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Why Is a Customer Engagement Platform So Important For Service?

An illustrated female agent uses acustomer engagement platform powered by AI and data to deliver efficient service.
When you add trusted AI and data to your CRM platform, you’ll transform how you deliver value across every customer touchpoint. [Adobe Stock / JuleIst]

Here’s how the right technology, with CRM + trusted AI + data, sets up your support team to deliver a streamlined experience that customers love.

We’re in the midst of an AI and data revolution – and it’s changing what customers expect. Consumer technology, AI, and digital experiences have lept far forward. We’ve found that when technology advances, 73% of customers expect better personalization, and 81% expect faster service.

This makes it all the more frustrating when they can’t get speedy, personalized help on their preferred channel whether that’s live chat, SMS, or phone. To solve this problem, you need to go beyond just tracking the issue – you need a customer engagement platform for service to make sure they always have a great experience.

A customer engagement platform (CEP) is a technology for delivering seamless, personalized service across channels. When you add trusted AI and data to your customer relationship (CRM) platform with omnichannel engagement, you’ll improve customer experience even more.

Here’s what you need to know to set up for success with a customer engagement platform.

What you’ll learn:

Build a better customer experience

See how you can combine CRM, AI, and data to connect on the right channel, personalize every conversation, and scale your customer service.

What is a customer engagement platform (CEP)?

A customer engagement platform has tools for interacting with your customers. They help you create personalized experiences, including self-service ones, that scale as your business grows. These tools in CEPs might include: help desks and shared inboxes, live chat software and chatbots, knowledge management, omni-channel case routing, feedback management, analytics, and AI, among others.

The term “customer engagement platform” is also used to describe products focused on specific functions like marketing automation or loyalty programs. So be sure to drill down into the features of customer engagement platforms you’re evaluating. You want to make sure they fit your business needs. (Back to top)

What is the difference between a CRM and a Customer Engagement Platform?

How does a customer engagement platform relate to a customer relationship management platform? First, let’s define customer relationship management (CRM) platform. A CRM tracks all your interactions with customers and prospects across different channels. It helps you stay connected to customers, streamline processes, and improve profitability. 

To become a customer engagement platform, a CRM needs customer engagement tools. These include live chat, chatbots, phone, and omni-channel case routing. This last component is key. Omni-channel case routing allows for omnichannel engagement. This means you can connect with customers on their preferred channel. Your team sees each customer’s history, no matter which channel is used. When you layer on trusted AI and reliable data, you now have a customer engagement platform that transforms how you deliver service. (Back to top)

What are the benefits of using a CRM with omnichannel engagement?

A CRM that has tools like omnichannel engagement allows you to connect with customers across channels. It offers the following benefits:

1. Personalization

With omnichannel engagement, your team has the context they need to deliver personalized service, no matter how a customer contacts your business. All the information about a customer’s history, including previous conversations and purchases, is available to the agent or chatbot. For the agent, the history is visible right from the console. From there, AI can serve up personalized responses to resolve that customer’s issue. 

2. Seamless support channels 

Customers want to connect on their customer service channel of choice – whether self-service, voice, or video. A CRM with omnichannel engagement allows customers to contact you on your website, through your mobile app, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and more. A customer might even start a service conversation on chat, then seamlessly transition to phone or a video call with Visual Remote Assistant

3. Efficient case management and resolution

With omnichannel engagement, your team can efficiently and quickly address the problem. Customers don’t have to repeat themselves. Win-win. (Back to top)

How AI and connected data make for a better customer experience

A CRM is foundational for building a positive relationship with your customers. By creating a single source of truth for agents to access, it helps streamline service. But AI has transformed the service landscape. Adding in AI and connected data is where it really gets exciting. Here’s how an AI-powered CRM with omnichannel engagement helps:

1. Agent productivity tools

When you add AI to your CRM, you get a powerful virtual assistant to help your agents do their jobs more efficiently. As the conversation with the customer continues, AI can offer up recommendations for next best actions for the agent to take, or even replies to the customer, This saves the agent’s time and drives up customer satisfaction. AI can even predict the likelihood that a customer will escalate based on their past engagements. That way, agents can take care to give these customers even more personalized service.

2. Real-time data

Data is created each time your customer interacts with your brand or your support team.  Understanding this data helps you improve your service operations. You also need to be able to access all your data, whether it’s in your CRM apps or external data lakes.

Salesforce Data Cloud helps you do exactly this. It brings all of your disconnected data inside  Salesforce for a comprehensive, 360-degree view of your customer. With a CRM with AI plus connected data and omnichannel engagement, agents and supervisors can see customer data from your CRM and external systems. Teams also get access to real-time data and insights about your customers and their interactions with your products and brand, allowing them to tailor their interactions to each customer. Supervisors can also monitor key contact center metrics.

