5 must-have CRM features for future-proof customer service

Jeff Nicholson,

If you are a global enterprise looking to improve customer service and operational efficiency in a rapidly digitizing world, your technology choices can be overwhelming. At the most basic level, your needs are simple – make it easy for customers to contact you, be able to understand their needs, then quickly and accurately service those needs. But with continually expanding mobile devices and digital channel options, and CRM vendors promoting ever-changing solutions and product strategies, how will you know if the technology you just installed last year will even be relevant three or five years from now?

These five core capabilities will help future-proof your customer service system

1. Open integration

Largely gone are the days of solving problems by moving your CRM system to a new vendor stack. “Rip and replace” is costly, and many vendors’ implementations can take years to fully complete. Your organization, like most others, doesn’t have the luxury of starting from scratch. The reality is, your legacy systems, data, and mainframes are likely still kicking around and not going anywhere soon. At the same time, you’re implementing (or planning on implementing) Agile development practices throughout the organization.

You need your customer service system to work across your current channels and apps, and be able to adapt to new ones in the future. That’s why open and comprehensive integration capabilities are essential.

Your customer service system needs to support multiple types of integration approaches, such as a legacy enterprise service bus (ESB), but also needs the flexibility to support microservices and the containerized, decentralized approach necessary for agile and cloud-ready architectures. This means using APIs for integration – RESTful APIs and web services to integrate between applications as well as within an application, plus exposing APIs and services to minimize writing custom code to connect current and future apps.

2. End-to-End automation with dynamic case management and robotics

The automation of the past is no longer cutting it. And the term “case management” now has many different meanings. Within customer service, even today, case management is often thought of as a help desk ticket, tracking work assigned throughout your organization. While tracking and assigning work is useful, it is ultimately the driving of work from beginning to end that really improves your operational efficiency.

And driving work from end to end is extremely challenging, with all the complexities of varying business lines, geographies, policies, and permutations of enterprise processes. Your enterprise need tools capable of handling that complexity. You need to be able to orchestrate all the work that needs to be done – automating the notifications, routing, assignments, and even low value work done by desktop robots (plus all of those integrations we just mentioned above) from end to end to optimize customer service operations. Dynamic case management allows you to deftly manage more complex tasks, and is essential for supporting a “channel-less” experience across multi-channel operations.

3. Channel-less digital engagement

A channel-less mindset is not just about automation. It’s now also about engagement. Customers don’t think in channels anymore. They want a resolution to their issue, as fast as possible, on the channel they prefer – often simply the channel that is closest to them at that moment. The channel, in this sense, is irrelevant.

You can maintain as many channels as you want, but you need to be able to collect and connect data and context from all of them – and deliver the same level of experience anywhere. Whether its web self-service, social, chat, mobile app, co-browse, virtual assistant, or phone, your customer expects you to understand the context of their

inquiry during each engagement, and expects you to service them equally well across all of your channels.

The new path forward to achieving your omni-channel vision, is not to chase the next shiny new channel and make the same mistakes of the past by building logic into that channel itself. This only creates yet another silo – and disconnected experience for customers. To be channel-less, you need to have a central decisioning and orchestration authority that makes sense of all the customer data from all sources and channels, and provides real-time guidance on the best way to service the customer – regardless of how customers choose to engage with you. To get closer to your grand omni-channel vision, think channel-less.

4. Real-Time AI

To service customers accurately, do more than just understand their needs – anticipate them. Organizations like yours are investing in AI-based analysis and guidance tools so they can engage with customers on a more personalized level.

AI doesn’t replace your employees – it simply makes them better at what you’ve hired them to do. It helps your organization sense the customer’s intent and then determine the right thing to do or say next. With this approach, systems and agents alike are guided to the next best action, dynamically and in real-time, throughout the customer’s entire lifecycle. From chatbots, to email robots, and even traditional agent interactions, AI crunches data and discerns context from all of your sources, then evaluates potential actions based on what’s right for both the customer and your business. AI-based decisioning helps you maintain consistency and generate relevant responses in real time, across all channels, at each customer’s moment of need.

With the power of pragmatic AI-based approaches, your agents can focus on the higher value interactions and the more pressing customer challenges – for happier customers and team members alike.

5. Cloud-Agnostic architecture

Which cloud will your business be on in 5 years? Or, as hybrid models are gaining steam, which clouds? For most businesses, it is anyone’s guess. To support a variety of data sources, applications, business models, and delivery models, you need a customer service system that can work in the cloud or in a hybrid environment (cloud and on-premises). The option to run part or all of your customer service system functions in the cloud can help your organization adapt and scale quickly to changing business needs. Software solutions that are cloud-platform-agnostic provide more flexibility for your

applications and data, and prevent you from being forced into restrictive multi-structures tied to the cloud vendor’s preferences.

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Tags

  • Industry: Cross-Industry
  • Topic: Customer Service
  • Challenge: Customer Service

About the Author

Jeff Nicholson, Pega’s Vice President of CRM Product Marketing, is obsessed with customer success. Jeff helps companies revolutionize customer engagement and exceed expectations.