What is Customer Engagement?
Customer engagement is used to describe the effect, reaction, connection, response, or experience of customers with one another or with a company or a brand.
In today’s customer-driven world, customer engagement has increasingly become an initiative led not by the business or company, but rather by the customers themselves. They have a voice, and more platforms than ever to make that voice heard. This means that the customer is responsible for initiating engagement: be it by researching online, visiting and tagging brand profiles on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, downloading a mobile app, submitting feedback via a Contact form on a website page, or browsing online reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor.
If your company does not have the infrastructure to manage customer feedback and driving customer engagement, it can be difficult to achieve competitive differentiation. You may also miss out on opportunities to inspire loyalty among happy customers, or minimize the negative impact of feedback from (and engagement by) your harshest critics. Simply put: understanding and driving customer engagement is essential to today’s way of doing business.
Engagement Means Commitment
Today’s information-driven world moves extremely fast. With so much data and content available, people looking to make a purchase decision can jump from one device to another and shift from one channel to another.
This means that you must make a commitment to engaging with customers on all relevant devices, platforms, and channels. It is not enough, for example, to have a brand website. You must also have presence on social media, online yellow pages and business directories, review sites and platforms, and even mobile apps and services.
You must also make a commitment to listen and respond to the voice of the customer, whenever and wherever their conversations are taking place. Be active on social media. Reply to @ mentions on Twitter and tagged posts on Facebook. Answer e-mails, questions, and phone calls readily. Monitor and respond to reviews. By staying on top of what customers are saying online about your company, you can improve the interactions that customers have with your business and make every type of engagement more meaningful. You’ll also be in a better position to inspire customer loyalty, reduce churn, and make a positive impact on your bottom line.
Not so long ago, having the highest-quality product or the cheapest price or the greatest promotions or the best bang for the buck was the key to success. Today’s customers expect more. They want real connections with brands. They aren’t satisfied with freebies. They want to know your company’s mission, as well as the efforts and activities you’re doing to improve the local community. They continue to want to believe in their purchase decisions (“Is this worth it?”) but now they also want to believe in your company. It is only by making a commitment to meet and respond to these expectations that you can truly improve customer engagement.
Positive Customer Engagement
I recently bought some fancy face cream online. A close friend had told me about it and she wouldn’t stop praising the company, so I felt compelled to check it out for myself. I Googled the brand, visited their website, and purchased the cream without even having second thoughts.
The product was delivered quickly, which made me happy. I unboxed the thing and began using it immediately. A week later, I received an e-mail from the company, with a message that surprisingly was not too formal or stiffly written. The e-mail was a simple Thank You note, complete with a question that asked if I was happy with the cream, and would I be willing to give a review? It was all very straightforward and it took me one click to leave a 5-star review.
Passive Customer Engagement
Customer engagement isn’t always positive, though. There are times when, no matter how many interactions they have had with your brand, people have no real feelings or feel no real connection; they are passive and disengaged.
These “meh” customers are the kind that’s easily swayed by other companies: your competitors. If given enough reason, these customers will take their money elsewhere. So you must develop a strategy around improving your engagement with these customers. By doing so, you can turn them into brand enthusiasts and loyal promoters who will not hesitate to recommend your business to their friends and family.
Negative Customer Engagement
Negative customer engagement can be dangerous to your brand. This is when the effect, reaction, connection, response, or experience of your unhappy customers begins to drive others way. It can take on the form a negative online reviews or critical customer feedback; it can even manifest as a nasty blog post about your company or some scathing comment posted on social media.
Negative customer engagement can damage your brand reputation, discourage potential new customers from engaging with you, and ultimately cause your business to fail.
What to do? Hug your haters. Let them know that you care about their feedback, that you are listening closely to their thoughts and opinions, and that you are going to work hard to deliver a better experience next time. And be sure to fix whatever issues caused the engagement to be negative in the first place.
Customer Engagement’s Impact on the Bottom Line
A successful engagement strategy involves managing the experiences and interactions that customers have with your business, and doing so in ways that put their needs, wants, and expectations above all else. It also involves connecting with customers in ways that solidify their belief in your company.
Done right, customer engagement creates a lasting impact on your bottom line. Improving engagement is also the surest path to building loyalty, increasing profits, and building a winning brand reputation.