With 2011 still bright and full of hope for most of us, what are the key trends that customer service professionals need to pay attention to as you plan for success this year?

Here are the top trends that I am tracking. My full report will be published in January.

Trend 1: Organizations Standardize Customer Service Across Communication Channels

In 2011 and beyond, customer service management professionals will continue to work on standardizing the resolution process and customer service experience across communication channels (e.g., web self-service, chat, email, Twitter, phone).

Trend 2: The Universal Customer History Record Becomes A Reality

Management of the universal customer history record will evolve to include customer communications done over traditional and social channels such as Facebook and Twitter. This will involve mapping of, at times, multiple social identities to a traditional customer record.

Trend 3: Knowledge Management Becomes The Linchpin For Outstanding Service

Companies will be either offering for the first time or realigning their customer- and agent-facing knowledge management offerings with best practices. The focus will be on contextual, personalized knowledge delivery during the service resolution process, as well as leveraging customer input to evolve knowledge to make it more in line with customer demand.

Trend 4: Business Process Management Extends Its Reach To The Front Office

In 2010, we started to see organizations using BPM in the front office in an attempt to formalize agent actions in an effort to standardize service delivery, minimize agent training times, ensure regulatory and company policy compliance, and control costs

Expect to see continued focus on guiding agents through the service resolution process as well as focus on the end-to-end process that may involve back-office tasks.

Trend 5: Customer Communities Grow In Importance For Customer Service

Customers increasingly expect to be able to interact with companies through community-based interactions, and best practices to do this have emerged. In 2011, expect more success stories with quantifiable results about customer communities to emerge. Expect as well for companies to focus on the processes that they use to manage these communities.

Trend 6: End-To-End Customer Feedback Processes Across Channels Rise

We predict that companies will be doubling-down on their efforts to put end-to-end feedback processes in place across all communication channels — both traditional and social. Expect vendors to provide the next generation of collaborative communication tools, sentiment analytics, and the ability to close the loop with the user.

Trend 7: Mobility Becomes A Must-Have Capability

Expect mobile customer service solutions to become more comprehensive, but not equally supported on all popular mobile operating systems currently available. 

Trend 8: Customer Service Adopts Real-Time Methods

Customer service organizations will strive to offer more personalized, contextual service. Organizations will investigate methods to recommend agent “next-best actions” during the service resolution process that include if and when to offer cross-sell and upsell products or services. More customer service and support organizations will also use real-time analytics to best match agents to customers.

Trend 9: Best-Of-Breed Solutions Are Challenged To Prove Value

We see more suite solutions from a single vendor being deployed for customer service. Buyers will be in a strong position to push best-of-breed vendors to demonstrate differentiation and measurable business value.

Trend 10: SaaS For Customer Service Becomes A Credible Option

Our most recent research tracks the continued adoption of SaaS CRM solutions. Our surveys show that nearly half of apps professionals are actively engaged with SaaS assessments or deployment. In 2011, many first-time customer service technology buyers will look first at a SaaS solution to see if this approach can meet their needs before seriously considering an on-premises solution.