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Multichannel customer experience turf on which companies now spar

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Companies have come to recognize that providing stellar customer service in just one channel will quickly fall apart if multichannel customer experience is poor.

As customers grow more discriminating and gain more power in their interaction with companies, multichannel customer experience has grown increasingly important to the customer service equation. Without good customer experience, most companies will get left in the dust.

But that's easier said than done. Companies are recognizing that even if they deliver a positive experience on the phone or via a live chat forum, that's only one communication channel, and the customer may have had experiences in other channels as well. Stitching together that data into a multichannel customer experience, and a 360-degree view, is essential.  

So customer experience has to be well integrated regardless of where a customer communicates, otherwise known as multichannel customer experience. So if he makes a comment on Facebook, then calls into a contact center, those communications have to be integrated in order for his experience to be solid and positive.

Alan Trefler -- the CEO and founder of Pegasystems, a CRM system, and the author of Build for Change --sat down with Brent Leary of CRM Essentials to discuss trends in CRM and the multichannel customer experience. For an excerpt of their discussion, check out the transcript below, which has been edited for clarity. And for more, listen to the podcast above.

You wrote a book and referred to the customer apocalypse. What is that?

Alan Trefler: Customers are becoming increasingly disenfranchised and expecting more from organizations. They can just devastate companies that don't live up to those expectations. So organizations are going to find faster switching, but also much more ability for disenfranchised customers to make that broadly known and to injure them. Companies need to raise their games at a time when that is increasingly difficult

How is customer experience driving customer engagement?

Trefler: We see orgs trying, but most are really messing it up. What you find, particularly in medium-sized orgs, there will be multiple departments where each department thinks it owns a channel. The folks in the digital channel will try to create the perfect website, and those who own the mobile app are trying to create the perfect mobile apps, and contact centers are trying to answer questions from customers coming in. If these three things are disconnected, the customer experience in one channel can be great. But the overall customer experience -- being served in their channel of choice -- is going to be a disaster. It won't be consistent. They can't start in one place and finish in another. They are going to be chopped to smithereens. The customer apocalypse is not thinking about the customer journey as they go across channels, creating a multichannel customer experience.

Is it a customer evolution or revolution, where customers are adopting technology faster and adapting faster? But how quickly are companies adopting?

Trefler: Most firms are going much too slowly. And when they do move, they move in ways that don't break down the silos. To do this effectively, you need to think end-to-end, from touch, to nurturing to being able to sell and service. And you need to be able to think end to end across all the channels you need to work on. And you need an architecture that makes it possible to apply a common model of customer engagement across all those dimensions. And frequently, when they do move, they do the next generation of silo: They stick stuff on the cloud, but it doesn't mean it will connect to the rest of your business or the other channels that someone is going to come to.

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