20 Top Customer Focused Takeaways from CRM Evolution

While there were more than 200 top takeaways from the recent 2015 CRM Evolution conference chaired by Paul Greenberg and the accompanying Customer Service Experience conference chaired by Esteban Kolsky, here is the long and short of top takeaways when it comes to customer service, customer engagement and customer experience from key speakers and analysts at the event:

  1. The Most Important Factors and Challenges in Customer Experience: According to a 2015 IDC customer experience survey of more than 700 organizations, the most important factors in achieving a superior customer experience are: (1) a consistent experience across channels, (2) capable, motivated personnel, and (3) excellent self-service capabilities on web or mobile.

    The top challenges organizations say they face in delivering a superior customer experience are: (1) consistency across channels, (2) ensuring that all inquiries are responded to and documented, and (3) utilizing customer data to identify trends.

    When asked what will be the most important business priority in their organization 12 months from now, respondents said (1) building strong relationships with customers over (2) promoting the company, product and/or brand.

  2. We are living in a post-sale, on demand, attention economy. ~ R. “Ray” Wang 
  3. Customer Engagement, Customer Experience and Customer Relationship Management Defined: CRM Evolution conference chair Paul Greenberg has made things a whole lot clearer for many by defining some of the customer-focused phrases we use most:

    Customer engagement is the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company chosen by the customer. 

    Customer experience is how a customer feels about a company over time.

    Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a technology and system that sustains sales, marketing and customer service activities. It is designed to capture and interpret customer data, both structured and unstructured, and to sustain the management of the business side of customer related operations. CRM technology automates processes and workflows and helps organize and interpret data to support a company in engaging its customers more effectively.

  4. The four Ps of next generation customer engagement: predictive, preemptive, proactive, personalized. ~ Brian Vellmure
  5. The Future of CRM is Coming Together: Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Kate Leggett notes that the present state of CRM is typically siloed with sales, marketing and service operating out of separate solutions. According to a recent Forrester survey, the biggest challenges cited by brands today in customer relationship management are: (1) creating a single view of customer data and information, (2) managing data quality, and (3) creating customer insights to drive decision making.

    In the future, sales, marketing and customer service must be connected (and preferably on a single platform) so that the customer experience is consistent.

  6. Four Areas that Must Be Coordinated in Customer Success Management: strategy, processes, leaders, and data. ~ Kate Leggett
  7. Five Steps to Greater Customer Loyalty: analyze customer behavior with special attention to self-service options available and how and when customers use them; improve self-service, with a broader view than just IVR; integrate all channels; create better links between live and self-service; track satisfaction and evolve based on the results.

    Notes Ovum Principal Analyst Keith Dawson, "Today, loyalty is based more on making it easy for customers to do business with the company, and that requires smart connections built with solutions that are contextually aware and supported by a decisioning engine and value metrics, and that blend service channels.” 

  8. Six Keys to a Data Driven Customer Strategy: (1) integrate, (2) contextualize, (3) analyze, (4) predict, (5) prescribe, (6) democratize. ~ Michael Fauscette
  9. Brands Must Invest in the Right CRM Solution: Bob Stutz, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, notes that companies are spending millions of dollars each year on CRM solutions and data, but typically end up with a solution that’s siloed or that doesn’t align with their business processes.

    To create a consistent customer experience, brands and organizations must invest in a unified solution that helps them achieve their goals. Where to start? (1) Identify the channels you are on and want to engage on. (2) Determine what you want and need to accomplish in the near and long term. (3) Outline the associated business processes to better understand what you need from a technology perspective for a better return on investment.

  10. An Equal Investment Must Be Made in the Right People: "Cheaper is not better when it comes to people, and that's true across customer service, marketing and sales," notes Microsoft's Bob Stutz. Technology and software can only do so much. It doesn't replace human interaction at the end of the day. No technology can replace that."
  11. The Right People Want and Need the Right Tools: In a recent Aberdeen survey, customer service agents said that having better technology tools was more important to them than getting paid more.
  12. On Hiring Customer Engagement Rock Stars: Eric McKirdy, Global Customer Care Manager for Ask.com offers these tips: (1) Don’t hire a “customer service agent.” Hire a happiness hero, customer champion or happiness engineer. (2) Separate the resume pile between candidates who have written why they like your brand and want to represent it and those who have copied and pasted their name into a form letter and resume. Discard the latter. (3) Interview candidates in the same channel that they will interact with your customers. (4) Ask a random question during the interview to see how well and quickly candidates can handle even the most unexpected customer questions.
  13. Why the Best in Class Rock: Omer Minkara, Research Director for Contact Center and Customer Experience Management at Aberdeen Group reports that on average, companies are now using four channels to interact with customers. Those that ensure consistency of customer messages across multiple channels have 16% greater cross sell and upsell revenue and a 9.8% greater customer lifetime value.

