CRM Evolution 2014 Day Two: Customer Engagement Is the Future of CRM

offers a cash-back calculator on Facebook to promote its cards, she explained. "Ultimately, all these efforts are pushing customers back to the same place, the online application, but they're doing so in different ways that add value. A mailer will raise that initial awareness, while the cash-back calculator on Facebook will personalize that credit card offer to the specific household. It's the combination that counts," Vaughan said.

Though different companies and industries are in different phases of developing their engagement processes, implementing connected mobile strategies should be a priority, speakers agreed. Mobile presents a unique opportunity for businesses, because "it's the one place where customers' converged identities can be pinpointed," Michael Fauscette, general vice president of software business solutions at IDC, said.

According to Fauscette, a mobile device can't be considered a channel, because rather than acting as one customer interaction point, it functions as a tool that brings disparate channels, such as Web, email, social, and voice, into one place. As a result, a connected mobile strategy could help businesses reach a variety of goals, including improving customer service, marketing, and sales initiatives, building loyalty, strengthening communication, improving industry functionality, and implementing gamification.

Call centers are also playing an increasingly crucial role in the types of engagements customers have with brands. "Sometimes all it takes is one bad call to ruin a company's reputation," Stutz said during the panel discussion. But dspite call center agents being the face of the company during some of the most critical customer engagements—when customers are frustrated or unsatisfied—they're "simply not being paid enough," Stutz said. "You can't expect an employee to sit there with a smile on his face all day when he's being paid peanuts," he added.

The problem with call centers goes deeper than employee wages, other panelists suggested. Many organizations don't equip their call center workers with the kind of technology necessary to understand the entire customer journey. "They can't always help customers if they don't see the whole picture in front of them," George Wright, senior vice president and general manager at Thunderhead.com, said.

Conversely, companies also don't give agents the opportunity to contribute to the "whole picture," Joe Hughes, principal IT advisory lead of emerging and cloud applications at Ernst and Young Advisory, said. "Stop treating call center agents like cattle. Give them time to write notes and reports, and then take the time to read and incorporate the lessons learned from those notes into your business," he urged.

With day two of the conference wrapped up, the consensus among presenters is that though there has been a significant cultural change in how brand-customer relationships should be managed across channels, the importance that companies place on branding shouldn't change; the definition of branding, however, should. "Branding isn't about your logo or your font or even your marketing campaign anymore," Leslie Ament, senior vice president of research and principal analyst at Hypatia Research Group, said. "It's about how you treat your customers and how you empower your employees," she added.

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