While there were more than 100, perhaps more than 1000, top takeaways from the recent 2016 CRM Evolution conference (as well as the Customer Service Experience and SpeechTEK conferences running concurrently), here are 16 terrific takeaways from the event shared by key speakers and analysts including Esteban Kolsky of ThinkJar, Kate Leggett and Ian Jacobs of Forrester Research, Ray Wang of Constellation Research and more: Customer expectations are changing, and to be successful, brands’ delivery on customer experience must too. Insight-driven business models are the future of the enterprise, notes Constellation Research’s Ray Wang. Predictive, proactive, personalized experiences are key, and companies should leverage the tools they have to work toward “mass personalization at scale,” says Wang. He warns that if by 2020, 20% of a company’s insights are not driven in this manner, they’re not going to be successful.” Brands must approach everything they do, but especially service and engagement, with a customer experience mentality. Notes Dennis Snow, a 20-year Disney veteran and author of Lessons from the Mouse, "If you operate a contact center, the technology has to be great, but it still is about the experience. In every interaction that you have with the customer, do it with an experience mentality, not a task mentality. Each step in the process should be analyzed through the lens of the customer, not the organization.” Customer experience gives companies a sense of purpose. A key message from Altimeter Group principal analyst Brian Solis, this new top-down, bottom-up focus on customer experience helps break down organizational silos among departments, employees and ranks. The switching economy is costing brands trillions of dollars. Globally, businesses spend about 6.2 trillion dollars due to customer churn. Denis Pombriant of Beagle Research presented this eye-opening statistic in his session on the new drivers of customer loyalty. Pombriant believes that loyalty is built on meeting customers in their moments of truth. Pombriant notes that McKinsey recommends automation, proactive personalization, contextual interaction and journey innovation as four key pillars to achieve customer loyalty.“ Buying customer loyalty doesn’t work anymore,” says Pombriant who notes that traditional loyalty programs may soon be a thing of the past. “Engaging customers does, and involving them in the best way to engage is even better.” The four top customer investment priorities for 2016 – 2017 in customer service are… (1) cloud (2) knowledge (3) analytics and (4) employees, says ThinkJar founder Esteban Kolsky. Employee empowerment should be a top focus and investment in customer engagement, but not yet. Customer service and employee performance consultant Jeff Toister defines employee engagement as "the extent to which employees directly contribute to the organization's success” but cites an alarming ICMI statistic that notes 86% of contact centers currently don’t fully empower their agents. Customers not only want to engage with agents, but engage on their own via self-service to get the information they need. “Customer service is no longer about what you can do for me, but about what you enable me to do on my own," says Aspect SVP and GM Joe Gagnon. A key component of lowering customer effort is empowering customers with self-service options, adds Forrester Research’s Ian Jacobs. “But that has created a greater strain on customer service agents, he says, which returns to the call for a greater investment in employee empowerment. "The more your customers self-serve, the more important your agents become because they are dealing with more complex issues," notes Jacobs. Knowledge is a two-way street in customer engagement. Stevie Award Winner for Customer Service Professional of the Year Eric McKirdy advises from experience that knowledge is not power without action. Empowering customers with knowledge to take action is just as important as empowering agents with knowledge to take action. Dialoguing and sharing information and knowledge between and among the brand, agents and customers through feedback and communities is even better. Knowledge and engagement is a two-way street. “Knowledge is content being applied in context.” – Esteban Kolsky, ThinkJar Mobile customer engagement is no longer a trend; it is an imperative. Says G2 Crowd’s Chief Research Officer Michael Fauscette, “It’s just the way I connect; I want the software to not care. If you’re on the consumer end of it, mobile is just a channel, not many channels (email, chat, self-serve, etc.). CRM Essentials co-founder Brent Leary notes phones are also going to start talking back soon, so brands must be actively looking and innovating forward when it comes to mobile engagement. Before investing in and building out technology, brands must first understand the customer. Advises Denis Pombriant of Beagle Research, “you have to take the opportunity to understand your customer first before your implement a cornucopia of technologies.” Forrester Research’s Kate Leggett notes the next step is developing a common foundation of knowledge, which is key to delivering consistent information and valuing a customer’s time, one of the top aspects of a satisfying customer experience. Notes Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis, 73% of consumers say getting useful information from a business is the most important attribute when potential customers are selecting a brand. “Don’t make assumptions about your customers’ preferences. Ask them; test and revise.” – Justin Robbins, ICMI “If you don’t know who the customer is; if you don’t have the foundation of data and knowledge, you don’t have anything.” - Michael Fauscette, G2 Crowd Delighting customers every time is not the goal. CRM consultant Marshall Lager says “it sounds really nice, but not only is it impossible to do that at scale - it is impossible to maintain. Customers then expect delight every time, when part of delight is the unexpected. The real goal should be not to drop the ball.” “You can’t rule the world if you have a closed system.” Wise words from CRM Essentials co-founder Brent Leary. The future of customer engagement is beyond human. Microsoft Dynamics CRM General Manager Jujhar Singh predicts that messaging platforms, bots and augmented reality will greatly impact the evolution of customer engagement. Is your brand ready for a customer experience and CRM evolution? ------------------- Join Microsoft’s Live Online Event, Customer Driven, on June 7, 2016 Join Microsoft Tuesday, June 7 at 9 AM PDT for Customer Driven, an online event showcasing the evolution of customer engagement and business strategies for better customer experiences. You’ll hear from Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise, about the challenges and opportunities presented by digital transformation. Jujhar Singh, General Manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, will provide an overview of what’s new in CRM, including new service, portal, and intelligence capabilities, as well as Connected Field Service preview availability. Analyst Paul Greenberg will talk about trends in customer engagement and service, and strategies to build loyalty and brand advocacy. At Customer Driven, you’ll learn how to create differentiated customer experiences with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Discover how our end-to-end solution, including machine learning, IoT and analytics capabilities, uniquely positions brands to understand and engage with their customers, provide consistent experiences across channels, and enable entirely new business models in the new service economy. Sign up for updates and tune in on Tuesday, June 7 at 9 am PDT.