Presented by LogMeIn

All companies strive for longevity, but it’s an extremely difficult feat. The S&P 500 represents 80 percent of the US capital market and the average lifespan of companies on the S&P is less than 14 years, and 50 percent won’t last a decade. Why? A failure point for many companies is their inability to adapt to changing customer behavior. Consider those brick and mortar businesses that failed to adapt and offer online stores as consumers more and more turned to the convenience of ecommerce — they were forced to close their doors.

And it’s happening again. Just when companies got used to these changing customer expectations in online shopping, Amazon, for example, began raising the bar again (one-stop online shopping), and again (Prime), and again (Alexa). It’s a constant game of reinvention and can be hard for many companies to keep up. Fortunately, not everyone has to be Amazon to be successful. Focusing on a few high-reward areas can help ensure longevity.

Customer experience, for example, has been elevated to a boardroom conversation as it continues to prove to be one of the most effective competitive differentiators. In fact, most consumers are willing to spend more with a brand that provides them a great customer experience. So what does today’s customer view as a good customer experience? In one word: personalization. Companies need to know who their customers are, recognize their specific expectations, and strive to not only meet them…but exceed them.

More than any other time in history, we are seeing the buying power — and fickleness — of the customer increase by a large margin. They have a ton of options and, in most cases, it’s not hard to walk away from one brand for another. They want every interaction to be as easy as “asking Alexa.” We’re seeing this show up across business processes as well. Tools like Slack have gained in popularity — not only because it is easy to use, but because it puts the engagement experience of its users ahead of everything else. As a result, we are seeing this radical shift in how companies are interacting with both their customers and employees with technology underpinning it all.

Building smarter digital customer service solutions

Customer relationship management (CRM) technologies have been around for years, but thanks to this rapidly changing customer landscape, the need for something better and, frankly, smarter is revealing itself. CRM technologies were developed in a time where phone calls were the primary source of customer communications and their purpose was to record information about an interaction at a specific moment of time.

But today’s customer is engaging with brands in multiple ways — often a phone call is the last resort. And when customers do call, they expect the agent to know why they are reaching out and be well on their way to solving the issue. If a customer had just been on the website, the agent should know that. If the customer started the conversation via live chat and was escalated to a phone call, the agent should have the history along with the context. CRM solutions simply can’t provide that level of detail and not in a way that is easily accessible and actionable.

To be fair, CRM vendors have tried their best to adapt to this changing landscape. Many have moved to cloud-based SaaS and even incorporate engagement technologies into their systems — live chat here, social tools there. However, their core competency has not changed. They were designed to optimize back-office workflows and standardize the process of capturing vital business data for reporting and that is primarily what they are still designed to do today. And it’s simply not enough.

Instead these traditional systems need to be augmented or displaced by a new type of system — one that puts engagement before anything else. One that is more conducive to the changing expectations of the today’s customer.  One that is purpose-built for this changing landscape. One that provides continuous engagement across a variety of channels. One that blends in smart automation that can be used by both the consumer to offload some queries and to help make agents smarter on the backend. And one that provides a deep, rich, and real-time profile of the customer. These “smart CRMs” enable the right engagement with the right users at the right time via the right medium with the right context. They shift focus away from reporting and focus on the customer.

Transforming the customer relationship

As the old saying goes, “knowledge is power.” When it comes to customers, the ability to create long-lasting relationships all depends on how educated you are on your customers — their needs, expectations, history with the brand, and sentiment toward the brand.

Where traditional customer service solutions like CRM and ticketing systems can provide some of that education, there is a crippling amount that they miss. For example, at LogMeIn last year we recorded over a billion interactions including live chats, web visits, and app sessions. Of those interactions approximately 100 million turned into meaningful bi-directional engagements between the consumer and agent, yet only 1/100 of those interactions made it into a CRM or ticketing solutions. Having such little information on a customer makes it nearly impossible for a brand to develop any relationship with them, never mind the deep, personal relationship today’s consumer is looking for.

Just like any relationship, the more you know, the better that relationship will develop. Having a 360-degree view of a customer — one that identifies both their activities and the associated outcomes in real-time — is the ultimate goal for digital customer service.

Imagine a world where a customer calls into the service desk and the agent knows exactly who the customer is, what products they have, their service history, and the various channels they interacted with to get to him/her. The customer doesn’t have to continually repeat product serial numbers or problems to the agent and can instead begin discussing their issue immediately. Achieving this level of customer service is hard, if not impossible, with legacy technologies.

Customer expectations are only going to continue to rise as forward-thinking brands continue to make engagement priority number one. Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other emerging technologies will become more important as the future of customer engagement takes shape. Legacy solutions may still have their place, but can no longer stand as the single source of truth about a customer.   Customers are evolving and the technologies that agents use to support them must evolve too.

Paddy Srinivasan is General Manager, Customer Engagement & Support Solutions at LogMeIn.

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