Bringing Engagement Back to Customer Relationship Management

Every New Year ushers in the opportunity for industry pundits and analysts to predict key trends shaping the market. 2016 is no exception. If 2015 was any indication, our global customer and partner ecosystem validated that the demand for better customer experiences is a growing worldwide trend.

Consumers don't start their day looking forward to contacting a customer service department. But when they do, they expect consistently personalized and seamless self-service and assisted service when and where they need it, and often proactively, whether it's to renew a service, update account information, or troubleshoot an issue. They want to use any voice, digital, and mobile touchpoint and channel a company offers, sometimes simultaneously.

The traditional call center just simply isn't enough in today's digital age, with so many customer touchpoints and engagement channels. It's certainly not equipped to manage a customer journey-centric approach across the entire customer lifecycle.

That's where the omnichannel engagement center comes into play. An emerging category, these systems of engagement are poised to transform how the world's foremost brands create great experiences.

To understand the importance and potential of the omnichannel engagement center, it helps to first draw a parallel to the past and the birth of the customer relationship management (CRM) system. While 15 years might not seem that long ago, in the technology industry it feels like another millennium.

Despite the progression and sophistication of today's CRM systems, in 2016 the market's increasing demand for orchestrated omnichannel engagement across the customer journey and lifecycle goes beyond their limitations. That's because customers are increasingly impatient, demanding a real-time, seamless, personalized experience across their lifecycle that simply can't be delivered by CRM systems, leaving organizations with a dilemma. This is why today's company customer relationship strategies need an engagement layer (a system of engagement) in addition to their CRM systems.

This is also where the utility of omnichannel engagement centers is critical. These omnichannel engagement centers are the key to both acquiring and retaining customers because they track and provide context and proactive orchestration across the customer lifecycle for each and every journey, engaging where and when it matters most.

To be clear, the traditional CRM system is far from obsolete. In fact, CRM is a core part of the omnichannel engagement center ecosystem.

Just as systems of engagement are about real time, CRMs are about history. Together, they bring the power of information and context to life in the customer journey and transform the contact center and digital customer touchpoints (Web site, Web/mobile apps, IVR apps) into a loosely coupled omnichannel engagement center that optimizes sales and support opportunities, driving revenue, customer loyalty, and lower operating costs.

Great CX happens when the CRM record and the right customer engagement strategy specific to the customer journey come together across all customer touchpoints. This requires all of the accompanying customer and employee engagement solutions in an organization to work together seamlessly. It also forms the central requirement for a system of engagement, the single most important investment a company can make if it wants to deliver differentiated customer experiences in 2016 and beyond.

In 2015 the market and our own business performance validated that an omnichannel engagement center is the technology investment that should anchor company strategies to plan, design, build, and execute on a differentiated customer engagement strategy. Organizations recognize the need to move away from digitally engaging consumers in silos. They have been adding new channels and self-service applications as they emerge without regard for how they are managed or how the workforce is aligned and optimized against those channels and the escalations coming from the new self-service applications.

Cloud economics and vendor consolidation efforts have also been key disruptive forces driving this investment approach, a trend we expect to see more of in 2016.

Like the CRM revolution of the last decade, CX is in the midst of its own creative disruption, and that is driving the enormous growth in our industry. To successfully make the leap to providing holistic and exceptional customer experiences, organizations require an omnichannel engagement center to meet customers' increasing expectations in real time across their customer touchpoints and channels. A system of engagement, in short, is the IT investment that could make or break a company in 2016. It could also help companies move beyond today's customer relationship strategy built on CRM systems and optimized only for the company to a strategy that leverages a system of engagement that delivers great business results and also optimally engages and delights customers.

Paul Segre is the CEO of Genesys.