years. At the same time, the five market leaders—Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, and Adobe—will invest heavily in AI over the next few years in order to remain competitive.

As per CB Insights, more than 30 companies working in the AI space have been acquired in 2016. Salesforce has acquired at least nine of them and is also investing significantly in talent development and hiring. All the acquisitions by Salesforce have culminated into a AI based CRM platform, Einstein which it launched in May 2016. Microsoft and Oracle are also not behind with Microsoft announcing Dynamics 365 with AI ingrained features in October 2016 and Oracle announcing Adaptive Intelligence platform around the same time. Microsoft has also set up a fund to support AI based start-ups.

“AI is impacting all sectors of the economy and every business. For the CRM market—the fastest-growing category in enterprise software—the impact of AI will be profound, ushering in new levels of productivity for employees and empowering companies to drive even better experiences for their customers,” said Keith Block, vice chairman, president and COO, Salesforce. “For companies embracing AI, it’s critical that they create new workforce development programs to ensure employees are prepared for this next wave of innovation.”

Read more: 3 Key Trends Shaping The Future Of AI

Key findings from the IDC White Paper on the economic impact of AI on CRM said, AI associated with CRM could boost global business revenues by $1.1 trillion from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2021. This global business revenue boost is predicted to be led primarily by increased productivity ($121 billion) and lowered expenses due to automation ($265 billion).

The types of AI companies are planning to use, or exploring, range from machine learning (25%) and voice/speech recognition (30%), to text analysis (27%) and advanced numerical analysis (31%). New jobs associated with the boost in global business revenues could reach more than 800,000 by 2021, surpassing those jobs lost to automation from AI. Underpinning the adoption of AI, 46 percent of AI adopters report that more than 50 percent of their CRM activities are executed using the public cloud, said the whitepaper.

Only time will tell how deeply AI will continue to disrupt not just the CRM space but business platforms as a whole.While the US and European countries are currently leading in the AI on CRM race,  One thing is certain: We are in an exciting period of evolution for the CRM industry, and many stakeholders across the spectrum are not only keenly aware but also heavily invested in how this seismic shift toward an intelligent, proactive enterprise application plays out.