New research by Gartner suggests that the future of sales will see a permanent transformation in strategy, processes, and resource allocation that moves the sales organisation from seller-centric to buyer-centric and from analogue to hyperautomated, digital-first engagement with customers. Gartner found that 60% of B2B sales organisations will transition from experience- and intuition-based selling to data-driven selling, merging their sales process, applications, data and analytics into a single operational practice.

Gartner predicts that over the next five years, the number of digital interactions between buyers and suppliers will skyrocket. And this explosive growth will break traditional sales models. Gartner research shows that customers perceive little distinct value (beyond their own learning) from sales reps. Generational preferences are compounding the trend. Millennials, the first digital natives, are now decision-makers and are far more sceptical of sales reps than their predecessors.

Increased digital activity and information storage systems means more detailed data on customer behaviour and product usage patterns. However, few sales organisations can yet capture, organise, clean, and query that data systematically – or use it to deploy even rudimentary machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI).

Gartner says that leading CSOs must become leaders of selling – wherever and whenever it happens – rather than leaders of sellers. That requires a shift in the focus of the sales organization, away from sales professionals as the primary commercial channel and toward digital sales channels. In that digital paradigm, sellers’ decision making is based on data, analytics and AI, not on intuition and experience.

Gartner expects that within five years, there will be no separation between sales processes, applications, data and analytics. Instead, there will be one single concept: AI for sales. New predictions from Gartner suggest that 80% of customer service organisations will stop using native mobile apps in favour of messaging for a better customer experience by 2025.

While service organisations have typically focused on website for desktop, digital transformation facilitated the move to enterprise-native mobile app experiences with smartphones and tablets. However, this has not translated to better customer service or adoption of service apps. As a result, organisations will increasingly shun native mobile app experiences for messaging.

“Messaging channels such as SMS and third-party messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and WhatsApp have been widely embraced in the global market, making them ideal for service organisations,” said Philip Jenkins, senior director analyst in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “By transitioning to messaging platforms, customer service and support leaders will reduce dependency on native mobile app experiences, reduce cost, increase digital and self-service effectiveness, and achieve a persistent experience for customer engagement.”

The top customer service trends for 2021 and beyond:

  • 40% of customer service companies will realise remarkable success by embracing digital customer engagement by 2025.
  • 10% of customer service companies will need to reimagine organizational hierarchies to build huddle groups by 2015.
  • Organisations will personalise proactive engagement and move away from reactive interactions.

“An initiative to reach out to customers proactively creates a major opportunity for customer service organisations,” said Brian Manusama, senior director analyst in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “Along with the cost optimisation benefits of reducing call volumes and increasing engagement with self-service channels, customers feel a greater sense of appreciation toward the provider and its service organisation.”

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