Before ChatGPT came along, CRM vendors had started to embed artificial intelligence in their apps.
Customer Relationship Management software vendors have touted AI for several years, but it has not yet been as revolutionary as in other areas, such as content marketing or code debugging.
So, how does AI apply to CRM software?
According to SugarCRM’s 2022 CRM Impact Report, the most adopted use cases for AI are
- Automated emails
- Account intelligence
- Conversational AI
- Lead conversion
- Opportunity close prediction
CRM And Artificial Intelligence
Combining generative AI with CRM allows companies to automate business processes better, develop more personalized communications, and provide customers with the most helpful answers to questions.
In CRM systems, generative AI is designed to be assistive to humans, not work unattended.
At its core, CRM AI helps businesses better organize customer information and access that information more easily. This includes contact details, demographic data, communication history, purchase history, and other pertinent data used to build sales opportunities and better serve customers.
With this intelligence, companies can create finely-tuned segmentation of leads and contacts to nurture better relationships with prospects and customers.
Additionally, AI can help businesses respond faster to customer inquiries and provide more informed answers to requests.
On the sales side, CRM with embedded AI gives users things like:
- Predictive lead scoring
- More accurate sales forecasts
- Natural language search
- Data entry automation
- Automatically generated follow-up emails
Intelligent case routing may be a coming AI feature on the customer service side.
The goal of artificial intelligence in CRM is to let AI handle the analysis and make intelligent recommendations about a customer or prospect based on all the data about that person the system has collected.
With AI, a salesperson can open a contact record and ask the system for suggestions on how to best connect with that person without spending time sifting through company news and Twitter or LinkedIn profiles.
Unlike the generally available ChatGPT, CRM vendors’ application of generative AI should be anchored on trusted customer data to guard against abusive use of the technology.
Examples of Vendors’ CRM With AI
Not surprisingly, some of the biggest names in CRM eagerly tout their artificial intelligence functionality.
Companies like Salesforce, HubSpot, SugarCRM, Zoho, and Microsoft have all integrated some form of AI into their platforms.
In 2023, these vendors are stepping up their games.
HubSpot has released ChatSpot, which combines GPT-4, HubSpot CRM, DALLE·2, and Google Docs.
In this video, HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah demonstrates AI use cases for sales, reporting, and marketing.
Dharmesh ran a poll on 𝕏 (formerly Twitter) asking whether people prefer the term “Smart CRM” or “A.I. CRM.”
Running a poll on LinkedIn to see if folks prefer the term "Smart CRM" or "A.I. CRM" when referring to the next-generation CRM. https://t.co/H9Qyov8z4j— dharmesh (@dharmesh) September 11, 2023
Salesforce’s original AI platform was called Einstein. Salesforce billed Einstein as “a layer of artificial intelligence that delivers predictions and recommendations based on your unique business processes and customer data.”
On March 7, 2023, Salesforce announced Einstein GPT, which “delivers AI-created content across every sales, marketing, commerce, and IT interaction.”
On June 12, 2023, Salesforce announced AI Cloud. According to Salesforce, “AI Cloud is powered by Einstein GPT.”
AI Cloud increases functionality in many facets of the Salesforce platform, including sales, service, marketing, commerce, Tableau (analytics), and Slack.
An impressive marketing use of Marketing GPT is its ability to design an event or campaign-specific landing page, including text, image, and web form.
In July 2023, Salesforce announced general availability and pricing for Sales GPT and Service GPT. The pricing is $50 per user per month and “includes a limited number of Einstein GPT credits.”
Not a company to miss a marketing opportunity, Salesforce promoted Dreamforce 2023 as the “AI event of the year.”
Here’s a video that demonstrates how Salesforce users can create prompts in Salesforce to compose emails grounded in customer data.
Also, in March 2023, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Dynamics 365 Copilot for CRM and ERP.
Generative AI functionality will be available in Dynamics 365 Sales and Viva Sales, Dynamics 365 Customer Service, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, and Dynamics 365 Marketing.
At the July 2023 Microsoft Inspire partner event, Microsoft announced it would charge $30 per user per month for Copilot for Microsoft 365.
SugarCRM’s AI is branded SugarPredict. SugarPredict gives CRM users actionable sales intelligence throughout the selling process.
SugarPredict compares internal CRM data with external data sources to generate predictions not possible with CRM data alone.
Current and planned predictive features include identifying customers most likely to churn, recommending appropriate add-on products during the sales cycle, and improving customer engagement through predictive service case routing.
Zoho offers a “conversational AI assistant” called Zia. Like the voice assistants built into most smartphones but focused on CRM, “Zia is here to assist with everything from simple data to complex analytics. Talking to Zia is as simple as chatting with her from the bottom of your desktop screen or calling her from your mobile app.”
Zia Voice is included in Zoho CRM plans at the two highest tiers.
A Non-Vendor Perspective
Sam Biardo and I recorded this CRM Talk podcast episode on April 12, 2023. In the episode, we discuss practical AI use cases within CRM systems.
Do You Need CRM With AI?
Do you need artificial intelligence in your CRM system, or is it functionality that won’t provide real value?
As with most things, the answer will depend on your business’s unique situation and requirements.
Organizations already using the full power of their CRM system will likely find a lot to like about AI integration.
On the other hand, companies struggling with basics like CRM adoption may find AI tools unnecessary for the time being.
The more data your business collects about prospects and customers, the more use you will get from a tool built to analyze that data, provide helpful insights, and make timely recommendations.
You can expect the flurry of AI announcements from CRM vendors to continue for the rest of 2023.
Only time will tell the most effective, real-world applications of machine learning and AI in CRM.
(A ChatGPT Plus subscription is required)