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Research shows, “Companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies.”
A customer-centric organization comes from a solid customer engagement strategy. It’s a great way to foster growth. Getting there means giving customers value that goes beyond a simple transactional relationship. Competition has moved past price. A great customer service strategy is what sets your business apart.
INC goes as far as claiming customer engagement is the new marketing. Going above and beyond regular customer experience is the way to make your customers smile.
Think about it. Why would a customer choose you over the competitor? how your brand makes them feel. A feeling built across their interaction with your business.
So, how does that help you?
“Customer advocacy is the holy grail of advertising since a heartfelt customer recommendation carries great weight in the eyes of prospective clients.”
Loyal customers are the best advocates.
Customer loyalty and engagement are intimately intertwined. Loyal customers buy more. They act as mouthpieces for your brand. Word of mouth publicity even gives you the collateral to display user-generated content on your website and social media, proving the value of your brand.
"Word of mouth marketing drives $6 trillion of annual consumer spending and is estimated to account for 13% of consumer sales. Word of Mouth marketing impressions results in 5x more sales than a paid media impression. People are even 90% more likely to trust and buy from a brand recommended by a friend."
Customer engagement is a part of customer experience
Consumers are ready to pay more for better customer experience. The question is, what exactly constitutes good consumer experience?
Customer experience is created from the sum total of their engagements with you. Customer engagement, therefore, forms part of the customer experience.
According to Deloitte, "Every consumer wants a different experience when shopping and that ‘experience’ has become the differentiating factor for many successful business models. However, businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to predict what consumers want as their expectations continue to change."
In the same report, Deloitte adds that consumers are also growing "less tolerant of brands that do not provide an easy and seamless experience."
Here’s the tricky part.
Customer engagement isn’t synonymous with customer experience it is a consequence of great customer experience.
The interactions between customer engagement, customer loyalty, and customer experience are subtle. Loyalty is an emotional state for a customer, while engagement is the sum of actions stemming from that emotion. The level of customer engagement depends upon a great experience, tying the three concepts together.
Fallon predicts that “Tomorrow's leaders in customer engagement will be the ones who truly lead with knowing the customer and their outcomes at a very detailed level.”
Hubspot says Customer engagement comes from ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer. Different brands may vary in how they define customer, but, in essence, most of these definitions revolve around loyalty and lasting relationships.
So, where does customer engagement start?
Let’s check out a standard customer interaction route to find out.
Tom came across your brand’s advertisement on Facebook. He likes your offering and how you offer it. Next, he decides to visit your website for more information. Here, while he looks around, your chatbot initiates a conversation to help him understand your product better. Tom is now convinced, adding the item to his cart (or, sign up for a free demo if you are selling a service).
These steps show the engagement on various levels. It begins the moment a customer starts taking action, perhaps having a conversation with your team or signing up for a product.
Engagement comes from an act of commitment towards the company.
The definition of an engaged user may differ across products. For a listing app, an engaged user might log in every day, but for an invoicing, perhaps monthly may suffice. There is no consistent definition of engagement. Yet, ignore customer engagement, and it won’t be long before your customers start ignoring you!
How to develop a solid customer engagement strategy
Customer engagement strategies aim to involve your customers in the evolution of your brand to the point of becoming advocates.
Engagement is an important business metric. Tricky to measure, but never to be ignored. It could be measured in terms of customer loyalty, or the quality of your customer experience.
Follow these steps to create effective engagement:
- Define your customer journey map – Know who your customers are and where they come from.
- Identify points of interaction– How your customers interact with you helps identify customer engagement platforms.
- Observe their behavior in real-time – Analytics help better understand and fulfill your customers’ requirements.
- Offer personalized service – Personalization addresses current customer demands. Generic marketing will not work. Customers will abandon preferring brands offering more personalized conversations.
- Observe how many prospects accept the offer and take action – Creating customized offers prompts action from your customers. Measure how many activities to determine the success of your strategy.
- Observe how many of the engaged users bounced off without taking action – Bounce rate tells you a lot about the health of your customer service and the experience your customer engagement platforms offer.
- Take feedback – Feedback is a gift. Regular CSAT surveys help you understand customers’ expectations. Send a short inquiry to churned customers. Find out what went wrong
How to increase customer engagement
Customer engagement shows how customers feel about your brand. And feelings are very important when it comes to selling to humans.
Yet, in one survey, more than half of the companies interviewed had no formal customer engagement program in place.
A sorry state of affairs, but it does open a window of opportunity for brands willing to listen. Looking for a quick win? Implement these eight tried and tested customer engagement techniques now:
1. Create your target customer profile
A target customer profile is one whose needs are met by your product or service. Customers might be exploring your product and service without you acknowledging them. Identify these hot leads and engage them. It will boost your conversion rate significantly.
Here’s how to identify your ideal customer.
- Set their characteristics. If you are a SaaS company, returning visitors spending a long time on your pricing page may indicate a strong customer profile. For a financial institution, a specific credit score or financial history may work.
