Customer Engagement In Today’s Media-Driven World: A Guide

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. 

Customer Experience Management Software in Today’s Crazy World

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My Friday Night Adventure

My wife and were recently shopping for a new television. Our old TV had started to emit an annoying buzz and would occasionally shut off on its own accord. She said she was tired of adjusting the volume to match the high-pitch squeal. At least that was the aggravated response she gave me when I asked why we were purchasing a new TV. Even though I wasn’t at all bothered by our TV situation, it was up to me to find a new model. Yes, I admit, it was a Friday night and I was excitedly shopping for home appliances. Since I work in marketing technology, I was tasked with comparing the products and stores on my phone as we shopped: the customer experience in the 21st century.

As I bounced around from Yelp, then my local Sears store, to my local Best Buy, then to Google Maps, to Target, I found myself lost in a loop of customer feedback.

The bad kind of customer feedback loop.

I knew I wanted to go to a store and pick one out. When buying a television, it’s important to see the display in person. You must find a floor model. Even if you plan on mounting your television, you must first put your nose a few inches from the screen and be sure that the picture quality is top notch.

I had become the reviews; lost in a feedback rabbit hole.

These other customers had shared their experience. And I was lost in it.

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Importance of Customer Experience  // Image via raconteur.net

These reviews were from a single television, at one store. Just one store of hundreds that sell something.

This one experience had invoked a variety of emotion in customers near and far.  And let me tell you, these customers were serious about their reviews. No one was mincing words.

I would even go so far to say that they were passionate about their responses. Their chosen television had changed their lives, one way or the other.

I flipped from review website to review website, not really grasping my desire. It was all too much. I wanted a quantifiable number, not just other people’s experience in paragraph form. Although I admit again, I was swayed by people I didn’t even know.

I took all reviews seriously. I also noted some of the companies (remember I was shopping all over the place and had a million tabs up) actually responded to the reviewssome of them took the time to fix the problem, follow up or even acknowledge the customer. Those were the locations I decided focused on: the customer service oriented ones.

I also filter to four-star ratings and up. Three-stars aren’t worth my time and energy.

I liked a quick, simple rating, I didn’t want to find myself falling down the rabbit hole again. It was too easy to do.

Have you ever gotten lost on Wikipedia?

Changing my criteria and using these new measurements, I narrowed the search down rapidly. I called my wife in to share what I learned and we made our decision. It took a half hour in total. I had a moment of lucidity, a sudden realization that by reading the reviews, we were tapping into a collective emotional review input from a large swath of others feedback. I found this quote later and was relieved to see that I wasn’t alone in my reliance on others’ feedback.

“58% of Americans perform online research about the products and services that they are considering purchasing.”¹

Customer Experience Management

This experience had me thinking about the changes in today’s shopping experience and how quickly we have changed the way business is done.

Businesses should no longer expect a customer to begin the “investigation phase” in the store. The online research phase is the first stop for many customers these days. They want to know what others thought of the experience too.

Customer experience management is now a requirement for businesses in this crazy world.

It makes sense. Marketing has changed and businesses are no longer able to control the message. The message belongs to the customer.

We have moved from the age of information to the age of the customer. The new customer service means involvement at different departmental levels. It is not about the best price, sale season, or politeness. Long gone are the days of waiting for black Friday or holiday sales only. Customers are responding emotionally and want a connection to what they are purchasing. They are interacting with the company as a brand now. They want to be your friend.

Customer experience is the relationship a company is creating with their customers.

It includes this internet research for quality, pricing, engagement of employees, and policies of the company. It is an accumulation of everything happening in your business before and after the transaction takes place.

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And all of these new elements of the customer experience can set you, and your business, apart from all the other businesses. It can create loyal customers and keep them coming back.

My television purchase is the perfect example.  While I researched many stores and products, I ended up going back to the one that took care of a problem when we bought a new wireless router a few years ago. The response and timely manner in which they dealt with me made an impression. 

They created a loyal customer with me. Ultimately, the store I selected had a higher cost. It was $15.00 more than its competitor. However, I knew they would take care of my needs again if a problem arose. It was worth the $15 for the assurance.

