3 CRM Trends Small Businesses Need to Know About

By: Anita Ann Babu on September 5, 2017

A rolodex evokes nostalgia for a time when stacks of cards were the best way to manage your contacts. But a rolodex was clunky, couldn’t be carried around easily and the cards started to yellow and crumble after a while. That’s why I’m glad the rolodex died in the 2000s and was replaced with CRM software.


Source: Giphy

The CRM software market has evolved a great deal since the demise of the rolodex. Processes have become increasingly quicker. Moreover, cloud-based software means that your information is available at any time, from anywhere. Any salesperson can use data on the CRM solution to reach current customers and gain new ones.

Frequent tech advancements and changing market scenarios make it vital for salespersons to use the best tools available to stay ahead.

In this article, we talk about three CRM trends that small and midsize businesses should adopt and why. These trends will add significant value to your products and services.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Trend #1: Sales Force Automation Goes Mobile

Trend #2: A New Generation of Customers Wants Self-Service

Trend #3: Social CRM Is the New Revenue Channel

Where to Go From Here

Trend #1: Sales Force Automation Goes Mobile

“By 2018, manual data entry by salespeople for SFA systems will be reduced by 50% due to adoption of mobile sales productivity tools.”

Source: 2016 Gartner report, “Sales Force Automation Buyers Value Operational Efficiency, Product Performance and Native Mobile Apps First” (full content available to Gartner clients)

 Why SMBs should care:  Sales force automation (SFA) is about managing accounts, contacts, leads, forecasts, marketing and sales efforts. It forms the core of CRM for sales purposes and marketing, with the aim of boosting efficiency.

About 94 percent of all CRM software queries we received in 2016 were for SFA. The above mentioned Gartner report notes that users want it to automate sales activity tracking, forecast management and 360-degree view of all customer data. Mobility is significant to automation due to the proliferation of mobile devices.

Gartner’s “Hype Cycle for CRM Sales, 2016” report (content available to Gartner clients) says that companies are leveraging mobile functionality in SFA software to offer more value to the customers. Of the SFA users Gartner surveyed in 2016, here are the top three functions that SFA helps manage on smartphones:

Top CRM Functions Accessed From Smartphones


Source: Gartner’s “Hype Cycle for CRM Sales, 2016

 When to opt for mobile productivity tools:  Gartner’s “Sales Force Automation Buyers Value Operational Efficiency, Product Performance and Native Mobile Apps First” report surveyed SFA customers across the globe to discover the top reasons for adoption. Shift your vital needs to an SFA mobile app and you will:

  • Increase internal efficiency with on-the-go access to customer information.

  • Improve customer relations and service with knowledgeable interactions.

  • Enhance the agility and outcomes of processes with reports, dashboards and data capture functions to automate sales processes.

  • Boost revenue growth while reducing costs with easily available mobile devices.

  • Make better, on-the-fly decisions with access to past interactions, price quotes, customer requirements etc.

Not sure if you need sales force automation tools or CRM software? Call us at (844) 852-3639 for a free consultation with a software advisor.

Vendors that provide sales force automation services on mobile

When choosing a vendor, ask this: Can the mobile app manage common daily tasks such as account management, opportunity updates and sales activity entries? Below are some of the top user-rated software vendors who offer SFA for mobile:

Given below are some useful CRM features and software vendors you can consider.

Business need: Synchronize calendars, contacts, emails and tasks with a mailbox

Vendors: Salesforce.com and Top Producer

Adding reporting and analytics features can help your sales team determine the best course of action for potential leads.

Business need: Automate follow-up messages for different customer segments based on the level of engagement

Vendors: Infusionsoft and Chime

Automating this process helps salespeople form relationships with their leads. It also helps managers automatically assign leads to specific agents.

Trend #2: A New Generation of Customers Wants Self-Service

“Individuals expect to receive world-class self-service capabilities, and organizations must strive to meet those expectations. The reward for successful organizations will be lower costs, an improvement in the customer experience and an upswing in customer loyalty.”

Source: 2016 Gartner report, “Why You Need to Rethink Your Customer Self-Service Strategy” (full content available to Gartner clients).

 Why SMBs should care:  Self-service includes voice-driven apps (e.g., speech recognition and voice-based search) or conversational artificial intelligence such as chatbots (e.g., Apple’s Business Chat that integrates with iMessage to answer customer queries).

In the report mentioned above, Gartner’s clients rank customer self-service as a top-five customer service trend. It adds that many companies want to deflect up to 90 percent of telephone calls in favor of service via digital channels. Small businesses, especially, cannot afford to have a full-fledged customer support center offering telephone support.

That’s why self-service makes sense as a cheaper and more efficient model to offer support. Even enterprises are switching to self-service portals after realizing the benefits, especially in increasing sales.

 When to opt for a self-service solution:  Gartner’s “Hype Cycle for CRM Customer Service and Customer Engagement, 2016” report (content available to Gartner clients) recommends making self-service a key focus area. It predicts that mobile will comprise 85 percent of all internet interactions by the end of 2019. Therefore, adopting self-service on mobile will give you a significant market edge.

Here are some recommendations from the Gartner report to help you adopt this trend:

  • Consider the impact of mobile self-service tools and the Internet of Things (IoT) on your customers while developing your customer self-service strategies and plans.