- Use analytics to determine where customers come from. Location is important for personalizing your offering, creating better engagement.
- Pick revenue as a criterion. Most customers fall into three main groups – small, medium, and large. Which group contributes the most?
- Identify your ideal customer’s behavior. What questions do they ask before making a purchase? What motivates them to take the next step?
2. Make the first impression count
No matter what they say, books are often judged by their cover. Users don’t have time to hang out on your website and dig up information about you. Businesses peak clearly and concisely about their product are better at engaging customers.
Don’t design a site for yourself, design it for your customers. Tell them clearly who you are and what you do. Offer real-time support and be pro-active about starting conversations while you have their attention. More chance of a conversion. Live chat support or face-to-face video calling to introduce your company will make prospects feel good about interacting with your brand. Remember though, don’t focus on the transactional value of the relationship. Instead, create a narrative showing what they can achieve with your product. Let them make the decision.
This is a great example of how to make a powerful up-front connection.
In the video, Mintt provides information about who they are, what they do, and how they do it. All without being salesy at all!
Introductory calls, instructional videos, customer testimonials – all these tools help customers see your value from the offset.
3. Make an extra effort to know your customers
Know them before you even reach out to them.
As we discussed earlier, a customer profile helps figure out your ideal customers. But that’s not enough by itself.
Now you know what they look like, a little extra effort in getting to know them once they hit your site can easily win you, loyal customers. A pre-chat survey is an excellent way of doing this.
HDFC set up a great pre-chat survey, explicitly asking for details allowing them to create a highly personalized service.
Click a button and the application asks you to fill a form. Enter your pan card details, alongside some other information, and you are connected to a support agent, already perfectly aware of what you need.
According to a Microsoft survey, “not having to repeat myself” is something customers see as integral to a good experience. The HDFC pre-chat survey ensures this, connecting customers to agents already aware of their needs. No repetition required.
4. Practice behavior-based messaging
Technology such as live chat becomes more common, brands can leverage it to increase engagement and build stronger relationships.
Not only does live chat offer real-time support, but it can also observe your customers’ in-app or website behavior. Use this information to increase the relevance of interactions.
In the example below, the triggers live chat feature helps you connect with your customers in the right way.
5. Know what drives your customers
Feedback is a gift. But only if you know how to use it.
Carry out customer surveys to understand what drives value for your customers. What triggers them to take action? What value do they perceive in your product or service?
Use short and frequent surveys to find out.
Consider asking the following questions:
- Describe how you feel about your experience with us?
- Suggest how we can improve your experience with us?
- Are you happy with the support you received from us?
- What do you like and why?
- What do you think our employees can do better?
- Would you like to share any additional comments or feedback?
To improve the click-through rate, share them via text or chat on your site rather than email.
6. Learn from your mistakes
Unhappy customers are highly emotional. They want to feel understood. Simply offering an immediate solution may leave them feeling like you haven’t taken the time to hear out their problem. Accept your mistakes and explain how you are going to deal with the situation. Your customers will feel better.
Besides, your unhappiest customers are also your most honest critics. Mine their complaints to gain honest insights into internal processes. Use this information to prevent the same issues in the future.
7. Use visual engagement tools
A Forrester Research Paper reveals companies can leverage visual engagement – through solutions such as co-browsing, screen sharing, and annotations – to “cut through the customer conversation clutter, to be better understood, and to connect emotionally.”
According to Forbes, customer service interactions involving co-browsing show customer satisfaction rates of 89.3%. Six points higher than the average! Aberdeen Group reports that businesses using visual engagement tools experience up to an 83% increase in annual revenue, as well as other positive growth.
Cobrowsing allows agents to view and interact with a customer’s web browser in real-time. They receive instant support and guidance. A sales representative could help customers complete their purchase if co-browsing is integrated into your e-commerce website. This massively improves the customer’s online shopping experience.
When it’s time to provide credit card details, lots of people drop out because of security issues. With the help of co-browsing, a sales executive can assist customers in filling out an order form, reducing cart abandonment rate considerably.
Co-browsing also improves customer engagement, teaching your customers how to do things most effectively. This saves time and improves the efficiency of your team. Stats show some businesses have seen an 18% improvement in first call resolution and a 14% reduction in call handling times by using an integrated co-browsing solution.
8. Pay attention to your team
Research tells us 73% of customers to fall in love with a brand because of friendly customer service representatives. Furthermore, according to McKinsey, 70% of buying experiences are related to how the consumers feel they are being treated.
Clearly, the staff plays a massive role in engaging customers. Maybe that’s why Amazon – that strives to be the most customer-centric company on earth – enjoys such massive success. Yet, according to the CMO Council, only 14% of marketers believe that customer centricity is ranked high within their organization.
Improving customer engagement rate means adopting a customer-centric business model. Don’t simply focus on selling. Develop connections that go much deeper. Equip your customer-facing teams with the right technology and emotional intelligence training to do this. Only then can you deliver the best possible customer experience.