Updated: September 20, 2018
It was only a matter of time before artificial intelligence was embedded in CRM. Next year we’ll probably see self-aware water coolers. Skynet can’t be much further behind, right?
Okay, maybe that’s a bit far-fetched. But CRM with artificial intelligence is very much a real thing now, and the implications it has for your business are substantial. But before you start panicking about your CRM system displacing real people in sales and marketing, let’s take a moment to examine what AI is, what it can and can’t do, and how to work with it rather than around it.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Terminator 2 did a fantastic job of freaking out just about anyone who saw it. If firmly implanted the belief that an artificially intelligent race of robot death machines was was on the cusp of bringing about the apocalypse at literally any moment. That was 1991.
Twenty-seven years later, and with no robot apocalypse in sight (unless you count light jogging and log jumping a threat), the practical applications of artificial intelligence have been decidedly more benign.
Today’s artificial intelligence is most visible in products like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s … well, pretty much everything. These “AI assistants” as they’re commonly referred to, make suggestions, answer questions, plan driving routes, make dinner reservations, and other common tasks that make our lives a little bit easier.
Just getting AI to this point has taken almost herculean efforts of programming and hundreds, if not thousands, of iterations before becoming usable. It turns out that what artificial intelligence is really good at is analyzing data and providing helpful suggestions and insights to the humans using it.
When you look at AI in that context, it seems logical that putting it in CRM would be beneficial.
CRM And Artificial Intelligence
All jokes aside, CRM and artificial intelligence are a very powerful combination. As the internet has become the backbone of modern sales and marketing efforts, CRM has had to evolve to capture and categorize a constantly growing stream of signals and data points about prospects, customers, and companies.
An employee using a CRM system in 2018 is likely to have access to not just basic contact information about a potential sales lead, but also all their social media profiles, job history, and detailed statistics about every interaction that lead has had with his or her company.
That is a lot of information to process and digest. Asking a salesperson to look through all of that information, often on the fly, and make an intelligent decision about how to best utilize that data in their communications is, no pun intended, a tough sell.
Salespeople are hired to sell and asking them to also become data analysts is often met with very mixed results. In some cases, it can end up impeding employees who would otherwise be excellent in their role from doing their job effectively.
This is where artificial intelligence comes to the rescue. CRM with embedded AI gives users things like:
- Predictive lead scoring
- Natural language search
The goal with artificial intelligence in CRM is to let AI handle the analysis, and make smart recommendations about a customer or prospect based on all the data about that person the system has collected.
So now, with AI, a salesperson can open a contact record, see what suggestions the system is making on how to best connect with that person, and make an informed decision without having to spend half and hour looking through their Twitter comments for clues.
Examples Of CRM With AI
It’s no surprise that some of the biggest names in CRM are eagerly touting their new artificial intelligence expertise. Companies like Salesforce, SugarCRM, and Zoho have all integrated some form of AI into their platforms over the last few years.
Salesforce: Salesforce’s AI tool is called Einstein. Billed as a tool that “… is a layer of artificial intelligence that delivers predictions and recommendations based on your unique business processes and customer data.”
Einstein can be integrated into every facet of the Salesforce CRM platform. It will cost businesses an additional $50 per user, per month.
SugarCRM: SugarCRM has recently launched an AI product called Hint. Their pitch is that with just a name and email address, “Hint automatically searches, tunes, and inputs helpful personal and corporate profile details about your prospect. Results appear in seconds.”
Enabling Hint will cost SugarCRM users an additional $15 per user, per month.
Zoho: Zoho offers a “conversational AI assistant” called Zia. Similar to 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 only included in Zoho CRM plans at the two highest tiers, which start at $35 per user, per month.
Microsoft: No sooner did we publish this post than Microsoft announced new AI and mixed reality business applications for Microsoft Dynamics.
Do You Need CRM With AI?
Do you really need artificial intelligence in your CRM system, or is it just another fancy add-on that won’t provide real value? As with most things, the answer will depend on your business’s unique situation.
Organizations that are already utilizing the full power of their CRM system will likely find a lot to like about integrating an AI tool. Those who are struggling with CRM adoption, on the other hand, may find it to be overly complicated and unnecessary.
Finally, the more data your business is collecting about prospects and customers, the more use you will find in a tool built specifically to analyze that data.