customer engagementI had an interesting question posed to me the other day. In essence, I was asked what the difference was between Customer Relationship Management or CRM and Customer Engagement, which is often linked to contact center solutions?

Although at first glance this may seem like an easy question to answer, I thought it was worth writing this blog to give you a view on what makes each of these areas distinct, while providing some clear boundaries for both business understanding and enterprise architecture clarification.

On Wikipedia the first two features of CRM listed are:

  • Marketing – CRM systems for marketing that track and measure campaigns over multiple channels, such as email, search, social media, telephone and direct mail. These systems track clicks, responses, leads and deals.
  • Customer Service and Support – CRM systems can be used to create, assign and manage requests made by customers, such as software which helps direct customers to agents. CRM software can also be used to identify and reward loyal customers over a period of time.

These for me do represent what CRM is about, focusing on storing and using a common set of information about the customer, including:

  • their contact details
  • their contact history
  • their relationships with the organisation across all products and services offered
  • their relationships to others in their household or business
  • the case management of a contact made with the organisation
  • the workflow for managing the processing of these cases

However, I think the Wikipedia definition is incorrect when it says, “…such as software which helps direct customers to agents.” For me this capability lives in the adjacent but related world of customer engagement and contact centers, which manage the real-time distribution of customer interactions, cases and work tasks. It’s these systems that ultimately connect the customer to the right agent with the right skills at the right time. And, while customer context and the information stored in CRM system is valuable, the opportunity to make – or break – the customer experience often lies in a company’s ability to connect the customer the the right agent the first time to close a transaction or solve a problem.

To get there, companies need to consider a customer engagement management platform, which can manage business rules, customer and business context, agent skill profiles, routing rules and work prioritization to ensure that each customer contact is sent to the right resource (self-service or assisted service) irrespective of which channel the customer chooses to use. This contact could be by phone, mobile app, fax, email, text messages, web chat, or social media.  It could even include those activities living in the CRM case management system that require human intervention.

To help personalize each interaction, the platform uses the context of the situation or inquiry, including real-time and historical customer data, in order to link the customer to the best agent or advisor to handle their issue.  And by holding the customer context in the customer engagement platform it enables a true cross channel conversation with the customer. It is also supported by Workforce Optimization capabilities that plan, schedule and monitor the resources along with performance management, quality assurance and training management.

The edge of the CRM universe is at the point where there is a need for the real-time association of work to the right resource.  The customer engagement platform enables the organisation to enter into a real-time one to one relationship with the customer, making contact based on the context gathered from CRM and from the customer interaction. This then enables the connection of the right customer to the right resource at the right time, the record of which of course is then stored CRM.

To learn more about how modern customer engagement platforms can help you deliver cross-channel, personalized customer experiences, take a look at our Ovum whitepaper: “Prepare Contact Centers for the Future with SIP“.

Brendan Dykes

Brendan Dykes

Brendan has over 25 years of experience in the customer service industry, in both business and technical roles. This broad experience has allowed him to see first-hand the importance for both customers and organizations of delivering consistent omnichannel customer experiences....