What Impact Will Big Data Have On CRM?

chipespinoza
Author, Academic Director
Concordia University
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Every business has heard of big data and of its growing importance to how many business draw their decisions. And nowhere is big data more important than in customer relationship management (CRM). By continuously keeping track of data, a business can learn more information which they can use to improve customer satisfaction and experience. In a world where customers know more about every business than ever thanks to the Internet, keeping satisfaction high is crucial towards retaining business and gaining an advantage.

But despite the benefits of big data, too many companies avoid them or do not use big data to develop a clear CRM strategy. A recent survey of British businesses found that 66 percent were either “ad hoc” or used CRM “without an exact plan.”

Data without a plan is useless, and a plan without data is wish fulfillment. If business leaders want to keep loyal customers, they have to rely and build a successful CRM strategy with big data just like other businesses have done.

Understanding Big Data and CRM

On a basic level, every business practices CRM to some degree. Before computers existed, businesses had data on important or loyal customers on a Rolodex or cards. This would hold basic things like their contact information and what business they had done.

Some companies still do the same thing today, only with Excel or Google Docs in place of a Rolodex. But there is so much more information about clients which businesses can gather today from websites, social media, apps, and so on. This information may not be directly provided to a business, but it is still public and is all the more useful precisely because it shows what a client really thinks and not just what he is trying to tell the business. Of course there are a lot of issues surrounding the use of this information, and an immigration lawyer may advise you on the best course of action.

For an example of how Big Data can keep customers and interested, look at Walmart. The retail giant is building a 40 petabyte (one petabyte is a million gigabytes) cloud to keep track of the huge amounts of things they ship across the world. While Walmart before would have to wait weeks or months to know if sales are declining in a particular sector or area and make adjustments, now they can do it instantly, keeping up the low prices that have made a titan.

Your business does not need a cloud that large, and you may view Big Data as something which is beyond your business’s technological capabilities. But Big Data is something for everyone, and that is where CRM software like Salesforce or Hubspot can help. A salesperson can keep all of the information they have on a client in one place, and CRM software can efficiently share it with everyone else.

When that is multiplied by every other salesperson keeping track and sharing their data with everyone else, then higher-ups can note trends and approaches which keep customers happy. In addition, start-ups like Tact are working on building a program that works with CRM software can automate the process of data entry, making it easier for salespeople to do their job of selling and not just data entry.

Integrating AI

This explosion of big data is only going to be facilitated by the spread of the Internet of Things and AI. The challenge is not just collecting the reams of data out there, but processing it as well. And while CRM software can help, there is just too much information out on the Internet and computers for any human brain to process.

But that is not true for an AI brain. Thanks to machine learning, AI brains can in fact continue to evolve and draw better conclusions as they analyze more and more data. There is a reason why Salesforce “announced the unveiling of Service Cloud Einstein, a new customer service platform which includes a beefed-up AI engine.” If AI can be part of Salesforce or other apps which analyze customer data, then they can improve the customer experience.

This does not mean that the human element is irrelevant, especially when it comes to selling to other human beings. Fears of AI supplanting humans in general should be brushed aside in favor of understanding that humans and AI can work together to cover their respective weaknesses.

The Future is now

Not every business can build a data cloud like Walmart, but that does not mean using and analyzing Big Data is out of their reach. CRM software like Salesforce can provide an affordable means to keep track of data which everyone in a business can access and add their own data into. And AI can help managers draw conclusions by processing and analyzing data which is too vast for human beings to meaningfully grasp.

But remember what CRM stands for. The point of Big Data is to enhance the customer experience and help managers adjust to rapidly changing conditions. It is not a substitute for thinking in its own right, and business manager need to remember that a blind in algorithms is not superior to old-fashioned business sense.

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