Customer engagement is top of the agenda for many businesses these days. But even though companies are quick to agree that customer engagement is something they want more of, it isn’t always clear exactly what they mean by it or how it can be best harnessed.
So, let’s dive in and take a look for ourselves.
What is customer engagement?
Customer engagement is all about the psychological and emotional connections created by the interactions between a business and their customers. These interactions may take place across a variety of mediums and channels — both offline and online.
Positive customer engagement is at the heart of building loyal and long-lasting relationships.
Importance of customer engagement
Customer engagement helps keep your brand top of the customer’s mind by creating a strong tie with your company. In other words, engaged customers keep coming back.
The reason is simple: because of the way your brand makes them feel.
They enjoy the experience above and beyond just the product or service that you offer, and that persuades them to become loyal customers. That’s why companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, while companies with weak omnichannel strategies retain just 33 percent.
Loyal customers may even be happy to do some of your marketing for you by recommending your business to others, too.
Customer engagement tips
So, it’s clear that creating a customer engagement strategy is important to your business. But how can you best go about it?
It’s all about learning how to better connect with your customers.
Here are some ways you can do that:
1. Be transparent
Customer loyalty isn’t easy to come by. Part of the reason is that customers often believe companies only look out for themselves. To prove this isn’t the case, it’s imperative to show that you have the customers’ best interests at heart. For example, you could point a customer in the direction of a competitor’s product if it’s better placed to meet their needs. Although it won’t immediately help your bottom line, it will help foster trust and create better customer relationships in the long term.
2. Use the right technology
One of the best ways to interact with customers and create engagement is by employing technology to help with the job. Imagine a user has questions about a product they want answered, but they don’t want to have to send off an email and wait around for a reply.
In this case, customer engagement tools like live chat, or chatbots, can provide the information they need in real time. That way, you can engage potential or existing customers before they head off elsewhere.
Other technology, cobrowsing for instance, can take things a step further, providing an interactive visual tool to help get customers unstuck when they encounter problems — with a tricky or confusing form, for example. Showing this kind of care helps ensure that the customer feels important and aids customer retention in the long term.
3. Don’t forget the human touch
Although there is much to be said about technology and the benefits it brings, it’s important not to overlook the power of the human touch. Customers need the chance to interact with real human beings.
And that doesn’t just apply to human agents dealing with complex customer service issues that come up either. Take the opportunity to present the human face of your business by showcasing people from within the company to the wider public. To do this, you could create digital marketing material such as video content to promote and share, or even run in-person events.
4. Leverage social media
Being on social media isn’t optional for brands these days, your customers expect it. And once you’re there you can’t just throw up any old thing every now and again and hope for engagement. You’re going to need to develop a regular cadence and relevant content. Use the analytics tools in social media interfaces to gauge who your audience is and what will work for them.
Social media is also a forum for starting conversations, so it’s important that the content you share invites them to participate. Formats such as polls and quizzes are a great way to do this. And don’t forget to respond to comments from users as well, especially the negative ones. That way, when you interact with customers, you can turn negative experiences into positive ones.
5. Harness the power of push notifications
Sometimes, to keep customers engaged you need to be proactive in telling them what you’ve got to offer. Push notifications can be an effective way of doing that, informing them about special offers, product releases, and more. The great thing is that, as customers must opt-in to receive them, they’ve already given the green light to engage with you. You just need to make sure that your notifications are compelling enough. Doing that means nailing your segmentation, content, and timing.
Whatever you do though, don’t overwhelm your customers with too many notifications. That’s a sure fire way to annoy them.
6. Personalize, personalize, personalize
Personalization can take many forms. Companies such as Netflix and Amazon use algorithmic technology to create personalized recommendations on past behaviors. While this is an extremely effective approach, you don’t need to rely on complex technology to personalize the customer experience.
There’s always the option to proactively ask your customers what it is they are interested in at the start of their customer journey so you can adjust the content, products, and offers they are exposed to based on their interests. Even simple methods like using names in emails can help increase customer engagement.
7. Provide omnichannel customer service
A key part of keeping customers engaged is being available to them whenever and wherever they need you. But if you want to guarantee customer satisfaction, you’re going one step further and turn this into one consistent, holistic and continuous conversational experience. That way, you can create true omnichannel customer engagement. To get there, you’ll need a centralized repository of data that provides a single customer view. This allows customers to pick up where they left off, no matter the channel, saving customers from repeating themselves over and over again.
On-demand Webinar: Next-level Omnichannel: How Going Digital Lowers Service Costs While Increasing Satisfaction - Watch Now.
8. Measure your engagement
It may sound obvious, but if you want to improve customer engagement, you’re going to need to know exactly how engaged your customers are in the first place. And that means measuring customer engagement. Fortunately, there are a host of customer engagement metrics out there for precisely this job.
The exact metrics you look at will depend on a number of factors, such as the channel you want to measure engagement on (e.g. social media, website, email). Whatever the precise scope, your engagement metrics will involve looking at various interactions with your brand. So in the case of emails, that could be open rate, or in social media, likes and comments, and so on.
