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Face the challenges of a multichannel engagement strategy head on

The number of channels through which customers engage is growing. In this #CIOChat recap, participants sound off on the requirements of a multichannel engagement strategy, and how CIOs can prepare for the hurdles.

"In the Age of the Customer, executives don't decide how customer-centric their companies are -- customers do,"...

according to Forrester analyst Kate Leggett in a recent report. With the average American spending 60 hours each week, consuming content across a growing range of devices and platforms, it's become even more challenging for organizations to keep their customers engaged and loyal to their brand.

Indeed, multichannel customer engagement is a complex juggling act many businesses are still struggling to figure out. It's not just a matter of providing customers with a unified experience through any channel they choose, be it a smartphone, Twitter or an online chat. Organizations also need customer-centric technologies to support these tasks, not least among them automation and back-end analytics systems. Then, there are the difficulties that arise when pursuing a multichannel strategy, including securing customer data, connecting that information across the various channels, and making sure various teams are sharing the necessary information.

In the latest #CIOChat, our @SearchCIO chatters and site editors shared their thoughts on the systems requirements behind a multichannel engagement strategy, and the inherent challenges.

What IT systems does a company need to analyze data and best serve customers?

Failing to provide a seamless and integrated experience to your customers can have serious consequences. Case in point: A recent Microsoft study of 1,000 U.S. consumers found that 65% stopped using a company's product or services due to a poor customer service experience. #CIOChat participants asserted that businesses need analytical systems that can accommodate a plethora of interaction channels to get a full picture of their customers' needs:

SearchCIO Senior News Writer Nicole Laskowski pointed to content tagging as a way for companies with an online presence to collect data on how often customers engage with their sites:

These back-end systems must work hand in hand with social media and other systems, tweet chatter Will Lassalle pointed out, to allow for real-time interaction with customers. Plus, social media analytics tools come into play as companies monitor their brands, as well as those of their competitors, across various social platforms.

Lassalle and Senior Managing Editor Rachel Lebeaux illustrated how real-time engagement, in the form of social media interaction and geolocation targeting, can benefit companies and their customers:

Participant Gloria J. Miller added that interaction management, among other IT systems, also plays a role in handling communications with customers across multiple channels:

What are the biggest challenges on IT and the business when it comes to multichannel?

On top of the aforementioned technical challenges, CIOs in multichannel organizations must also be prepared for the risks. "Your control over processes and organizational change is different. The degrees of freedom you allow are different," said Peter Burris, a research director at Forrester, recently told SearchCIO.

For starters, there are so many sources of customer data that CRM system security is paramount, and it's no easy feat to develop and enforce security and data-handling protocols throughout an organization. Our tweet chatters noted that breaking down the walls between business and IT departments is also a key ingredient to a successful multichannel strategy:

And as Miller hinted at earlier, managing myriad customer interactions and making sure they're available across multiple channels is also a mammoth challenge for many organizations, said participant Brian Katz:

What snags have you encountered in preparing your company for a multichannel engagement strategy? Let us know in the comments section below.

This tweet recap is part of our #CIOChat on multichannel strategies, hosted by SearchCIO. For more recaps or further information on our next tweet jam, follow @SearchCIO on Twitter.

Next Steps

Check out another #CIOChat recap to learn the perks of pursuing a multichannel strategy. Then, learn how various CIOs are catching up to their multichannel customers.

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