This article appears in the Fall 2018 magazine issue of DOCUMENT Strategy. Subscribe.

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Increasingly, business strategies across many industries are shifting to become more customer-centric than ever. At the same, there is tremendous market consolidation between customer relationship management (CRM) and contact center technologies. In order to attain a unified customer view in this current climate, enterprises will need to more intelligently integrate their systems of engagement.

According to research conducted by customer experience consulting firm Walker, customer experience will overtake price and product as the main differentiator by 2020. In fact, in Dimension Data’s “2017 Global Customer Experience (CX) Benchmarking Report,” over 70% of respondents in the survey currently view customer experience as a competitive differentiator for their organizations.

Today, consumers expect a consistent experience from the brands they interact with, and 30% of cross-channel customer support operations will leverage chatbots or automated virtual assistants by 2020 to keep pace with this demand. Artificial intelligence (AI) is now pivotal for powering intelligent customer engagement across multiple channels and creating a feedback loop for real-time analytics.

To really enable this higher level of customer engagement, organizations will need to make deliberate investments in technology, systems, and methods to harness their customer data for richer interactions across all channels and journeys. When making technology decisions, business leaders will have to look across all the platforms that touch critical data and across all their current investments, including CRM, marketing, contact centers, AI, chatbots, communications, and collaboration. This all has to be well-orchestrated to fully support the customer journey.

Intelligent orchestration requires the ability to pull data and business logic from all individual systems of record and connect it to the full life cycle of the customer journey across all channels, internal teams, and lines of business within the organization.

This is why switching between interaction modes and applications is a huge problem for agents. Agents need a unified view of the customer to provide intelligent engagement, without having to switch applications and screens. Streamlining and simplifying the agent workflow will boost productivity. When the employee experience is enhanced, it leads to a better customer experience.

Due to their proprietary nature, traditional communications and collaboration solutions lack real integration into business workflows and applications. In this era of cloud-based engagement solutions, the key is having a unified environment to streamline customer interactions while preserving context.

To enhance customer and employee engagement, organizations are looking to foster conversational experiences. This is a real paradigm shift. As a result, we are witnessing enterprise communications and collaboration efforts being refocused on internal and external user experiences.

The growing realization is 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. As a result, the use of chatbots have emerged to help create omni-channel conversational experiences for customers. Clearly, this powerful shift places more emphasis on open lines of communication with customers, employees, and partners in the ecosystem.

Intelligent orchestration requires the ability to pull data and business logic from all individual systems of record and connect it to the full life cycle of the customer journey across all channels, internal teams, and lines of business within the organization.

Data analytics across platforms is critical for providing real-time customer insights. This will cause the delineations between channels to blur and enable smoother customer interactions. Finally, AI will be critical in orchestrating these 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 or follow him on Twitter @DaveMario.
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