  • Formulate a holistic multi-channel engagement strategy keeping customer self-service at the core.

  • Provide a seamless customer experience using cross-channel communication to offer assistance. For example, your FAQ page can have a video or text chat with agent feature.

  • Use the knowledge management feature in your CRM solution to impart consistent and relevant information to customers. This will drive self-service on your website, messaging, chat or even phone offerings.

  • Generate insights into customer behavior and experience using real-time data and analytics. This will help you predict their needs and serve them in a proactive manner.

Not sure if you need the self-service feature in your CRM software? Call us at (844) 852-3639 for a free consultation with a software advisor.

Vendors that offer customer self-service solutions

Self-service is highly relevant because millennials are the largest customer base globally. In the U.S., they account for 30 percent of the population. Millennials are highly self-reliant, appreciate fast service and sustain bonds with brands that offer real value. They also like doing things on their own.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few vendors who can help you provide self-service facilities to your new generation of customers and employees:

Let’s look at some CRM features that are useful for SMBs and software vendors that offer those capabilities.

Business need: Mobile CRM solution to capture data any time

Vendor: Base

With self-service features allowing your agents to capture, organize and track leads, they can plan better. This will enable them to offer more enhanced service than traditional service models can offer.

Business need: Knowledge base and forums for customers to find answers

Vendor: Freshdesk

Customer-facing self-service portals help them find answers and connect with you directly. Forums also allow them to reach out to other customers who faced similar issues and now offer assistance. This knowledge base is a great resource for your business.

Trend #3: Social CRM Is the New Revenue Channel

“Application leaders supporting CRM and customer experience must continue to…make social customer service part of the broader customer engagement center strategy, [assist] the sales organization with making social prospecting and collaboration part of its day-to-day process [and promote] social commerce as a way to drive conversion.”

Source: 2017 Gartner report, “Top Use Cases and Benefits of Social for CRM in 2017” (full content available to Gartner clients).

 Why SMBs should care: Software Advice’s Buyer’s Guide for CRM software predicts that social CRM will have the biggest impact on customer tracking software.

A global survey for Microsoft’s 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report found that 64 percent of consumers aged 18-34 considered social media as an effective customer service channel. In fact, 52 percent of them had actively used social media for their questions.

Here’s a look at how social media sites are helping small businesses monetize their networks for promotion and marketing:

  • In May 2017, Twitter added bots to its promoted tweets for better chat experience. Businesses can now add images, video, gifs and call-to-action buttons. Meanwhile…

  • Around the same time, Facebook expanded its Live feature to all users. Livestreaming allows one-on-one conversations with customers and public comments on the company’s stream. It’s a quick way to reach a wider audience.

 When to opt for a social CRM solution: Adopting social CRM with the expectation of increasing revenue is a process. Here’s how you can proceed:

  • Identify your customer base and their preferred social media channel. Invest your efforts and resources where the traffic is (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram) to engage the most number of customers and leads.

  • Understand your customers’ online opinions. If you receive more complaints than goodwill on your social media, revise your customer service. After that’s fixed, focus on marketing and digital commerce.

  • Align your marketing strategy to customer service, sales and e-commerce strategies. Have a cohesive CRM strategy in place to drive maximum customer impact customers and reap benefits.

  • Develop a conversion strategy to increase in-store traffic. If you still rely on face-to-face interaction for sales, tweak your social media marketing strategy to drive customers to your store(s).

Not sure if you need the social CRM feature for your business? Call us at (844) 852-3639 for a free consultation with a software advisor.

Vendors that offer social CRM solutions

Listed below are a couple of vendors who offer the social CRM feature:

Here are some social CRM features that’ll be beneficial for your business. The abovementioned vendors are among the FrontRunners in the CRM software market that offer social media functionalities.

Business need: Track which customers interact with your business on social media

Vendors: HubSpot CRM and Nimble

Keep customer profiles updated with integrated “social listening” that helps you track which contacts/leads mention, follow or engage with your brand. This will create valuable opportunities for informed outreach and follow-ups.

Business need: Expand your reach on as many social platforms as possible

Vendor: Bitrix24

Use a single platform to manage all social activity from networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Viber, Instagram, Snapchat, Slack and Skype.

Where to Go From Here

We picked these three trends because SMBs adopted them when they embraced technology in their operations. The trends reflect the evolution of the CRM software market. But, remember that these trends need to be supported with a robust CRM solution that offers you maximum benefits.

Here’s what you can do to ensure that:

  • Check whether your vendor allows integrating the above trends. Ask your software vendor whether they offer these add-ons or provide integrations with third-party providers. If you’re new to CRM software, you could start with our FrontRunners and Buyers Guide.

  • Assess your IT capabilities to gauge your scalability. Hardware upgrades are inevitable so, check whether you are ready for it. You need to deal with client data in a sensitive manner, for which, you require greater security and compliance.

  • Demo vendors to find the best fit. It’s unlikely that you’ll find what you need in the first try. Browse through the hundreds of CRM software in the market and test them out to see which solution suits your business best.

If you have any questions regarding the above trends or want more options for CRM solutions, call us at (844) 852-3639. Or, to receive custom price quotes in your inbox, fill out this short questionnaire, and we’ll email you the details.