Sandeep Kadam is director of CRM and enterprise technology at Eagle Creek Software Services.
In this exclusive interview, Kadam provides CRM Buyer readers with some insights on how to understand the new customers for CRM software.
CRM Buyer: What are some of the most significant trends right now in CRM?
Sandeep Kadam: When I started about 20 years ago, it was more of an inside-out technology. It was about making sales calls more efficient, and giving salespeople all the tools they needed so they could achieve their numbers. From there it has become more of an outside-in technology, where the customer is impacting how CRM is going to evolve.
Customers are driving that functionality, and I attribute that to the social footprint that started impacting not only CRM, but everything else around it. What we're seeing is that companies are looking for help and assistance in making the customer journey more effective. They're asking, "What can I do to make it easier for my customer to engage with me?"
Customers are not using traditional channels, like call centers and in-person offices. They're using devices, and that's where creating an effective customer journey is becoming more of a need. Companies have multiple channels where customers interact, and they're trying to find new ways to engage with their customers.
Kadam: A good CRM application is going to allow a company to do proper data mining. What that means is that the company is able to do a deep dive into a customer's interactions with that company and is proactively able to go talk with that customer about what can benefit the end user, or is able to look at complaints and proactively react to that need.
CRM also allows for effective staff management. You need to understand how many people are meeting your expectations. All of that information is available in CRM, but a good CRM system is able to provide patterns that will allow leadership to make staffing changes, increase or decrease staff, or provide additional training.
Finally, a good CRM system allows companies to be effective in case management. If a pattern of transactions is telling a manager or leader that a particular product has been having a lot of complaints, the manager has the information available to go to the business and talk to them.
All of this information that can drive business growth and allow businesses to make good decisions is available, and a good CRM system provides that information. CRM Buyer: What role should automation play in CRM? And how can it best be balanced with human interaction?
Kadam: Let's look at customers. The definition of a "customer" has changed a little bit over time. The customer we used to have 10 years ago was not hooked onto devices. They had the patience to call in and provide all the information needed.
Customers today, however, are connected and want more information available at their fingertips. They want to provide minimum information, but they also want maximum output. CRM vendors should find a way to consolidate their back ends and legacy systems, to make sure that they have all the proper information.
Once a customer calls in, the company's representative should be able to get, by asking two questions, all the information that's available about that customer. The only way that's possible is to put in proper automation workflows, so building that automation is the key. Integration and automation is going to become a backbone to successful CRM practice.
CRM Buyer: Is there a need to balance automation with human interaction in CRM?
Kadam: As technology takes over, human contact is becoming increasingly irrelevant. We'd never recommend any customer to fully automate their call centers, but that customer base is diminishing very fast.
Part of a company's strategy needs to account for some level of human intervention, but we're moving away from that. Customer engagement and creating a user journey is going to bring the customer and company together.
CRM Buyer: How is CRM evolving and changing? What's in the future?
Kadam: Customers are changing. They believe that they know everything, and they are going to provide minimum information and expect more.
Everyone is trying to engage their customers, and the next step will be to give customers the ability to create their own user interface. They want to define what kind experience they're going to have.