If tech news is part of your daily routine, at this point you’re relatively sure chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) will dramatically change human life as we know it. Evangelists point to it’s ability to order flowers, chat with your favorite basketball team or even do away with all of your warm blooded friends. However, the reality is that most chatbots “suck”. As investors, when evaluating a new disruptive solution, we look at the incremental lift in value and customer experience. For example, in transportation opening an app on your phone and calling an Uber is an infinitely better experience than calling a cab company to wait on hold and maybe get picked up. This type of analysis yields abysmal results for many of the early applications of chatbots, including some or all of the ones mentioned above. However, the largest segment of enterprise software, namely customer relationship management (CRM), is uniquely positioned to benefit from this truly transformational facelift, and can perhaps be the saving grace for chatbot aficionados across the world. The lynchpin of the chat + AI transformation is mobile, a technology that has actually hurt the CRM experience during this last tech cycle.
While every other industry was seemingly getting a huge boost by the ubiquity of mobile, CRM applications (defined as top of funnel through retention, not just the Salesforce sales platform) declined in efficiency. CRM applications are only as good as the data that is entered into them (garbage in, garbage out), and mobile caused complete and utter chaos. The result is that the biggest and fastest growing segment of enterprise software has the lowest and most rapidly declining customer satisfaction score. To know CRM is to hate CRM in many ways (just pick one sales rep or customer representative at random and ask for yourself). While the industry is truly wrought with inefficiencies, let’s dig deeper on the two primary factors holding customer relationship management back from its full potential today.