    Seventy-seven percent (77%) of best-in-class service providers are routing multichannel customer service issues to the most relevant agent based on the agent’s skill set and the customer’s problem; 69% give agents access to all customer information on a single screen.

  14. It Takes Two to Make a Chat Go Right: "In order to be effective in chat, you need to also focus on your knowledge repository," says Johan Jacobs, Principal Analyst, Digital Clarity Group, "In chat, relevance of response is the biggest metric you can look at."
  15. Social Customer Service Channels Are on The Rise: According to the latest TSIA member survey, these are the top channels most brands are leveraging for customer support: Twitter (43%), YouTube (39%), Facebook (37%), and LinkedIn (27% – up 10 percent from 2014).
  16. The Future of Field Service Calls for Mobile: Notes TSIA Vice President of Technology and Social Research John Ragsdale, 70% of senior field techs will be retiring in the next two years. These employees have learned to fix anything and everything, but this knowledge has not been written down.

    Mobile devices will boost future productivity through access to knowledge base content, while wearables and mobile cameras will make product and service experts accessible anytime, anywhere to both techs and customers.

  17. Unless companies do the Internet of Things, they’re going to get Ubered. ~ Charlie Isaacs
  18. If the tools you're using can get [customers] to a resolution, they will respond, regardless of the channel. ~ Ian Jacobs
  19. Every channel is a unique form of contact with your brand," but each is interrelated to form the overall experience. ~ Anuj Bhalia

For the final top takeaway (20.), Customer Service Experience conference chair and ThinkJar Principal and Founder Esteban Kolsky was kind enough to contribute his top takeaways across events:

Following the CRM Evolution and Customer Service Experience conferences (and countless conversations with practitioners, vendors, and consultants), the top three new investments companies are making for customer service are: 

– Chat (on their quest for multichannel or omnichannel care)

– Data Management (in their quest for analytics and better metrics and measurement initiatives) 

– "Customer Experience" (there is no certainty of what it is or how it works, but vendors continue to promise it as the Holy Grail).

The three top issues they are facing are:

– Investment Uncertainties (most organizations do have the budget, but are uncertain on where to allocate the money for better returns) 

– Strategies (organizations have learned that just implementing doesn’t work and they must develop a strategy for their solution and goals)

– Talent (there continues to be a dearth of talent for overcoming barriers in customer service and engagement) 

The top three major discoveries of the past few months (years, in some cases):

– Social isn’t currently succeeding for customer service (with data to prove it)

– Customer journey mapping sounds like BPO (but will try it to appease stakeholders

– Being part of operations is actually better for customer service (due to lack of revenue requirements and better costs management)

And the one thing that everyone is talking about and doesn’t know where to start: agent empowerment and engagement.


This year’s CRM Evolution and Customer Service Experience conferences prove, that no matter how things change or evolve, customer service, customer engagement and customer experience still rely on the right people as much as the right solution.

For more top takeaways from this year’s event, you can view many of the presentations here: CRM Evolution; Customer Service Experience; SpeechTek. Next year’s event brings these customer-focused conferences to Washington, DC, May 23 – 25, 2016. See you there!


Download the 2015 U.S. State of
Multichannel Customer Service Report

With 98% of the U.S. consumers surveyed saying that customer service is very important or somewhat important in their choice of or loyalty to a brand (compare this to what customers would say about sales or marketing, for instance), consistent delivery of satisfying service across channels has never been more important. Download the 2015 U.S. State of Multichannel Customer Service report to learn more about consumers’ current views and expectations around customer service including:

  • the most frequently used customer service channels
  • assisted service channel preferences
  • top customer frustrations
  • the percentage of customers who have stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer experience
  • the growing expectations for customer service in 2015
  • and more.