A practical guide to a modern CRM

As artificial intelligence and machine learning infultrates the SaaS CRM software market, it has brought fresh opportunities to provide businesses with more sophisticated features, more intelligent insights, timely recommendations, automation of manual tasks, and a more creative and personalized customer experience overall. The Modern CRM is here, batteries included.

About the author

Dan Sims

Sr. Analyst, Product Perfect

Quality Engineer and Technical Writer with a background in engineering and technology.

"Artificial intelligence is transforming the way we do business, and it has the power to revolutionize the customer relationship management space. At Salesforce, we're at the forefront of this revolution, integrating Einstein AI into our platform to automate routine tasks and provide more personalized experiences for our customers."
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce

It was a cloudy afternoon in San Francisco, no surprise there. But the glory is upon us nonetheless. As the herds of tech-savvy, AirBird-wearing, combo of sales and geek, flood the streets looking for that one same Uber, the thought came to me: all these folks should be in someone’s CRM. They probably are, unbeknownst to them.

Salesforce just concluded their annual conference. Ah, Dreamforce - the event that sets the bar for all other tech conferences. It was a bit of a circus. Well, not a real circus like they put on in 2019, (inviting acrobatics, aerialists, and contortionists to come show how ahem, flexible, their software was). Nor was it a banger, like when they had Metallica or U2 come out and play some jams in past years’ conferences. But as the largest gathering of its kind, it's no surprise that Salesforce, the leader in the CRM space, always puts on a great show. The Bay Area ups the ante each year with something spicy to reflect on the glasses of ten thousand followers, likers, and clickers. Tech enthusiasts, experts, geeks, and Salesforce fanatics flock to San Francisco to get out of work enjoy the collaboration.

This year, the crowd was buzzing with anticipation as Salesforce took the stage to unveil its latest and greatest offerings. With Einstein AI at the forefront, Salesforce showed the world just how seriously it's taking the integration of AI into its platform. Gone are the days of mundane, manual tasks. With Einstein, Salesforce claims that users can now focus on the human touch, as AI takes care of the rest.

But that's not all. Salesforce also introduced Customer 360, a revolutionary new platform that brings all departments together for a complete view of the customer. Say goodbye to siloed data and hello to a 360-degree perspective. And let's not forget about Salesforce Blockchain, the low-code platform that's making it easier than ever to harness the power of blockchain technology.

"Salesforce has been a game-changer in terms of the impact it has had on customer experience and engagement." - Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe

Last but not least, Salesforce announced Salesforce Care, a platform designed to supercharge customer service teams. No more juggling multiple systems or searching through endless spreadsheets. With Salesforce Care, everything a customer service rep needs is right at their fingertips.

Customer relationship management has come a long way from the time when the importance of customer retention and the value of cross selling to existing customers were first recognized. Below shows the logical tech stack for what we’ve known as the average CRM system, including webservices for web 2.0 integrations. Notice how cute and simple it is.

Logical tech stack for an average CRM system
Typical CRM stack

AI, meet CRM

So long cute stack. Here comes complexity.

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) has been a major event that has changed the customer relationship management (CRM) software landscape in the last 5 years. With the invasion of AI and ML, CRM software can now provide businesses with more sophisticated and intelligent insights and recommendations, automate manual tasks, and personalize the customer experience in real-time. This has allowed businesses to better understand their customers and improve the overall customer experience. Additionally, the increasing use of cloud technology has made CRM software more accessible and affordable for businesses of all sizes, enabling them to better manage their customer relationships and data.

But of course, what’s far more interesting, is the cool new features. Features like these:

  1. “Want fries with that?”
    Personalized product recommendations
    Generative AI can analyze customer data to recommend products or services that are most likely to be of interest to individual customers, based on their browsing and purchase history.
  2. “How can I help you?”
    Chatbots for customer support
    Generative AI can be used to create chatbots that can handle customer inquiries and provide support 24/7, freeing up human agents to focus on more complex issues.
  3. “This dude aint worth your time.”
    Automated lead scoring
    Generative AI can automatically score leads based on various factors such as their level of engagement with a company's website or social media channels, enabling sales teams to prioritize leads more effectively.
  4. “You need to call like 50 people today to keep your quota from alerting your boss, so I canceled your lunch and ordered you Postmates.”
    Predictive sales forecasting
    By analyzing historical sales data and other factors such as customer behavior and economic trends, generative AI can provide accurate sales forecasts to help businesses make more informed decisions.
  5. “Hey girl, some people are talking crap about you.”
    Sentiment analysis
    Generative AI can analyze customer interactions and social media posts to determine their sentiment towards a company, enabling businesses to identify areas for improvement and take appropriate action.
  6. “These are the good ones. Ignore those other ones.”
    Customer segmentation
    Generative AI can help businesses segment their customers based on various criteria such as demographics or purchase history, allowing them to tailor their marketing efforts to specific groups.
  7. “Let me type that up for ya. No prob.”
    Automated data entry and management
    Generative AI can automate the process of data entry, allowing businesses to manage customer data more efficiently and reduce errors.

So ready or not, this AI stuff is leaking through the walls into your world. Below shows it ballooning.

a chart showing billions of dollars in growing revenue for AI in CRM, more than tripling after 2021.
Artificial Intelligence in CRM

The Modern CRM - it’s unfolding before our very eyes

The term modern CRM refers to a fully API-enabled and AI-enriched software platform. It’s the future. And, it’s really quite an abrupt movement and a qualitative change. This movement is changing completely how sales pros engage and interact with customers or potentials. A recent study on CRM usability by Beagle Research Group, a CRM analyst company in partnership with Oracle, found that many sales and customer service teams expressed frustration with traditional CRMs. Using conventional CRM software packages was painful. Empowered with AI and ML capabilities, modern CRM has transformed the mindset of the user. They no longer view a CRM as a single application. Now, it’s a beast. It’s a platform. It’s something completely different.

