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CRM: 360-degree customer view is simply not enough

By Henning Lund - October 12, 2016

Since the early days of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), we have been sold the idea of the customer 360-degree view. This is what CRM vendors and companies have been seeking these past decades – the holy grail of CRM. I remember about 20 years ago, when I was introduced to CRM, I found the idea of joining all the information that sales, marketing and service people need in one system absolutely awesome. I felt that we had achieved a tremendous step towards having a full picture of our customers – and being able to use this information to treat customers differently. And we had. Twenty years ago, the idea of CRM was truly revolutionary! But we were far from being able to envision what would come afterwards.

The CRM quest – a moving target

CRM applications got more and more functionality along the years. They became mobile, they were put on the Cloud, and they embraced the emergence of social and IoT. All these amazing business disruptions have taken customer understanding to an entire new level. Each step of the way, we thought we had achieved the 360-degrees customer view, and each and every time, we surely got closer, but each time, new innovation took us to a new, higher level. The customer 360-degree view has been much of a moving target! And after attending top CRM event of the year – Dreamforce 16 – I have realized that we are still very much in the middle of yet another CRM revolution.

To get a real time and updated 360-degree view on clients, you also need to embed information you don’t have today, data you purchase from service providers that listen in on social media, commercial platforms and any place information can be traced. Most companies have today a massive amount of data to process, which makes it impossible to store on a customer file and make conclusions based on that. Therefore the holy grail of CRM does not lie in the availability of data, but rather in processing and transforming data into actions.

A step closer with Salesforce Einstein

It is fair to say that Salesforce has been leading the quest for the CRM Holy Grail since the early days of CRM. Betting on a no software CRM at the time when the Cloud scared the most away, they have today a product that can take you a step closer – yet – to truly understanding your customers. There are many things I love about Salesforce. Besides the amazing partner community and unique ohana feeling that they simply convey, I love the way they keep pushing the boundaries to what you can get from your CRM system. How? Well, let me give you a few examples:

  • AppEx: Take the AppExchange for starters. What a brilliant idea to develop a platform for partners to promote their certified add-on solutions/apps and for customers to just go, check them out and download them. There are so many apps in there that can bring additional value to Salesforce customers – whether the apps bring additional sales, marketing, service, or even finance, HR, ERP or integration capabilities to Salesforce. Salesforce actually decided to develop and drive the Appex platform to help their customers get the most out of their Salesforce investment. Sure, it isn’t really new to have an App-platform. Apple has it. Microsoft has it. But imagine that you have a sophisticated, fully embedded solution installed with a click as if was an app on the phone, that is unique. And the underlying technologies inside of Salesforce is adding extra power to the solution.
  • Lightning: Then there is Salesforce Lightning. Those of you who follow this blog know that I am a fan of the Salesforce Lightning . More than a simple new interface, Lightning is a completely re-imagined user experience; it also a new design system that helps build new apps and leverage the new user experience for the benefit of Salesforce customers.
  • Einstein: What made the biggest impression this year at Dreamforce is without a doubt Salesforce Einstein – Salesforce’s way to introduce artificial intelligence (AI) to their products.

What is Salesforce Einstein?

Imagine a system that would track, collect information from all available data sources, including social sources and smart, connected devices, and not only make these available for you to use, but that would also suggest what your next action should be? A system that would analyze how your leads are behaving on social media to plan your next move at the very best time, prepare the email with the relevant information and that you would simply need to review and send in order to secure a deal? A system that would analyze how your leads and prospects react to your communications and would suggest new routes or ways of interacting with them based on this insight? Salesforce Einstein makes it happen! In my mind, Salesforce Einstein (and generally AI) is the new major step towards the 360-degree customer view – one that was hard to predict at the early days of the CRM era. If it works like described, it’s beyond clever; the equivalent of bringing a data analyst in your Salesforce system… and yet, the current Salesforce Einstein is probably just scratching the surface of what AI will be able to do for our customer interactions in the coming years.

Fuel Einstein with integrations

Think about it: the more data Einstein can get access to, the better it will help you to service your customers and win deals. By integrating Salesforce to other applications (I am of course thinking about ERP, about Dynamics products, but it certainly should not be reduced to that), Einstein can become even more clever and can help you achieve incremental productivity improvements.

So, does Einstein deliver the long awaited CRM Holy Grail? It certainly feels like it, but frankly, I don’t think we are there yet. Or rather I hope not. Why? Because this is what is so fantastic about working with technology. The minute you think you are there, it keeps taking you to new heights. I cannot wait to see what the industry will do with artificial intelligence, where partner will take the idea of Einstein through new apps. I cannot wait to see what the next revolutionary move will be.


About the author

Henning Lund

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With over 25 years’ experience in strategically propelling businesses forward, Henning is considered a business development entrepreneur with a passion for transforming businesses, sales and marketing operations through out-of-the-box thinking, concepts building and process automation to improve overall performance and scalability.

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