For a long time, CRM software was 1 of the secrets of high-performance sales and marketing for businesses of all types. It enabled precision management of all interactions with customers and an unprecedented level of customization for outreach efforts, retention targeting, and almost every other facet of the customer relationship.
That, as you might imagine, drove significant returns for the companies that used CRM systems, which is why their adoption rate increased from 56% of all businesses in 2012 to 74% in 2013. That huge uptick in CRM use coincided with the rise of CRM SaaS solutions like Salesforce, which for the first time allowed businesses of all sizes in every industry to use a CRM system without the enormous upfront expenses that were once required.
In the years since, CRM has come to be used for so much more than it was in the early days. Today, it's a valuable data source that businesses use to enable both process and marketing automation. It also provides insights into customer behavior and trends that inform marketing plans that cost less and achieve more. Those uses are further increasing the ROI of CRM platforms and leading to breakthroughs in efficiency and results across the board.
Not all use cases, however, are created equal. In fact, there's quite a bit of variance in the ways that businesses in different industries are taking advantage of CRM and automation—with some relying on them as a core operations technology, and others using them to augment existing processes. To highlight just how many ways that the 2 technologies are changing the face of the global economy, here's a look at how 4 very different industries are using CRM and automation today:
The healthcare industry
Of all of the sectors that have been reshaped by CRM and automation, perhaps none has undergone such a profound change as the healthcare industry. Part of the reason for that (in the U.S., at least), is the digitization that was required as a key component of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In 1 fell swoop, massive subsidy programs made it possible for private medical practices, hospitals, and clinics around the country to embrace digital medical record keeping and patient management. That, in turn, created a shift toward a more retail-like service delivery model that all but made CRM and automation a requirement for success in the industry.
Today, businesses within the healthcare space use their CRM systems as a 1-stop-shop for the management of all patient needs. They use them to manage appointments and schedules, coordinate multiple simultaneous types of care, and even to send reminders to patients when they're due for preventative health visits. On top of that, the data that healthcare CRM generates is being used to feed a whole new breed of AI-powered automation solutions that can do everything from handling complex insurance pre-authorizations to scheduling staff to accommodate patient inflows. In short, the technologies are revolutionizing patient care while lowering costs at the same time.
The only reason ecommerce doesn't best the healthcare industry in terms of the changes wrought by CRM and automation is the fact that it's a digital industry that more readily adapted to the technologies. For example, B2C websites have always collected customer data, so the biggest shift when CRM entered the equation was in how that data is managed and put to use. Today, ecommerce operations use CRM platforms to handle everything from customer re-engagement to site-wide reporting and analytics. They're also able to provide sophisticated customer segmentation models based on a plethora of data points, which can, for example, identify you as a site visitor even if you're masking your IP address in an attempt to remain anonymous.
On top of that, ecommerce platforms now include more automation options than can be found in almost any other industry. Shopify, for example, allows store owners to use triggers to automate any of the functions of compatible apps that they use to operate their online business. The flexibility that creates is so vast that it almost defies description. With it, a lone operator can run an ecommerce storefront that's on par with a much larger competitor, while keeping operating costs as low as possible.
It’s not just ecommerce for physical products which utilize CRM and automation software. For example the SEO link building company OutreachPete has integrated a Shopify style CRM to deliver its services. Company founder Pete McAllister predicts that the marketing industry will heavily switch to this model of operating in the coming years.
The legal industry
Another sector that is using CRM and automation to great effect is the legal industry. For lawyers, time is money. The American Bar Association has reported that on average attorneys only bill 1.9 hours out of every 8 hours worked. When studying the missing 6 hours they found that 48% of that time is spent on administrative tasks and 33% is utilized trying to win new business.
This is why the most successful attorneys utilize marketing automation technologies. “We have found that chatbots and an easy to use CRM system helps our attorneys and staff reclaim many hours of lost time, provide better service and properly follow up with new client leads,” according to Tsion Chudnovsky, the managing attorney at Chudnovsky Law. "Our firm handles criminal defense and personal injury cases. Clients are often in distress and need a very responsive experience. Our CRM system enables us to prioritize new client leads and provide quick turnaround when needed."
Research has shown that the first responder to a sales lead is far more likely to get the client. Firms responding to a sales lead within 1 hour are nearly 7 times more likely to qualify a lead versus those that tried to contact the client even 1 hour later. CRM systems help greatly simplify managing networks of referral sources and existing clients by storing important data and reminding the correct person to follow up on leads. As anyone familiar with the operation of a typical law firm can tell you, that's a feature set that's worth its weight in gold.
Since most lawyers earn their income via hourly billing, every moment spent on non-client work costs them money. Automation cuts down on that by allowing lawyers to entrust repetitive tasks like tracking billable hours or scheduling appointments to a machine, thus freeing them to engage in profitable work that they otherwise wouldn't have time to take on.
The fitness industry
In recent years, there's been a boom in the global fitness industry as more and more people begin to understand the impact their lifestyle has on their health and well being. All told, it's a sector that's now worth around $87 billion annually around the world, and it's proving to be fertile ground for CRM and automation technology.
Since most businesses in the space are customer service oriented and operated with minimal staff, the benefits are both obvious and profound. CRM software is proving to be a boon to customer retention efforts, which are a key to profitability in an industry with a historically poor engagement rate. Automation is also making it possible to offload backend tasks so as to free up staff to work directly with clients—which is a major factor in preventing membership cancellation and ensuring high customer satisfaction without increasing labor costs.
The bottom line
As these 4 vastly different industries illustrate, CRM and automation may be put to use in more ways than you can imagine. The applications of the 2 technologies are growing every day as businesses find new and imaginative uses for existing systems and developers add feature sets to their software offerings. That goes a long way toward explaining the high (and climbing) adoption rates of CRM systems in the past several years, and why so many businesses are learning that every dollar they invest in such systems comes back to them many times over.
As the automation technologies that already complement CRM systems continue to develop, they will help businesses to streamline operations in ways they can't fathom today. At the same time, it will make it possible for workers across all industries to rededicate themselves to the kinds of tasks for which machines are still not a solution. That means more human resources dedicated to things like front-line customer service roles and direct engagement activities. Taken together, that's great news for businesses and the customers they serve—and points toward an economic future that wouldn't have been possible if not for the contributions of CRM and automation technologies.