With advanced capabilities like AI and ML, salespeople and customer service reps can engage in personalized conversations with customers. AI captures and analyzes customer data from past customer interactions, customer comments, and questions on chat tools and provides tailored messages to customers. Customers trust companies who treat them as individuals rather than numbers. They prefer to engage in conversations with salespeople or customer reps who can offer tailored solutions based on demonstrated understanding. Customer-facing employees can use tailored content and engage in valuable and context-based interactions at each touchpoint all along the customer journey.

Tenets of the Modern CRM

But besides for the sexy new generative AI and clever AI hacks that we are seeing, what are the tenets of this modern CRM? Below is a stab at answering that question.

Predictive Analysis

Predictive is one of the fun new buzzwords of the sales world. A modern CRM delivers on that word. It gives strategic guidance to CEOs and CRM leaders by using advanced analytics to inform those critical decisions. Using AI and ML, modern CRM generates predictive analysis based on customer satisfaction scores and customer sentiment analysis. It offers a probability regarding the likelihood of customers or potentials to purchase a product/service.


One of the frustrations of using traditional CRM is having to do lame, boring, and repetitive minutia. Modern CRM automates these daily tasks. Many tasks, such as data entry and capturing messages from calls, emails, and chat tools, are automated using robotic process automation. Automation allows salespeople and customer reps to focus on high-value activities.

Unified CRM

Modern CRM consolidates AI-powered applications for marketing, sales, and customer service on one platform. It makes accurate market predictions, consumer sentiment analysis, and customer needs analysis beneficial for each of these departments. Having it all in one place makes the entire management oversight far more smooth.

Internet of Things

Internet of Things (IoT) has become the in-thing now where physical devices and systems can be connected to the internet (who doesn’t know Alexa). By connecting customers' products to the internet, it’s possible to gain access to customer data, particularly their behaviors and preferences. The wealth of such data is used to personalize customer interactions and, in turn, enhance customer experience. Using IoT, it will be possible to understand the customers better and engage with them in personalized ways, which is a critical CRM measure.

Cloud-based CRM

A modern CRM is predominantly a cloud-based CRM. Cloud-based CRM has unique features ranging from contact management, lead tracking, customer support, analytics, and sales automation. Cloud-based CRM helps manage customer data efficiently. Storing and retrieving customer data, including customer interactions, contact details, and communications on  cloud allows enhanced security, privacy, better integration, and access by different departments.

Social CRM

Social CRMs use social media as one of the primary channels for customer relationship management. Companies that use social media platforms as their main source to interact and engage with customers reap the benefits of social CRM.  Social CRM helps companies to understand customers better and create positive customer experiences.

"Social CRM is about listening to and engaging with customers, understanding their needs, and proactively responding to them in a timely, relevant and contextual fashion."

- Paul Greenberg (Author of 'CRM at the Speed of Light').

Mobile CRM

Mobile CRM access is specifically designed for salespeople, customer service reps, and other customer-facing employees to readily access CRM on mobile devices. Salespeople or customer service reps have reliable data and CRM functionality when engaging with customers.

Implementation Mental Floss

Implementing the Modern CRM comes with a few key precursor explorations.

On the left are the characteristics, that which portrays and embodies the CRM as it exists, and that which depicts the organization for which it serves. Note that both the organization and the software are unique and may not always be a perfect fit. Despite the (endless) customizations that the [so very] friendly SaaS salesperson diatribes on, it’s often the case that there still may be a better fit with a different product.

On the right are the integration aspects of the CRM implementation. Each organization implements software in a particular fashion, even when it’s simply customizing a SaaS CRM product.

Left side: design, user, system and organization characteristics. Right side: Information quality and system and organizational fit
2 Halves to the Preparation of Implementing the Modern CRM

Being configured, shaped, integrated, refined, polished, and presented in all its glory, the modern CRM will take its rightful place in the organization. Once positioned, it’s nearly impossible to dethrone, so be careful what you wish for. You just might have it for 20 years. Alas, what’s the worst that could happen? AI will keep evolving and certainly the technology will continue to be updated over the web, so there’s lower risk than you might think.


Modern CRMs leverage high levels of integration of a broader enterprise, breaking down departmental silos and creating a more connected and collaborative organizations. The key tenets of these state-of-the-art modern CRM software platforms are that they can:

  1. Super-charge a sales teams. They providing data and functionality to enhance each customer or prospect interaction.
  2. Provide tailored content and personalized experiences leading to customer retention and loyalty.
  3. Automate many routine interactions with customers through personalized emails, webinars, and other digital marketing efforts.
  4. Provide insights into customer behaviors and preferences using data analytics, data, and artificial intelligence/machine learning.
  5. Reduce costs through automation, integration, and scalability.
  6. Impress customers and prospects with nuanced engagement.


1. Salesforce. State of the Connected Customer Report 2020. 4th edition. Accessed February 15, 2023. https://www.salesforce.com/content/dam/web/it_it/www/pdf/connected-customer-report-2020.pdf

2. Digital CRM 2.0: Building customer relationships in the digital landscape". Deloitte Digital CRM Study. 2019. Accessed February 14, 2023 https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/de/Documents/strategy/Deloitte_Digital_Digital_CRM_Study_2.0_2019.pdf

3. "Digital CRM 2.0: Building customer relationships in the digital landscape".

4. "Digital CRM 2.0: Building customer relationships in the digital landscape".


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