We operate more than a few high-powered, data-supported crystal balls here at PYMNTS, and one of the things we have learned about the future of payments and commerce is that personalized customer service promises to play an even bigger role in the coming decade than it did over the last 10 years. And companies offering customer service relationship management (CRM) software, along with related technology, will be using those tools and features in their ongoing efforts to win over more B2C and enterprise business.
In a new PYMNTS interview, Brad Birnbaum, CEO and co-founder of software-as-a-service (SaaS) company Kustomer, gave a tour of that landscape, and offered navigation of what’s coming in the 2020s for the CRM and customer service world. Birnbaum has ample experience in this space, having sold his former firm Assistly to the CRM powerhouse Salesforce, which rebranded the property as Desk.com. PYMNTS caught up with Birnbaum right as Kustomer, launched in 2015, was raising $60 million in a Series E funding round.
David and Goliath?
“To a certain extent, it is a David-and-Goliath story,” Birnbaum said when asked about operating in a part of the economy where Salesforce and other giants operate. But he and other smaller businesses in this space aim to use the strength of those competitors against them, at least in a way.
“Salesforce is 20 years old at this point,” he said, and that means — at least in his view — newer players that have launched with a mobile-first and personalization mentality via their CRM offerings have a shot at taking more market share. “My firm belief is that once a decade, all products need to be reinvented,” he added.
PYMNTS research and other data sources point to the increasing important of CRM offerings that offer better customer service and more personalization features than was the case just a few years ago. CRM, of course, refers to the collection of procedures — usually software solutions — that businesses use to interact with their customers. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning-supported systems are at the cutting edge of CRM, and the market for AI-related solutions is rapidly expanding.
Some estimates claim that AI-enabled CRM software is on course to increase global business revenue by as much as $1.1 trillion from 2017 to 2021. Using such technologies to enhance CRM capabilities allows quick-service restaurants (QSRs) to provide customers with AI-enabled screen access at select QSR drive-thrus and other retail locations, offering personalization that would be impossible to match by relying on traditional Excel spreadsheet analysis. QSRs have historically used the latter method to review customers’ data.
Those are hardly the only trends that Kustomer and other CRM and SaaS providers are looking to ride.
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) businesses are working harder to reach consumers on their own terms and to have more control over transactions — and that means, in many if not most cases, upgrading technology with the goal of reaching consumers at all touchpoints. “They don’t view call centers as call centers,” Birnbaum told PYMNTS by way of example. “They view them as profit centers.”
No matter what, the accumulation and analysis of a growing amount of data is vital to the CRM and customer experience in the 2020s, Birnbaum said. He offered another example: Say the CRM data shows that a customer who tended to make three purchases from a retailer has not made a purchase in 12 months. Data can help the retailer craft an enticing offer to get that customer back to spending. As well, robust technology can determine the reasons that customers have reported bad service and try to fix the issue via offers or other methods. “Data can be elevated to support services,” he told PYMNTS.
The general idea is to provide an omnichannel experience that applies to the 2020s. Birnbaum defined that experience as a “single-thread conversation around a topic where you can converse with your customers in any channel you support.” That requires a tight focus on customer service, and via personalization as well.
There is so much going on in the CRM space – much of which is driven not only by new and updated platforms, but also the further rise of relatively inexpensive cloud-based storage, among other factors. You can expect more movement and innovation in the coming few years. But as Birnbaum told PYMNTS, a focus on personalization, among other tasks, can serve any retailer well going into this new decade.