Strategic Choices in Customer Experience and Service Architecture

By Martin Hill Wilson


Which would you choose? Infrastructure that is pre-integrated and guaranteed to perform. Or one that is assembled from the most suitable components given particular customer needs?

At the heart of this discussion is a choice we are all familiar with. Imagine yourself at the end of a busy day figuring out what you want to eat. Chances are you opt for the convenience of a ready-made meal. Unless of course, an inspiring food program has convinced you that starting from scratch is easy enough and fits your lifestyle needs much better.

Our everyday technology is served up to us in a similar way. ‘It just works’ sums up the brand promise of solutions that mask ‘under the bonnet’ complexity. Apple’s success is proof that keeping control of all the moving parts (full vertical integration) can be a very profitable business model based on the number of consumers willing to pay a premium for something that looks good and just works. 

Then there those who enjoy being expert and desire more choice. Think about the gaming community. Frame rate matters as much to a gamer as acceleration does to a fast car lover. Powerful GPUs and overclocking unlock that.

Many gamers are happy enough to have the ability to programme a few critical options. Others see the need to make even more choices if they are to end up with exactly what they want in terms of advanced functionality and future proofing. These are the ones willing to build their own system from scratch: accepting the challenge of making the right decisions on compatibility between best of breed components.

The infrastructure that organisations need for customer interaction has been packaged in similar ways: offering the same trade-offs between convenience and customisation. From ‘pre-integrated’ to ‘composable’ with a midpoint the industry calls ‘programmable’; equivalent to a gamer’s expectation of being able to override default settings.   

In terms of picking the right one, it’s about matching needs and capabilities with the right type of solution. Between ‘off the peg’ or ‘tailored’. Between technical knowhow as an external support service or as a full range, in-house capability. Between the benefits of rapid ‘time to value’ or longer term differentiated CX and impact on customer value. In other words, it’s about understanding priorities and needs: the product of strategic clarity.  

This article explores the when and why of those choices.

Before We Start

A point worth making before we begin zooming into differences is to recognise what remains common between these solutions. For a start, they are all designed and built using modern technical standards and capabilities. The contrast between this generation compared against legacy, on-premise, hard coded integrations is night and day. Even the simplest of today’s CCaaS solutions offers more in terms of dynamic scalability and user enabled customisation.  

Secondly, the distinctions between these classes of solution are not absolute. They overlap. The point at which one runs out of steam depends on how vendors have built their solutions and then the degree to which a vendor can and wants to enable customisation.

These boundaries are also dynamic as vendors respond to growing expectations of a maturing market. Simple CCaaS is becoming more programmable. While the most advanced programmable customer service solutions can match the customisation capabilities of a composable strategy with only broader strategic considerations tipping the balance.

Option One – A Composable Strategy

For those who follow their advice, Gartner is a strong advocate of having a flexible, modular, and component-based IT infrastructure. One that allows organisations to rapidly adapt to change which is the essence of a composable strategy. Typically, this manifests as an agile approach to technology, using application programming interfaces (APIs), microservices, and cloud-native applications.

Composable architecture is a response to complex strategic needs.

For instance, an organisation might prioritise adaptability to emerging technologies and their potential to disrupt. Therefore, agile responsiveness and flexibility matter. Especially when success and brand loyalty are built on innovative products, services, and experience.  

Maybe it’s about integrating multiple business functions beyond customer service. Many recognise full end-to-end lifecycle management as a top CX challenge. In this instance, solutions only geared to customer service, even when programmable, might not scale.

The core attraction in a composable strategy is that every component can be a best-of-breed choice. This is a significant advantage for organisations with complex processes or that operate in niche markets with specific requirements.

For example, a bank can use a composable architecture to integrate the latest fraud detection software with its customer transaction processing systems. Additionally, it can tailor customer interaction by integrating their customer data platform with real-time analytics to offer personalised financial advice. All within the reporting demands of a dynamically adapting regulatory environment.

Hospitals can use composable platforms to link electronic health record systems with telehealth services and patient portals. These integrations can facilitate end to end patient journeys from appointment scheduling to remote consultations and follow-up care.

Retailers can use a composable strategy to connect e-commerce platforms with inventory management systems and customer service chatbots. During seasonal peaks, additional resources or services can be easily integrated to handle increased customer demand.

Manufacturers can combine IoT devices with their CRM and logistics systems to provide customers with proactive, real-time information on the manufacturing status and delivery timelines of their orders.

Telecoms can integrate systems for network monitoring with customer support and sales, allowing them to proactively address service disruptions and well as upsell services based on customer usage patterns.

Notice that in each of these examples, customer service needs to be tightly integrated into a larger more complex operating environment. This is when a composable solution is at its strongest.

Let’s now switch to challenges on adopting a composable strategy. All of which can be mitigated with the right mix of diverse skills and experienced management to ensure performance and costs are optimised.

