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    I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on the shift to conversational experiences as a way to enhance customer and employee engagement. We are witnessing enterprise communications and collaboration efforts being refocused on internal and external user experiences. In addition, business strategies have been shifting to become more customer-centric and, therefore, focused on the customer experience. At its heart, there is a realization that the customer experience is a continuum of interactions across multiple channels. So, real-time communications and collaboration capabilities have to be leveraged in critical business workflows, like customer support.

    This has caused a new focus on chatbots to help create omni-channel conversational experiences for customers. As enterprises are being completely disrupted by digital technologies, business leaders are tasked with developing digital workplace transformation strategies that focus on people and how they interact to get their work done. Clearly, this powerful shift toward conversational interfaces and experiences places more emphasis on open lines of communication with customers, employees, and partners in the ecosystem.

    For example, as business strategies pivot to become more customer-centric, communication and collaboration processes related to the customer experience, like customer relationship management (CRM), becomes critical. Integration with CRM systems, such as Salesforce, NetSuite, and Zendesk, will seamlessly link agents with customer data in real time to better serve customers. Information gathering will be streamlined as agents collaborate internally to ensure that customers interact with the right people. Tools, like chatbots, will help to automate this process and create better conversational experiences for employees and customers.

    The integration required between business applications, workflows, real-time communications, and collaboration tools has to be seamless to facilitate a great user experience. Digital transformation strategies dictate that investments in communications and collaboration capabilities have to be aligned with technology investments around front- and back-office systems as it relates to customers and employees.

    With customer support processes and workflows now front and center, targeted focus is being placed on leveraging real-time capabilities to improve interactions. Business leaders have to incorporate real-time communications into the applications and processes that internal teams and customers use every day to streamline operations, boost productivity, and improve customer satisfaction.

    There is an interaction continuum between brands and customers that requires enterprises to focus on seamless customer communications across all channels where people want to interact. In fact, the integration has to make the distinction between channels somewhat obsolete and invisible to customers. Customers shouldn’t have to worry about what communication channel they’re using or that the data and context of their interaction is kept intact throughout the experience.

    So, what should business leaders and planners think about? From a technology architecture perspective, ensure your digital experience platforms and systems across contact center solutions, CRM, communications, and collaboration work closely together via deep integrations to share insights, data, and context in real time (see representative vendors below).
    Don’t make technology investments in silo or in a vacuum in this regard. This will cause the delineations between channels to blur and enable smoother customer interactions. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be critical in orchestrating customer interactions and engagement across channels with intelligent assistants and chatbots.

    David Mario Smith is Founder and Principal Analyst at InFlow Analysis. Dave is a Gartner veteran of over 16 years and an IT industry professional with 20 years of experience in the collaboration and workplace technology markets. For more information, visit http://inflowanalysis.com or follow him on Twitter @DaveMario.