Customer engagement means communicating with customers across various channels. This can either be between a business and a customer (B2C) or between two businesses (B2B), since other businesses can also be your customer. Here is another great definition of customer engagement: “creating deep connections with customers that drive purchase decisions, interaction, and participation, over time.”
It's important, when communicating with customers, to refrain from annoying or spamming them. Spam is irrelevant or unsolicited messages sent to many recipients. Spam is usually commercial advertising messages used on the internet in the form of text messages, emails, social media postings, etc.
Roadblocks to Customer Engagement
Obstacles to effective customer engagement can include: Consumers experiencing an overload of content, or too many brand choices, or the customer’s own short attention span. Ethics also comes into play here. There are businesses that conduct questionable practices like manipulating potential customers' emotions to increase engagement by presenting very controversial, or even false, content.
Some businesses view every negative customer experience as a roadblock, but have you ever noticed that negative customer experiences seem to spread by “word of mouth” more than positive customer experiences? Still, the idea that any publicity is good publicity should be questioned. One thing, for sure, is that all businesses can learn from a bad customer experience such as how the business can improve their processes, products or services. The real opportunity in bad experiences is to embrace responsibility and engage with customers to make things right. Especially when this outreach can be done publicly. This is how bad publicity can be turned into good publicity.
Customer Engagement Goals
Decide on a plan of action. Answer questions such as “How often will I send out emails?” “How fast will I respond to comments, emails or texts?“ “How often will I post a new blog article?” “What should be my overall strategy?” Set expectations first in your own organization and ensure you can consistently execute on those expectations internally.
It is important to recognize engaged customers, when you finally have them. If you are using a website analytics tool (and you should be), you can compare your goals with the results of the website metrics. Cooper.com shares examples of important analytics data:
- Returning visitors to your website (including repeat customers)
- Frequent comments, shares, and likes on your social posts
- Opens, click-throughs, and replies on your marketing emails
- Instances of people publishing user-generated content (customer photos, testimonials, reviews)
- A low bounce rate on-site
- Sales teams with high conversion rates and close ratios
Choose a data visualization software solution to put the data in context and make it actionable. As you track your progress in these areas, you’ll be able to understand where some improvements can be made and adjust your goals accordingly.
Available Platforms for Customer Engagement
As the internet and “internet of things” has grown, so has the number of platforms for communicating with your customers. Customer engagement is no longer relegated to just outdoor advertising, TV, radio, or printed media.
Being involved with online communities has empowered consumers. This online engagement has also given businesses an opportunity to communicate with customers online in many different ways. Social Media, live chat, and email are just a few of today’s customer engagement platforms.
Give and Take
This principle rarely fails: When you give a potential customer something they’re interested in, they’re usually happy to reciprocate, or do something for you as well. Related to this principle is handling customer complaints, where some companies really shine. Here is an example of an effective resolution to a customer’s problem:
A couple of years ago my husband and I went to an expensive restaurant, planning on using our gift card. When it came time to pay, the waitress informed us that their machine for processing gift cards was not working. She bluntly stated “It’s OK because you could use the card next time you come.” We paid in cash, left the restaurant, and when I arrived home I promptly wrote a letter to the owner. I enclosed the unused gift card, requesting cash or check, since I had no plans to return. I believe the owner handled this well: He sent a letter, funds enclosed, apologizing for the inconvenience. He said he'd like to meet me and looked forward to my next visit to their restaurant.
Effective customer engagement takes place when there’s give and take between your business and the customer. Customers like to feel that they’re receiving individual attention.
Use Testimonials for Customer Engagement?
Customer testimonials can create positive vibes toward your product, build customer trust, and draw in potential customers. It removes some hesitation a customer may have about making a purchase. For example, people are much more likely to buy a product that has four reviews than one with zero reviews. BrightLocals’ article Local Consumer Review Survey 2020 states: 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020 – up from 81% in 2019.
That being said, many people are waking up to the fact that online reviews are frequently unreliable or downright deceiving. Why User Reviews Result in Bad Software Decisions shows how a data-driven approach to purchasing makes much more sense.
Using Social Media for Customer Engagement
Social media is a wonderful place to improve a customer’s experience. You can be creative or playful with your brand. While showing how your brand is unique, you can interact with customers and keep them engaged. Gamify interactions with your customers. Use people’s natural inclination for learning, competition, socializing, achievement, and more. One example would be to create a loyalty program by offering reward points with each purchase.
Communicating with customers via social media can be challenging. First it is important to know who your target audience is, to create a fitting campaign. For an in-depth understanding of your audience:
- Observe / interview people, then analyze that data.
- Find behavioural patterns.
- Divide participants into types or personas, then summarize your insights.
It is also important to know where your audience is discussing your company or product. Social media analytics is useful in this area. Remember to respond quickly to customers' comments or questions. After you launch a particular campaign, sentiment analysis can show you how customers like it. Another good tip is taking a stand on an issue. Many customers like doing business with companies that stand for issues or values that are important to them.
Some important tips for emails include: Draw attention without offending by using effective writing techniques; Spellcheck!; Use email in the context of a service reminder instead of advertising; Automate your emails; Use graphics and easy linking to your company’s website. Sending a short welcome email after a customer makes their first purchase is also an effective idea.
Use Pictures and Videos
…And more than just pictures and videos. This article from Brafton lists fourteen kinds of visuals that can be used in your customer engagement content:
- Branded images
- Stunning photography
- Calls to action
- Data visualizations
- Memes and GIFs
- Pull quotes
- Step-by-step tutorials
- Interactive elements
- Influencer posts
- Display advertisements
Don’t forget to also look into using the emerging technology of automatic photo creation.
Educate Your Customer (and Yourself)
Bring value to the customer by educating them. Offer useful blog articles that bring value to their daily lives. This Zapier article shows how to automate your blog content. Providing clear instructions on how to interact with your website or products is another win-win situation. All these things provide the customer an opportunity to know who you are. It also grows the customer’s loyalty toward you.
Ask customers to critique your product or website, or ask for their opinion on how well you are responding to their needs. You not only learn from their feedback but they feel valued. Another great idea is to become a partner with your customer, for community involvement projects.
Examples of Effective Customer Engagement
This creative video advertisement uses emotion and tugs at the heartstrings: Disneyland® Paris – The little duck.
In another effective example, Nike used Colin Kaepernick, a controversial person at the time. Kaepernick created controversy by kneeling, in protest, during the playing of the national anthem. This advertisement turned out to be very effective at engaging the audience.
Doakio, data-driven software comparisons, is straightforward and effective at personalizing the customer experience. The platform helps users find a software tool that fits their individual or business needs. Users enjoy a tailored experience with Doakio’s custom survey and complimentary report.
Effective customer engagement is critical when it comes to the customer’s first impression, and their last Impression. Meet customers “where they live” by keeping an active social media presence, providing the option for a live chat, automating your email strategy and more. Empathy, putting yourself in the customer's place, is always important. Be inspired by other businesses' success, but most of all connect authentically with your customers to show that you truly value them!!