It used to be that a company’s customer service was designated to a specific department. Now customer service touches every aspect of a company, from marketing to product development. With so many different formats, platforms and networks from which to reach potential and current customers, the year ahead will be challenging for companies who need to balance emerging technologies with bottom lines.

Fortunately, Forrester’s 2011 Customer Experience Predictions serves as a guide for companies looking to be both strategic and practical in how they invest their time, money and technology in the coming year.

Advanced Technologies Require Advanced Skills

With a primary focus on devices, Forrester predicts that as mobile technologies advance, customer experience professionals will be expected “to learn new skills and improve on old ones in order to cope.” Whether it’s an iPad, smartphone or a Kinect-based business application, the road ahead is paved with differentiated experiences.

Yet, these new technologies will be in addition to, not in place of, traditional platforms like websites and social networking. The lifecycle of digital content and online experiences is expanding, making maintenance and management more important than ever.

In Customer Service We Trust

In preparation for these trends, Forrester expects that companies will have to make changes to their organizations, processes and cultures. Companies who have already begun to invest in multichannel communications will have an advantage over those who haven’t. Additionally, the way organizations think about customer service will change.

Companies will finally recognize the ways that customer relations can build brand loyalty and generate revenue. As companies invest heavily in customer service, we’ll see more job openings for frontline service representatives to customer experience process engineers and heads of customer experience management.

Customer Experience Management?

Beyond companies, vendors will also find themselves strategizing about how they can help the enterprise improve customer experiences. Forrester predicts that as companies become more fixated on customer service, vendors will be renaming their services accordingly. Expect to see more customer experience management (CEM) vendors in 2011.

Vendors won’t just be focused on cosmetic changes. They’ll also begin to beef up the services they provide. From ethnographic research capabilities to service design, agencies will start to investigate their clients’ big picture, rather than just focusing on a small part.

Beware Shiny Things

Overall Forrester warns companies to stay focused and not get too distracted by shiny, new technologies. By being both strategic and practical in their deployment, companies that thrive in 2011 will be those that invest their time, money and resources wisely.