  • The flexibility that a composable strategy offers adds complexity. Such as managing multiple vendor relationships which are often more demanding in terms of multiple SLAs and contracts. The issue of accountability can become less clear which complicates troubleshooting and resolution. 
  • Each new integration in a composable strategy can introduce potential points of failure. Custom development can introduce errors and inconsistencies. Integrations may fail due to incompatible APIs, inconsistent data formats, or lack a robust middleware layer. Overall performance can be impacted by the least efficient component as different systems are stitched together.
  • Every integration point is a potential security vulnerability.
  • While cost should always be compared against value, composable strategies can be more expensive in terms of licensing or subscription fees, integrations, and ongoing operations. Functionality may be duplicated and therefore purchased more than once. Especially around horizontal capabilities such as analytics, dashboards and AI services which have been baked into components to make them stand alone.
  • Maintenance can also require significant overhead in terms of human resources and infrastructure. As operational complexity increases with each new component, this potentially requires more staff and infrastructure. Synchronising updates and ensuring compatibility can also become a significant management issue.

All these come with the territory and need to be carefully managed.

Option Two – A Programmable Strategy

Programmable contact centres (CCaaS) are enabled through APIs and development frameworks. These are augmented by vendor sponsored marketplaces in which third-party developers create and share custom integrations and applications. The combination offers a powerful toolset that allows contact centres to build custom solutions on top of a platform’s core capabilities.

  • For instance, in terms of workflow customisation, an e-commerce business could program its contact centre to route calls based on the customer’s purchase history or current cart contents.
  • An upgraded UI (user interface) design could remove the chore of multi tab toggling with a ‘single pane’ experience combined with an integrated inbox for all contact types.
  • Data integrations could offer richer single customer views to inform a vulnerability or upsell strategy. Or generate a deeper understanding of colleague performance and well-being needs. 

In summary, a programmable solution empowers experience management design. Its capabilities are enabled through a combination of API-driven integrations, CRM synchronisation, business intelligence tools, database linkages, custom development options, real-time event handling, a unified agent interface, and adherence to compliance and security standards.

These integrations are key to delivering a personalised, efficient, and data-driven customer service experience.

Option Three – A Pre-Integrated Strategy

Pre-integrated CCaaS excels in providing a set of pre-built tools and functionalities that cater to a wide range of businesses. They are designed for quick deployment and ease of use, offering standard capabilities like voice, chat, email support, basic call routing, simple workflow modifications, and pre-defined integrations with popular CRM systems. 

They may also offer integrations with common business tools but are not always equipped to handle complex, bespoke integrations that a programmable contact centre can accommodate.

As a result, experience management is limited to the features and capabilities provided by the vendor. This can restrict the scope for unique customer experiences tailored to specific business needs. It also has strategic consequences for scalability. Users must wait for their vendor to release updates or new features rather than add new functionalities on demand.   

It will be interesting to see whether the ability to integrate the latest AI, machine learning, and natural language processing into customer service workflows will persuade some contact centres to trade up to a programmable strategy for features such as sentiment analysis, predictive customer service, and personalised recommendations.

Despite these limitations, the latest CCaaS solutions still offer a significant degree of customisation. In the case of workflow, basic call routing options can be built based on factors like time of day, agent availability, or caller ID.

Some may extend to more complex routing decisions based on customer data since many CCaaS platforms can integrate with CRM systems allowing them to use customer data like purchase history for routing decisions. While others will be unable to route based on real-time analysis such as a customer’s current cart contents. None of this is necessarily problematic. For startups or small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), simplicity and cost are often the priorities. So pre-integrated customer service platforms without the need for a deep technical team are all that is needed.


Let’s start by summarising the key features of each option.

Pre-Integrated CCaaS: Offers standardised solutions with pre-configured features and functionalities. Customisation is limited but is user-friendly and quick to deploy. Best for SMEs or organisations with straightforward customer service needs. It’s applicable in situations where speed of deployment and ease of use are priorities over complex customisation. It requires basic operational knowledge of contact centre software.

Programmable CCaaS: Provides a higher level of customisation through APIs and development frameworks. They allow organisations to tailor specific aspects of their contact centre operations. Suitable for those needing more control over their customer interaction workflows but within a defined framework. It needs technical skills for API integration and some level of programming knowledge.

Composable Solutions: Offers the highest level of customisation and complexity. They enable organisations to piece together different technologies and services to create a highly tailored solution. Best for organizations with unique, complex needs that require deep integrations and bespoke functionalities. Composable solutions are not limited to contact centre functionalities making them more suited for broader transformations. These require advanced technical skills, including software development, system integration, and possibly data science capabilities.

Which is best for you? That all depends on your organisation’s size and industry, specific needs, and technical capabilities. Understanding the trade-offs between ease of use, customisation, and complexity is key to making an informed decision.

Hopefully what you’ve just read helps clarify what still needs thinking through.