The Top 5 Must-Have Features for Building a Robust Customer Engagement Strategy, Part 1

By Chris Recio, Director of Contact Center & Advanced Applications

In our last blog, we discussed that laying a proper foundation for building your customer engagement strategy requires that we are diligent in what solutions may best fit our needs. I outlined for you my 5 Must-Have Options that every contact center solution should have in order to give you the best opportunity for success when developing your customer engagement strategy. Not all solutions are alike, and each solution provides varying degrees of ease and feature options.

To review, here is the list of 5 Must-Have options I believe your contact center solution should provide a great foundation for laying your broader customer engagement strategy.

  1. Plug-n-Play Data Integrations
  2. Multi-Channel/Omni-Channel Functionality
    1. Voice/SMS/Email/WebChat/SocialMedia
  3. Flexible IVR – Web Services Accessibility/Dynamic Control
  4. Fully Documented Open API w SDK availability
  5. Outbound Campaigns (Voice/SMS/Email)

Looking at these options, let’s dive into the first 3 of these 5 options above in greater detail.

Plug-n-Play Data Integrations

I purposely used the term “data integrations” because to me, an integration should not completely isolate the user to the provider’s chosen data points. With any integration, clients will always find a need to extend that integration beyond its “coded” capabilities. Customers almost always start with a base integration and build upon that.

Keeping this in mind, having an integration that provides an open connecter should allow clients to leverage the base integration while allowing them to also expand upon it. When reviewing applications, I always look for an open-ended web services connector or an open ODBC connector.

Any state-of-the-art technology should provide a point-n-click process for easy deployment. And YES, there are applications that specifically meet this need.

Regardless of what applications provide, there will always be a need for customization at some level. That is because no two organizations and organizational needs will be alike. Each solution will have a need to customize at some level. However, finding a solution that has built-in integrations can go a long way in minimizing the work required to meet your needs.
Thankfully, the message has been heard and more and more applications are open to the extent that a junior technical resource can often extend an integration or web service well beyond its base framework.


It goes without saying that your chosen contact center technology should natively support the following options for communication. The operative word here is: Natively Supported

  • Voice
  • SMS
  • Email
  • Web Chat
  • Social Media

While there are plenty of bolt-on options for any chosen solution to meet the needs of providing a true multi-channel/omni-channel solution, these tend to add complexity to the Administration and management. My preference is native support for all communication channels.

Adding to this, the product you may choose should at a minimum support AI and bot technologies as well. While some advanced technologies do require a level of expertise and a specific foundation, it’s not at all unrealistic to expect the chosen solution to support AI and bot technologies with ease.

Statistics show that consumers are increasingly depending upon digital communication as a convenient means for communicating with service providers, tech support, sales, and more, having the option to receive SMS routed communication within your org is crucial for expanding your options. SMS is a fantastic tool for many purposes and should absolutely be a part of any new solution you choose.

Recent data shows that upwards of 80% of calls are ignored. We all do it. An inbound call comes to our mobile device and if that number is not in our contacts, we ignore the call. However, we read every SMS within seconds of its receipt and often reply. SMS can be leveraged in many ways and its value cannot be underestimated. When used for marketing, sales, appt reminders, after-contact confirmation, and general client updates.

Email should not require that you change your current email addressing process. The new solution should be capable of ingesting your current email addresses so as not to force you to re-engineer your current email solution.

Deploying WebChat should be a simple copy/paste of a block of code into your current website to enable this process. The web chat process should also provide open webchat and secure web chat.

Lastly, the web chat process should allow your website provider to easily update and add options such as form fields for web chat purposes, which can then be ingested by your contact center solution, providing critical customer-facing data to your contact center representative as the web chat is received in the contact center.

Social Media is an interesting option. What’s most challenging about Social Media is the amount of “noise” that must be filtered out as part of the process. But many Contact Center operations are looking at all possible communication channels as viable entry points for your clients and new customers alike. So, having a solution that allows your operation to explore the options certainly would be to your advantage.

Flexible & Open Access IVR

IVR can make or break your options, especially as you look to expand your Customer Engagement Strategy. When reviewing IVR options, I look for the following items as must-have options:

  • DB Integration via Web Services or ODBC
  • On-the-fly web services requests
  • Easy and Flexible Variable Data Assignment
  • Interaction Flow Tracking Reporting Capabilities
  • Outbound Processing – Voice, SMS, Surveys
  • Agentless Interaction Processing – Voice, SMS, Surveys
  • Agent and Group Data Awareness of the Active Queues
  • Easy AI Integration
  • Built-in Text to Speech
  • Menu Driven Speech Recognition
  • Library of Options to Build Robust Flow Processing
    • Built-In Functions
    • 3rd Party Text to Speech
    • Data Manipulation, and more

IVR is a critical aspect of any contact center solution and time should be spent diligently weighing its features and options. Today, IVRs are not just for voice routing, but rather, should be seen as an engine for “data orchestration” in creating truly dynamic experiences.

Not all IVRs are created equal. Every IVR should have an open web services process or data access process that allows clients to build dynamic flows.

When I use the term dynamic, I am referring to the ability for an IVR process to dynamically respond to data which can essentially create a custom experience on a call-by-call – or rather – on an interaction-by-interaction basis.

It’s my belief that data should be the driving force of every single interaction in order to provide a 3-dimensional experience, for the customer and for the business alike.

IVR isn’t just used for routing interactions. IVR is your control mechanism for solving a wide variety of issues, while providing you a foundation for infinite possibilities as it relates to the overall customer experience and your expanding customer engagement strategy. Choose wisely.

In our next blog, we will address the final 2 of the 5 Must-have options I’ve outlined above. After reviewing our final 2 on the list, we will delve deeper into the contact center as a customer engagement strategy for the future.