3. Insights for continuous improvement  

Data is only as good as what you do with it. Service Intelligence for Service Cloud harnesses the power of AI to extract actionable insights from all your data. This gives you the information you need to make business decisions that improve your support team’s performance.

For example, you might mine customer conversations to identify the different reasons people reach out. Some will have a low impact on your goals – like a customer resetting an account password. Others will have a significant impact – like account cancellation. For each reason customers contact support, you can design self-service and agent service strategies to help you reach your goals. (Back to top)

5 ways to connect with customers through a customer engagement platform

Here are some of the ways you can use your CRM – your customer engagement platform – to interact with your customers.

1. Help customers help themselves through self-service

Sixty-one percent of customers would rather use self-service for simple issues, our research shows. So set up a self-service portal for them. Customers can search for help and get AI-powered answers to solve their issue, or complete common tasks, like updating their billing address. All without having to interact with an agent. Deploy chatbots in your self-service experience – bots can provide even more assistance to customers, without the need for an agent.

2. Give customers a choice of how to get help

How do your customers currently contact you – chat? SMS? email? Phone? The truth is they probably want options. Our research finds that 71% of customers prefer different channels depending on context. To better understand your customers’ preferences, analyze how they use your existing channels now. What gaps exist as customers attempt to solve issues, and which channels could you add to solve this? 

3. Give the agent all the customer information with AI + data

We’ve already talked about how AI can help your agents. But it’s also important to note that giving agents all the customer information – through the power of connected data and AI – also helps your customers. When agents have everything they need at their fingertips, they can focus on the customer to deliver empathetic, streamlined and personalized interactions – and everyone wins. 

4. Capture customer feedback to learn how to improve

Customers often give feedback — but do you have a way to regularly review these insights so they don’t get lost? Do you have the right AI-powered analytics to make sense of this vast, contextual data without painstakingly reviewing every single survey? A CRM helps you capture customer feedback in a single place where you can seamlessly review, analyze, and improve the customer experience across digital service channels. That way, you can identify recurring issues and proactively address them before your NPS or CSAT scores take a hit. 

5. Create a community to build connections with your brand

Your most loyal and invested customers are great advocates for your brand, and they can help others engage more with your product or service. Consider creating a customer community where your customers can help each other out and stay engaged with your brand. You can even offer a personalized feed to make it easy for customers to collaborate, share knowledge, and resolve questions together. Check out the Service Trailblazer community to get inspired and see what this might look like. (Back to top)

How to find and choose the best CRM for customer engagement

1. Define your goals. What do you want to achieve with your customer engagement platform? Offer the channels your customers care most about? Help agents be more productive? Having a clear, prioritized set of goals will prepare you to most effectively compare options.  

2. Evaluate features. As discussed, not all CRMs are also CEPs. So as you search for potential CRM solutions, consider only those that offer customer engagement tools. Stack up the features against your goals to see if the platform will allow you to accomplish your objectives. 

3. Consider scalability. While you want to select a platform that fits your current needs, consider also how you’ll be able to use the platform as your business grows. Switching software is disruptive and involves a learning curve for your team, so you want to minimize the need to do so often. 

4. Prioritize dependability. This goes hand-in-hand with scalability. With AI technology changing so fast, be sure to select a vendor that will be able to keep up with the pace of change and not get disrupted. You want the partner you choose to be around for the long haul.

5. Check for a user-friendly interface. You want your tool to be easy for agents to use, simple as that. Sure, some learning curve is to be expected, but look for an interface that is as pleasant and intuitive to use as possible. 

6. Look for integration capabilities. Make sure your CRM as an engagement platform includes the ability to connect with any AI technologies you currently use and want to keep. You also want to be able to connect to third-party channels via out-of-the-box integrations and APIs. 

7. Understand ongoing support. Be sure the platform you select offers help when you need it, not only for onboarding, but throughout your usage of the platform. As we all know in the customer service industry, support really matters!  

A customer engagement platform is an essential technology that bridges the gap between what customers want and what your support team can deliver. A CRM with AI, connected data, and omnichannel engagement will give customers effortless experiences and empower agents to do their jobs with efficiency and ease. (Back to top)

Get actionable customer service insights

High-performing service organizations are using data and AI to improve efficiency without sacrificing the customer experience. Find out how in Salesforce’s latest State of Service report.

AI supported the writers and editors who created this article.

Gautam Vasudev
Gautam Vasudev Senior Vice President, Digital Engagement

Gautam Vasudev is Senior Vice President of Digital Engagement at Salesforce. He focuses on how Salesforce customers engage with their end customers in a transforming world of conversational AI, channels and customer intelligence. Gautam has over 15 years of experience in the customer service domain, and has worked on a variety of technologies from UI frameworks and apps to real time communication.

More by Gautam

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