Serving customers — a key task for nearly every business owner — is now also one of the biggest jobs for software.
For example, did you know that large organizations now spend more money on customer relationship management (CRM) software than they do on any other kind of enterprise app?
Or that three-quarters of organizations increased their spending on customer-experience (CX) tech last year?
Or that cutting-edge organizations are preparing now for what they call the autonomous virtual customer?
It’s all true, according to Gartner. The research and advisory firm is holding its customer-experience summit this week in Sydney, Australia. Here’s some of what conference attendees are hearing about customer software.
As mentioned, CRM remains the world’s largest and fastest-growing category of enterprise application software. Spending on CRM software grew nearly 16% last year, reaching $48.2 billion worldwide, Gartner reports.
By comparison, the overall market for all enterprise apps grew last year by a somewhat slower 12.5%. Total sales came to $193.6 billion, of which CRM accounted for nearly a quarter.
CRM is also increasingly based in the cloud. Nearly three-quarters of all CRM spending last year was for Software as a Service (SaaS) versions, which run in the cloud. Spending on SaaS-based CRM grew 20% last year, faster than both overall enterprise apps and all CRM.
CRM is not quite a winner-takes-all market. More like a winners-take-most. Last year, 40% of total worldwide CRM revenue went to just 5 vendors: Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Adobe and Microsoft. The remaining 60% of the market was shared by “others.”
Three-quarters of organizations increased their spending on customer-experience (CX) tech last year, a Gartner survey finds. These technologies included customer analytics, voice of the customer, digital marketing, and customer-needs/customer-journey analysis.
For this year, the top CX priorities include: better metrics, faster time to market, product proliferation and personalization, and customer-journey automation.
The top 3 technologies expected to have a big impact on CX: AI, virtual customer assistants and chatbots, and omnichannel engagement solutions.
CX initiatives aren’t easy. Nearly two-thirds (60%) of organizations had their CX initiatives stalled due to a lack of executive support. About as many also found it difficult to demonstrate a return on investment (ROI) for their CX projects.
Virtual customer service
Companies are trying to serve customers with a mix of AI-powered virtual personal assistants and IoT-connected devices. They’ll need all this — and maybe more — to serve a new type of buyer, the autonomous virtual customer. Think: “My software agent will be happy to serve your software agent.”
However, most organizations aren’t ready yet. Gartner says they’ll have to overcome 5 serious challenges first:
> Tech capacity and capability: Organizations need to do an excellent job recording and serving both customer preferences and influencing factors. Another sticking point: machine-to-machine communication.
> Data privacy: Organizations must be able to authenticate virtual customers, keep their data secure and private, and comply with all appropriate privacy regulations. They can’t do this yet.
> Legal liability: Who’s responsible for failed transactions, payment fraud and other problems? Customers will demand to know.
> Brand strategy: With online consumers increasingly fickle, brand loyalty is becoming a thing of the past. To retain today’s customers, organizations will need new strategies and approaches.
> Human acceptance: Consumers are learning to distrust technology, thanks to recent and well-publicized thefts of personal information. To restore trust, organizations will need to demonstrate that they can keep personal customer data secure and private.
Used to be, serving customers was a matter of answering the phone, responding to emails, and making the occasional personal visit. Now it’s increasingly a job for software. Are you and your customers getting ready?