I recently attended the second in the series of customer engagement days organized by the Directors Club (GB & NI). The format of the event was the same as the first day that I wrote about and included three keynote presentations and three roundtable sessions where attendees discussed how organizations should engage with customers. As for the first event I chaired the roundtable on perfecting multichannel customer engagement in the contact center and gave a keynote on how social media is impacting the contact center.

In contrast to the first event, here I found less adoption of multimedia customer engagement, with more of the attendees saying that they are experimenting with different channels of engagement but haven’t settled on new strategies. A particular issue was raised by several organizations from the insurance industry, whose multichannel plans are hampered by a legal requirement to conduct many customer interactions in written form. They spoke of being “snowed under” with paper and as a consequence trying to determine how often they can use non-paper channels.

Another big issue nearly all the organizations face is the large number of systems they already have to manage, the number of new systems they would need to manage multiple channels of communication and the challenge of integrating all these to produce a consistent experience across channels and a single view of customer channel usage. As I discovered in my research into the adoption of a contact center in the cloud, many organizations are finding the answer to these problems lies in the adoption of preintegrated channel management systems from vendors such as GenesysinContactInteractive Intelligence and Noble Systems, and cross-channel analytics from vendors such as NICE Systems and Verint.

As I tweeted at the time, the discussions raised what for me was a familiar idea, that “companies need more joined-up thinking.” As my research into customer relationship maturity shows, organizations still store information in silos, which minimize sharing of processes, information or systems. This separation makes is difficult to take steps that would deliver consistent, appropriate experiences across all touch points. One of the participants in my roundtable said the organization had some success using customer journey maps to help plan customer engagement touch points within a channel but hadn’t thought to use them to map a customer’s journey across different channels. I believe that journey mapping could help organizations identify and thus remove some of the less sensible steps they make customers go through and help them see engagements from the customer’s point of view.

As at the previous event, even before I gave my presentation on social media, the topic of using social media came up in all three roundtable sessions. In this case more organizations are experimenting with social media rather than building it into their overall customer service strategy. That said, almost all agreed that they need to make social media a two-way channel of communication with customers and not just a place where customers raise issues or make complaints that are not addressed. These views are in line with my research, which shows that the use of social medial by organizations is growing but has yet to be adopted as a mainstream channel for customer service; indeed many of the attendees agreed that responsibility for social media remains with Marketing and thus is used mainly to carry out low-cost marketing campaigns.

Perhaps the most pleasing part of the day was the chairman’s roundup of key points coming out of the roundtable discussions. As the different chairpersons summed up their discussions, I often heard the sentiment that the “customer should come first,” whether in developing a multimedia customer service strategy, mobile applications to support customers or Web-based self-service, or generally becoming a “social enterprise.”

All-in-all, the day raised more questions than answers, but everyone appreciated the opportunity to join the debate. Won’t you please come and collaborate with me.

Regards

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director