9. Ask for feedback
Giving your customers a voice is one of the best ways to foster engagement. And to do that, you need to gather feedback. When customers feel listened to, they are more likely to believe they have a stake in your business and that their opinion counts. Just don’t forget to put the feedback into action.
The information you collect is vital in identifying areas for improvement and getting a handle on the pain points your customers are facing. Effectively gathering feedback could mean using comment boxes, sending out survey forms, and asking in live chat, among other things.
10. Create great content
The internet is awash with information. If you want to stand out against all this noise then you’ve got to make sure the content you provide is high quality, and of course, useful to the user. The aim of this content is to help customers solve problems they come across or learn how to do things better.
Video tutorials, well-crafted self-service knowledge bases, interactive assessments and the like help make sure users stick around on your site for longer. While the content for B2C audience is mostly focused on generating awareness, B2B content revolves around providing straightforward solutions that build trust.
11. Build a loyalty program
Keeping your existing customers is far more cost efficient than trying to acquire new ones. A well thought out loyalty program can be a great help in doing that.
How your business operates and in what industry will dictate what makes most sense in terms of a structure. A simple point system may be enough, rewarding customers with each purchase they make which can then be redeemed later on down the line.
Types of customer engagement
Customer engagement has a very broad scope. For a start, there are a few different types depending on the interactions taking place:
- Customer touchpoint engagement. Any given point where a customer directly engages with your business, for example your website.
- Product engagement. The experience of actually using the product itself.
- Agent engagement. The experience customers have with customer facing teams.
- Brand engagement. The emotional attachment between a customer and brand formed from the overall customer experience.
And from a customer's perspective, the exact psychological driving force that forms the engagement can vary, too. The different lenses through which customers may engage with your brand are as follows:
Context is what gives engagement real meaning. After all, if something isn’t relevant, people aren’t interested. Technology is a powerful tool in making this happen, helping you understand an individual’s behaviors and what that tells you about their needs and desires. By leveraging behavioral data alongside other factors such as time, location, and so on you can create a far more individualized and therefore engaging experience.
People place huge value in convenience. So, by making your customers’ lives easier you can do a lot to increase customer engagement. A good example of this is Amazon’s dash, a button that replenishes frequently ordered products at a single push. Amazon then delivers the product they need directly to their door. Minimizing effort in this way ensures that customers will keep coming back for more.
Emotion is a key driver of human behavior. And there’s a whole host of factors influencing decisions that take place under the surface. How people feel about owning a product, for example.
It’s traditionally been very difficult to measure and modify emotion, but as customer experience management technology has advanced, brands now have access to a vast array of data that can help build this kind of understanding on an individual level.
Consumers have gone beyond a materialistic view of the world and are much more aware of ethics than they have ever been before. And there’s nowhere to hide in our ultra-connected world either. Billions of social media users have the opportunity to expose poor practice at the click of a button. Businesses would do well to be as transparent as possible in their operating and manufacturing processes.
Deeply engaged customers may be willing to become your advocates. So, if someone has a good experience with your brand, they share that through their social channels, which in turn influences others to seek out the experience. This type of engagement is the real pinnacle as it breeds further engagement organically without committing extra time and resources.
Examples of customer engagement
Even with all of the ideas in the world, going out there and making it work is what really matters. Here are some examples of companies nailing customer engagement to inspire you.
The Duolingo customer journey is all about engagement. From the very start, all the way through to fluency, personalization is at the heart of the customer experience.
As a customer creates a profile, Duolingo asks the reason behind learning a new language.
The answer enables the app to deliver a tailored experience to meet the user’s specific needs. If they are learning for travel purposes, for example, then they can expect to be practicing directions soon enough.
As learners go on their journey, the app sends push notifications to motivate them and even emails progress reports summarizing learning data. This way, Duolingo creates multiple opportunities to engage, maximizing every customer touchpoint.
Back in 2014, Coca-Cola launched the wildly successful #ShareACoke campaign. Instead of the company logo being emblazoned across bottles, it was replaced by 250 of the most common names in the U.S. The personalized angle made this highly engaging, allowing customers to physically see a little part of themselves in one of their favorite products.
Even customers whose names were less common could follow the ‘Share A Coke’ tour, allowing them to customize their own receptacle of the world-famous pop.
3. United Airlines
United Airlines’ Agent on Demand program is designed to meet customers in-app and provide support, wherever and whenever they need it. Powered by Acquire technology, the mechanism is simple: scan, click, and connect.
Customers initially engage through live chat functionality, but can seamlessly transition to a video call when required.
Reaching an agent is easier than ever thanks to this technology. So, there’s no time wasted queueing at information desks anymore. That means there’s more time to be engaged in speaking to an agent about anything from seat assignments to boarding information.
Engagement is a commitment
Customer engagement is more than just improving what you already do. It’s about understanding what will truly resonate with your customers and delivering that in an accessible way. Only then will you be able to create the kind of long-lasting customer relationships that benefit both them and your business.