Why the convergence of contact centers, AI and automation, and CRM matters

Sabio Group is a Business Reporter client

  • Customers want a more connected service experience
  • Human agents in the contact center need extra support
  • Traditional contact center technologies are merging with the customer engagement center market

Traditionally, customer retention technologies have been highly polarized – you were either a CRM-led customer retention company with a largely siled contact center, dedicated service desk operations, or more contact center focused with simple screen pop links, or consultants had to source data manually.

But today’s customer experience (CX) teams can no longer afford to remain isolated in their contact centers, service desks or CRM camps.

The pressure on brands to differentiate themselves through their customer experience makes any CX technology decisions made now even more important. That’s why it’s important for companies to quickly align their technologies so they can deliver a consistent, end-to-end customer engagement experience.

How brands manage their customer data is also crucial. Technologies such as AI, machine learning and natural language speech recognition are already established in the contact center and their data are helping to power cross-functional customer data platforms and digital experience platforms.

Implemented correctly, AI and automation offer new opportunities to free up CX resources and help brands make more informed decisions – and transform customer journeys into a source of deep insights that ultimately lead to richer customer experiences.

The good news is that some of the key technologies already in use in the contact center world will be connected to other parts of the organization. CPaaS communication platforms and cloud-based contact center functions are increasingly overlapping, making it much easier for CX teams to use APIs and programmable components to build their next-generation customer engagement functions. This makes it much easier to add a mix of channels and drive customer journeys across multiple departments. It also opens up access to top-notch AI capabilities.

As the lines between contact centers, CRM and AI and automation blur, there’s a great opportunity for brands to build and deploy the kind of customer engagement sweet spot that can really help differentiate the customer experience.

How the contact center, AI and automation and CRM landscape is converging

Extending CX leadership beyond the contact center

Rather than just focusing on traditional operational needs, CX digital transformation projects typically have a much broader focus—that goes beyond the contact center and encompasses all aspects of engagement. This requires a comprehensive view of the entire customer journey and the ability to drill down into deep insights into what is actually driving the customer experience.

Three distinct drivers — internal business development and overall ownership of CX initiatives, tighter vendor integration, and increased technology convergence — work together to shift the focus from CX beyond the contact center to the end-to-end customer journey.

Given the expanded influence of CX, it’s hardly surprising that many companies are turning to leadership roles with a broader mandate to drive the success of cross-departmental CX projects. Analyst firm Ventana Research projects that by 2024, three out of four large companies will have executives such as a chief customer officer (CCO) or chief experience officer (CXO) with full responsibility for the customer experience. These senior roles reflect the increasingly important role of CX as a differentiator and recognize the value that transformative CX projects can have to achieve business goals such as reducing customer churn and increasing customer spend. Given the importance of these goals, CCOs and CXOs simply cannot accept or afford harmful disconnects within their customer journeys.

Inevitably, this CX-driven leadership will impact many of the operational silos and diverse stakeholders, which can easily lead to disconnects on longer customer journeys. CCOs and CXOs understand the importance of different customer service perspectives, but they must embrace the demands of enterprise customer engagement.

Ultimately, customers don’t really care who drives CX from a business perspective, they just want a consistently great experience whenever and however they engage with them.

Industry shift toward vendor convergence

CRM, AI, automation and contact center technology providers have always recognized the proximity of their respective technologies. However, the gap between CRM software suites and traditional systems has been thought to be just too big.

Recently, however, there are clear signs that the providers themselves are trying to close the gap – not only through alliances, but also through significant investments. When a leading global cloud company for orchestrating customer experiences announced a $580 million funding round, it was significant that the round was led by the world’s largest CRM provider, with support from a conversational AI specialist, among others.

The investment recognized that customer expectations for personalized, empathetic and connected experiences continue to grow exponentially, and that truly integrated digital and human experiences require input and collaboration from multiple stages of the customer journey. In the past, contact center technology vendors felt that CRM, ITSM and enterprise vendors didn’t really understand the specific needs of the contact center. However, it is now increasingly recognized that these disciplines not only complement each other, but all contribute to the successful exploitation of the “Experience as a Service” market opportunity.

Technological convergence is accelerating

For the past 20 years, most companies’ experience with CRM and contact center integration has been little more than overlaying customer phone numbers on the contact center agent’s desktop for basic identification purposes. Barely advanced, but it’s proven positive for both clients (who feel recognized) and advisors (who gain a head start in their conversations). Add another question to quickly confirm the customer’s identity, and contact centers save a lot of call time while paving the way for a great interaction.

But customer expectations are rising, and most CX teams know that basic CTI integration really isn’t good enough to support voice, let alone the explosion of interactions across channels like live chat, virtual assistants, and knowledge-based bots . And with many simpler interactions now being handled through self-service channels, it’s certainly not enough to support the much more complex conversations that are already increasingly consuming a contact center consultant’s time.

The convergence of advanced CX capabilities, CRM, AI and automation, and contact center technology aims to provide brands with the technology and data insights needed to deliver a unified, end-to-end customer experience. And with the growth of Communications Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS) technologies, we’re now seeing traditional silos break down as brands seek to unify customer experiences.

However, what can prove challenging is identifying customer engagement technology specialists who can demonstrate innovation and skills in the contact center, CRM, AI and automation, and CX disciplines.

To read the full white paper, Taking CX Performance to the Next Level – Why the Convergence of Contact Centers, AI & Automation and CRM Matters, please visit Sabio’s website.

Tim Pickard, Chief Marketing Officer, Sabio Group

(Courtesy Sabio Group)

Originally published on Business Reporter

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