There was an interesting article on Wired.com last month that discussed how devices such as Amazon’s Echo and its Alexa speech interface typify the shift towards a new generation of app-less Internet services.

Providing the underlying AI behind the services can understand what the user wants, it doesn’t really matter whether customer queries come in by text (as in Facebook Messenger) or voice (as with Siri or Cortana). Already third party developers are showing how easy it is to connect devices such as Amazon Echo to other smart home systems such as Nest or Sonos. Central to this development is the ability to understand more complex user demands and natural speech.

While these kind of developments might sometimes seem to fall outside of current customer engagement plans, it’s critical that we don’t under-estimate the sheer pace of development and user acceptance of innovations such as Amazon Echo. Only this week Facebook announced that it now has over 1 billion users signed up to its Messenger service (see below), while Amazon has announced that it now has permission from the UK Civil Aviation Authority to begin testing its drone delivery service – opening up the possibility of 30-minute delivery windows. How we re-engineer our customer journeys to accommodate these and other innovations will be a critical differentiator.

This week we have stories from Inc., CIO Insight, and Social Times.

What's Hot in Customer Service – Inc. article looks at how proactive services, more understandable FAQs, personalisation, using platforms such as Facebook Messenger for timely response, and Virtual Assistants are all combining to help create more engaging and personalised experiences for customers.

Why Data Integration is vital to Customer Experience – Interesting CIO Insight presentation suggesting how data integration is increasingly vital to the quality of the customer experience offered. Research quoted suggests that only 36% of organisations are able to move data across key customer channels such as the web and mobile devices – leading to the conclusion that there’s still a lot of work to be done if businesses are to fully optimise customer journeys.

How Facebook Messenger clawed its way to 1 billion users – 20 months ago Facebook angered many of its customers when it removed chat from its main app – forcing users to download its separate Messenger application. However, it was a move that paid off as this month the company has announced that Messenger has since doubled its user count since then to join Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube in the billion-user club. With so many people now on board, it’s hardly surprising that organisations are increasingly looking to make Messenger a key part of their customer journeys.