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The State of CRM in APAC: Trends and Opportunities to Know Now

Salesforce commissioned Forrester Consulting to delve into the current and future state of CRM system adoption, uses, and experience. Divisha Gupta, Director of Content Strategy at Salesforce APAC shares the key findings.

Think back to your last online shopping experience — perhaps it was your regular grocery order, or a piece of activewear that you’ve had your eye on, or maybe something a little more indulgent like that latest gaming console.

Whatever it was, it’s likely you had one of two types of experiences as a customer: 

  • One: you browsed around, found exactly what you were looking for, perhaps even received a great discount, placed the order in a click or two, were told exactly when to expect it, received it, and even got sent a personalised follow-up with offers and tips. Seamless from start to finish!
  • Two: the other type of experience, one that feels like a rollercoaster. The type that’s defined by clunky websites, broken transaction gateways, and multiple chats and calls with customer service. To make matters worse, you receive marketing promotions that feel spammy at best. And all of the above occurs before your order has been processed, let alone delivered. Lesson learned: not ordering from this brand again!

So, what differentiates the first type of experience from the second? Three words: Customer Relationship Management (or CRM). Not familiar with the term? Take a look at our ultimate guide.

The State of CRM in Asia Pacific

It will come as no surprise that the global pandemic has had a transformative impact on the way we live our lives, run our businesses, and engage with products and services.

This impact manifests in distinct ways. While customers are now more digitally savvy and expect more dynamic purchasing experiences than ever before, many businesses are still playing catch-up when it comes to meeting that expectation. 

In fact, new research reveals that more than 1 in 2 executives in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region have struggled to sufficiently maintain the customer experience (CX) due to the accelerated transition to remote work. 

Download the State of CRM research, featuring a special spotlight on Asia Pacific, plus all global insights and trends.

The global State of CRM research from Forrester Consulting, commissioned by Salesforce, surveyed 795 executives and 1,476 employees globally, including 164 executives and 319 employees across APAC (Australia and New Zealand, India, and Singapore) to understand how CRMs are used in 2021. This inquiry included unearthing key challenges and opportunities for businesses to foster greater growth and resilience.

Download the State of CRM to learn how Asia Pacific Executives and Employees are using CRM in 2021.

The challenges

The resulting research revealed a list of key challenges for APAC organisations in 2021 and beyond, including:

Data, data everywhere

A vast majority (71%) of APAC executives report that their teams deal with customer data from far too many sources, therefore struggling not only to make sense of it all, but also to access crucial insights in real time that can be acted upon to help deliver good CX.

While this is a region-wide challenge, it manifests most prominently in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), with 75% of executives surveyed flagging the concern.

Remote but not in control

The seismic shift to remote work has also created productivity and communication challenges within organisations, due largely to a lack of well-integrated, accessible CRM systems. This inefficiency has led to a flow-on effect on CX. In fact, 60% of APAC executives note that they were unable to maintain customer engagement levels during the shift to remote — a challenge also echoed by employees.

Within the APAC region, it is Singapore who has been the most impacted by this challenge, with 61% of employees reporting communication and coordination issues while working remotely. Meanwhile, remote workers in India are almost 1.5x more likely to report struggling with CRM system access, in comparison to ANZ workers who have adjusted well to remote working and only a quarter of them reporting remote access issues.

Basic doesn’t cut it

A well-integrated CRM can unite multiple teams beyond sales and service in the shared goal towards efficient CXs. However, CRM use in APAC is still largely basic and transactional, with limited adoption of more advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML). This slow innovation limits not only how businesses interact with customers, but also how well employees and teams liaise with each other. 

ANZ businesses in particular are lagging behind their peers in this regard — with only 25% augmenting employee processes with AI or ML recommendations, compared to 36% and 39% for India and Singapore respectively.

Download the State of CRM research, featuring a special spotlight on Asia Pacific, plus all global insights and trends.

The opportunities

However, from within these key challenges come great opportunities.

Prioritising CX

Executives across APAC are in favour of progress, with 79% affirming that a CRM is instrumental in delivering a seamless customer experience. In fact, nearly half of all surveyed executives confirm that delivering a superior CX across multiple channels is top priority over the next 12 months. In even more positive news, a staggering 81% of executives expect CRM adoption to expand beyond sales and service/support over the next three to five years, paving the way for improved coordination between teams, as well as better experiences for customers.

This optimism is highest in Singapore at 87%, followed by 82% and 75% in India and ANZ respectively.

81% of executives in Asia Pacific expect CRM use to expand beyond sales and service/support over the next three to five years. Download the State of CRM research to learn more.

Driving efficiencies

While the current use case for CRM across APAC is basic, the research finds that by 2023, 73% of businesses will utilise AI-powered automation to enable easier customer engagement. A further 80% will have adopted automation to relieve employees of repetitive day-to-day processes, allowing them to focus on work that truly matters. 

Despite only 25% of ANZ organisations using AI-driven insights to augment employee processes, over half of the region’s executives plan to add this capability within the next two years and 40% believe that it would make their CRM system more effective. 

Currently Singapore and India are leading the AI charge across APAC with close to 40% of organisations utilising the insights.

The upshots

With a bird’s eye view of all challenges and opportunities, it’s safe to say that the future can be as bright as we want it to be.

Employees as changemakers

According to Brian Solis, Salesforce’s Global Innovation Evangelist, it’s important to remember that technology alone won’t solve business problems; people are the real changemakers and they need to be empowered with the right tools and knowledge to achieve greatness. Adoption, training and change management are such critical pieces of any CRM deployment, and your overall employee experience (EX). When employees don’t know how to use the CRM, or understand the value CRM can bring to their daily workflows, success and ROI will always remain out of reach.”

Security, flexibility, automation

APAC executives want to ensure that employees can access customer data, whenever and wherever they need to. Therefore, trust and security emerge as the top criteria when evaluating CRM systems, particularly for executives in ANZ and India. Work-from-anywhere connectivity and advanced capabilities such as AI insights and automation are close behind as high priorities.

Integration, integration, integration

It comes as no surprise that customers have come to expect not only highly personal interactions, but also that businesses have a full understanding of who they are and where they are in their journey. Teams on the frontlines can’t serve customers by using CRM applications that are disjointed or only support part of the customer lifecycle. So, businesses need to unify CRM applications and support role-based views to ensure that customers receive their desired experiences. And ANZ workers support this, with 38% stating that more integrations to other tools they work with would make their CRM system more effective. 

The State of CRM research tells us that organisations that prioritise CRM system use across teams, better training for customer-facing employees, and enhanced automation are the ones that deliver the highest business value. And this, therefore, makes them more resilient in the face of unforeseen disruption or change in the future. 

Delve into the State of CRM in APAC

Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organisational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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