artificial intelligence can make data actionable by identifying what customers really need

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This story was originally published on Aug. 4, 2018, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.

The ability to collect massive amounts of data represented a huge leap forward in customer service and communication when customer relationship management first hit the market as a marketing, sales and data management tool.

However, CRMs weren’t a holy grail. Data management is one thing. Using data to understand what customers really need (not just what you think they do) and how to engage them is another thing entirely.

CRMs were not built to be nimble. Times change, customer expectations change, and the technology needs to change with it.

Currently, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence promise the potential to revolutionize CRMs in truly meaningful ways, but rather than be hyperbolic about that potential, it’s important to be pragmatic — and that’s not the same as being negative.

Sure, applying artificial intelligence to CRMs can make personalization more efficient and effective, but it will truly work only if the solution’s most inherent characteristic is recognition that customer needs have been driving the AI revolution.

In their present state, CRMs haven’t excelled at the uncanny ability to shine a light on information that should be prioritized (based on an organization’s top line goals), versus that which may not be relevant in specific applications. They should.

Moreover, I’d go as far as to say that CRMs essentially are broken, due to several misunderstandings or misapplications of fundamental principles that apply to marketing, sales, customer service relationships — and the data management itself.

1. Siloed data is STILL an issue. The truth of the matter is that CRMs are greedy when it comes to collecting data, but not when it comes to sharing it. This is not a new problem, and yet it persists almost universally across all industries — and not just in organizational functions, like sales.

Siloed data creates walls that prevent anyone from truly seeing a complete image of processes, opportunities for efficiency, and getting an idea of the customer experience from start to finish.

It’s almost incomprehensible to even understand the true value of complete data sets since the data that generally is encountered almost always is found in its fractured form. It’s impossible to optimize a sales funnel, for example, when you don’t really know where or why prospects fall off the path to conversion.

2. More content is NOT better. CRMs have put forth the notion that generating more content is not only…