(This column originally appeared in Forbes)
If you want to know where CRM is headed just take a look at what Oracle is doing.
At its OpenWorld user conference this past month the company launched more than a dozen AI-leveraged tools to take information from assets and then initiate actions based on that information. The aim is to help businesses improve customer satisfaction, reduce costs and grow revenues by optimizing the service lifecycle management of an asset.
Why? Because of CRM. It’s all about customer relationships and customers want problems fixed quickly…or even before they happen. According to data cited by the company, only 75 percent of service activities gets completed on the first try. The longer issues stay open and unresolved the more unhappy a customer becomes, of course.
So how can companies address this? By connecting their assets to their CRM systems which are being used by service agents and field technicians to get these issues resolved faster. The results are twofold: continuing revenue from retaining customers and potentially more revenue by identifying service opportunities.
“Connected devices and machinery are paving the way for new revenue models, which create a massive opportunity for businesses to transform customer service from a cost center to a growth engine,” Jeff Wartgow, vice president product management, Oracle Service and Field Service said in a statement. “With Oracle Asset-Based Service, manufacturers and high-tech businesses can better manage the service lifecycle of an asset to minimize unplanned downtime.”
The company gives many examples as to how this would work.
For example, Internet of Things (IoT) enabled assets can send alerts or initiate tasks and reminders when maintenance is coming due, or if something irregular happens. Or when a fault is detected, a CRM system can not only automatically alert the customer but send out instructions for how to fix the issue in order to avoid having a technician visit onsite. If a technician is onsite, he or she can be receiving automatic billing and account updates based on the services being performed.
My clients aren’t Oracle customers. My clients are small and mid-sized organizations that use CRM systems more suited for them. Which means that when a problem happens at one of their customers the vast majority of my clients are hearing of the problem through a phone call, an email or a web-based form that’s initiated by someone from the customer’s location. There’s mostly manual follow-up. Oftentimes there are delays. Tickets need to be generated and completed. At my best clients, the process is certainly faster than what it was a decade ago. But it’s still not as fast as it could be.
Big companies know this, and big CRM platforms like Oracle’s are being re-configured to actually talk to IoT-enabled assets and then leverage AI to automatically and more quickly respond — and resolve — these issues. So will these features only be available for large scale enterprises. For now, yes. But that will soon change. As these systems mature, customers will expect this type of response. Which means that more organizations will need the type of IoT/CRM integration that Oracle is now providing. It won’t take long for other players to jump in and offer more affordable solutions to smaller organizations.
Integrating assets with CRM systems will be the future. For some it’s already here.