The ways in which organizations interact with their customers is undergoing profound change. As with many business activities, this change is being driven by technology.

Only five years ago, organizations were trying hard to integrate voice interactions, web interactions and face to face interactions. They were seeking a single view of the customer as well as ways of enhancing the customer experience and making customer service more efficient.

In a very short period of time, this situation has become a lot more complex. Organizations now engage with customers using social media and multiple devices. The use of apps on smartphones and tablets is becoming a preferred means of engaging with organizations. Self service is becoming the standard approach for initial interaction with an organization.

It is much more convenient to order a taxi, transfer money or book a hire car using an app on a smartphone than it is waiting in a queue either at an organization’s premises or to speak to an agent at a contact center. Indeed, more and more activities that once required the focus of a paid employee can now be resolved in an automated fashion.

Using self service applications also enables organizations to collect customer data much more accurately and efficiently. This data can then, of course, be analyzed to support other business activities, ranging from sales and marketing to product development.

In Asia Pacific, the extent to which newer forms of customer engagement are being adopted varies significantly by industry and by geography. The use of social media for customer engagement is now commonplace in Australia. However, in other parts of the region, the focus remains on preventing the use of social media in the workplace. Nevertheless, the use of apps on smartphones and tablets is now common in all parts of the region that have 3G or 4G.

Ensuring that overall customer experience is improved and that all customer touch points are integrated is the major issue that must be considered by today’s organizations. This is a serious challenge. Few organizations successfully integrate all of their customer touch points.

Cloud computing, can, in many ways, make the provision of services to customers more manageable. Hosting customer interaction applications in the cloud offers massive benefits. In particular, this delivery model allows organizations to manage increases and decreases in demand from their customers. For example, an online retailer experiences seasonal spikes in demand. Hosting commerce applications in the cloud can enable a retailer to take full advantage of large increases in demand. The cloud-based commerce application will typically offer much greater scalability than its on premise equivalent.

Launching new customer services is also much faster and more efficient for organizations that host their key customer interaction applications in the cloud. For example, an airline might launch an app that allows customers to check in remotely and to monitor flight schedules. This type of service can be launched rapidly, using cloud computing applications. Again, sudden increases in demand can be managed more effectively than would be the case with on premise alternatives.

It is becoming standard for organizations to offer multiple customer touch points, including apps on mobile devices, and through social media applications. Certain applications such as voice will remain on premise for now.

Hence, organizations will need to integrate different customer touch points with different delivery models. In other words, hybrid cloud environments will exist over the next few years as the means of supporting multiple customer touch points. The key challenge for organizations is to integrate all of these touch points with both cloud and on premise delivery models. The opportunity for IT vendors centers around software and services that successfully provide this integration.