Consumers have more information, more choices, more access, and more power. But they don’t have more time. Customers want easy customer service experiences, that build emotional connections with the band – delivered as efficiently as possible.

But enterprises struggle to deliver this kind of customer service because of the current state of customer service technology. In fact, enterprise organizations leverage three technology categories (not one) to support their operations:

  1. Queuing-and-routing technologies to capture and route incidents to the right agent pool
  2. A CRM or customer service agent desktop to capture customer and case details
  3. A workforce optimization management system to monitor the quality of service delivered and manage agent staffing, productivity, and forecasting.

This  technology ecosystem is cumbersome, unintegrated, and expensive for enterprises. In the past three years, vendors have started to make cross-category acquisitions to try to simplify the ecosystem. These moves have the potential to democratize customer service technologies — making them simpler, smarter, and prepackaged — to allow enterprises to offer differentiated service.

In our 2017 Forrester Wave evaluation of customer service technologies for enterprise organizations, we highlight nine vendors that have have embarked on this journey.

Other trends that we see from this evaluation include:

  • Intelligence takes center stage. Enterprises that manage huge volumes of data struggle to effectively route work to the right agent, surface the one right action, or pinpoint the next-best actions and steps for customer engagement. They increasingly use analytics and intelligence to uncover insight and prescribe the right action for the customer or agent to take.
  • Omnichannel interactions become table stakes. Vendor solutions now offer self-service via knowledge management and virtual agents as well as digital, social, and messaging channels. They have added visual engagement and even human engagement via field service.
  • Software becomes secondary. In a mature market, consulting services, and customer success programs to onboard and actively manage customer relationship can be the difference between a great implementation and one that doesn’t meet expectations. In addition, choosing  a vendor that has a large developer network of trained resources, a robust application exchange to complement and extend core vendor functionality, and open and well documented APIs for integrations can help fuel the delivery of differentiated experiences..

Have a look at our evaluation to determine whether your customer service approach will enable you to support the future needs of your customers. Feel free to comment on Twitter (@kateleggett) and let me know your thoughts.