As we push deeper into 2015, businesses are still looking at technology to help drive innovation and simplify operations to build long-term customer relationships that drive company growth. Today’s customers have evolved, empowered with new technology and higher expectations – they interact with businesses across any channel at any time and expect companies to deliver accurate and personalized experiences. This requires strategic CRM applications to go beyond the traditional, passive 360-degree view of each customer and play an active role in ensuring those customers are provided with exceptional experiences. Today’s CRM applications must empower organizations to leverage the digital revolution as their competitive advantage, better engaging today’s empowered customer.  

As companies look to further improve customer engagement, organizations should consider the following three trends:

1. Customer Engagement Goes Digital

Customer interactions increasingly reflect the emerging connectivity of digital enterprises and the transformations that are affecting all business units across the enterprise. The new generation of customers (dubbed “Gen D” for their ability to Discover, Devour and Demonize a business) will be even more demanding. Enterprises that ignore this new generation of customers will suffer dire consequences. So with this trend, digital enterprises will need to:

  • Deliver a Connected End-to-end Experience: Through dynamic case management, the enterprise will digitally connect the front office (marketing, sales and service) to back office (operations). This connectivity of traditional marketing, sales and customer service functions to the rest of the organization is essential as it offers complete visibility, flexibility and the ability to deliver on the brand promise to the customer. The “case” serves as the vehicle to carry a customer’s offer or inquiry across all the channels, organizations and systems required to deliver a consistent, personalized and complete experience.  
  • Convert Data into Real-Time Actions: Enterprises will leverage predictive, as well as self-learning adaptive analytics, to unlock the key customer context locked within their ever growing data sources. They will apply that data through automated decisions to make real-time, personalized recommendations aligned with their business goals and customer needs. Technologies such as intelligent databases that contain big customer data will increasingly be utilized and integrated into cohesive customer engagements. This year, digital enterprises will progressively eliminate confusing data-driven forms in favor of intuitive processes, decisions and guided interactions.

2. Customer Interactions Become Contextual Conversations

As mentioned, organizations have access to more data than ever before -- and can use it competitively to understand the context of every customer conversation. Enterprises must change the way they interact with customers. They will move away from generic one-way interactions toward two-way conversations that span channels, devices and time. These conversations will take into account real-time data, such as the last thing the customer said on the phone or clicked on the website, to automatically adapt the conversation as it unfolds. Companies will be able to maintain the customer context as the conversation switches from mobile to web to a branch in order to ensure that a consistent, relevant conversation is maintained no matter where the customer is. Companies that can do this will sell more products, retain customers more effectively and ultimately build more promoters for their brand.

3. The Power of Mobility is Unleashed

The mobility trend is accelerating. In order to keep up with today’s digital evolution, the proliferation of networked and connected devices is increasing at an exponential rate. Digital customer conversations will include various categories of participants, all interacting via mobile devices.

Mobility allows organizations to seamlessly initiate and resolve customer interactions on-the-go. The instant accessibility of customer status, case work and collaboration via mobile devices means the empowerment of a whole new category of workers who are not just looking to stay connected, but demand the ability to complete transactions for their customers anywhere via smart devices. An essential capability this year is the ability to design applications once and deploy on every device (smartphones, tablets, social websites, etc.) while leveraging native device capabilities. Other important trends include:

  • Delivering New Mobile Capabilities at Digital Speeds: The trend here is to leverage the HTML 5, CSS 3 and JavaScript standards – but with zero coding. This will become increasingly important in 2015 as enterprises need to build mobile applications quickly and with high quality; delivering production-ready, customer applications that are seamlessly integrated into enterprise mobile applications and the complete enterprise.
  • Access Anywhere; Offline and Online: Even though we are becoming increasingly connected, the need to work offline is still very important for a number of reasons, including the availability of connections, potential disruptions or simply a user’s desire to be offline. So, the trend is to enable the mobile worker to work offline and let the intelligent mobile platform synchronize the work once the individual comes back online.
  • Mobile Device and Application Management: There is the need for the ability to register, inspect, provision or retract mobile application users or applications authorized to these users.
  • Open API and Service-based: Companies need to ensure that development is not bespoke and numerous components, code and services can be reused across multiple applications, speeding the deployment process.

All in all, we're seeing continued customer centricity via new channels, devices and platforms. Customers expect a more personalized and accurate experience – and they expect it now. They choose to do business with companies they trust to deliver on their brand promise. As a result, companies will need to put customers at the center of customer engagement:

  • Tap into their vast sources of customer data and apply analytics to better predict their customer needs and deliver personalized treatments.
  • Seamlessly connect marketing, sales, service and back office operations to build customer trust and maximize customer value.
  • Enable customers to initiate conversations via any channel/device and continue in any other without loss of context.
  • Intelligently guide marketing, sales and service personnel through each conversation by recommending the best actions.
  • Automate work across all the people and systems involved in engaging customers to increase productivity and accelerate positive outcomes.
  • Invest in strategic applications that have the power to easily adapt to the latest customer needs, business requirements and technology trends.

With these efforts in mind, companies can deliver an exceptional, efficient and meaningful customer experience that makes employees and customers alike advocates for their brand.
Steve Kraus is senior director of marketing at Pegasystems.