Companies must manage the customer’s experience. By this, I mean developing a relationship. This new customer relationship is developed by the contribution of not only the values of your company but by the values of the customer. The business concept of service management must include interacting with customers from various perspectives.

Today, this experience management is how a company takes control of the experience of customers.

This control means all areas of service from the customer needs, the supplier quality, the service provided to the individual and even how a business follows through with that service. Expectations must be established and then met. 

Software to Monitor and Measure

Your management software should make your business life easier. Knowing you now must control all aspects of your customer experience, you have to implement the necessary software tools to measure the success of these experience-oriented efforts.

Remember, happy customers do a lot of work for you by promoting their happiness and returning to purchase again. Others are reading the happy reviews and taking that into account. In essence, these happy customers are marketing your products for you. And don’t forget that these happy customers will remember how they are treated.

You want management software that is convenient and allows you to use the results and information you receive from these now loyal customers.  The end game is profit for most companies.  Profits are the the result of follow through on your customer tracking and production.  

“When customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They’re actually teaching you how to make your product, service, and business better. Your customer service organization should be designed to efficiently communicate those issues.”

– Kristin Smaby, “Being Human is Good Business”

Understanding the voice of your customer allows you to utilize the feedback appropriately. When you have well designed software, you can analyze and empower your employees for the change when needed.

A software that manages the reviews will save invaluable time in this process. You can then implement departmental changes and improve your store, company, product, and online reputation. This type of power gives you the space to increase profits in a manageable way with your customer service first and foremost the leader.  

It is vital to monitor your company’s performance. Good management is all about matching your company with the beneficial software and using it effectively. To be a market leader in today’s economy, this software is what will make a difference. If the customer experience is important, this is the first improvement your company might need; investment in valuable software that allows you to understand your customer’s voice and will provide consistency for you. This single system means simple reliable information, a cost saving in the long run.

To build customer loyalty and manage your company reputation you must listen to the feedback and reviews. You must capture it and be able to manage the information coming in to you. Understand your customer’s voice, yes, but also follow through on this feedback. Give the customer the experience that allows them to believe in your company. Share the information with your employees quickly and in a way that allows them to disseminate and process appropriately. When you have negative responses, don’t let them hurt your company’s growth. That negative customer voice is being heard and future customers will move on to another company if they don’t feel there was company involvement. You must Improve upon that negative experience. Follow up even when you feel it won’t help. Use this negative response to address any issues that might be overlooked in your company.

Opportunity is available

70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. -Source: Touch Agency

Use the software opportunities given to you. Your customer voice is invaluable to your profits and long term viability. If 70% of all purchases today are based on emotions, then use that emotion.

Follow up with your customers.

Make a real connection.

Use software to understand where people are coming from and make the changes needed. Customer experience management software is designed to help you succeed and today’s crazy climate demands it.


¹Jim Jansen, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 2010

Social Customer Experience Management

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If you were born after 1994, you don’t need to Googlesocial experience management.”

You are probably managing your own social experience as you read this article. But you might not know that you are already doing it.  

You are a digital native and are already “a-twitter” with words, you already understand the need for an Internet profile, and you already have an online reputation. You have grown up in a world where this is the norm.

To you, companies always do their business online, reviews and social media comments are readily available, and everything has always been instant.  

Of course, you have seen the movies, you know about the old days when people would shop in stores, look extensively for products, and search in person for sales, or even (gasp!) look in the newspaper.

What is Social Customer Experience Management?

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Business culture has changed rapidly in the last 10 to 15 years. This you already know. However, do you know that companies now need to be increasingly aware of their brand presence, as well as how the voice of the customer affects their business reputation?  

Social customer experience management is the practice of handling and improving a business customer’s involvement; by combining various techniques and company resources, companies can use tools to improve customer satisfaction and build brand reputation.

Social media has changed the way business is done today, regardless of how long your company has been in business or what level of concern you have about the online profiles, pages, and listings of your brand. You must pay attention or you lose.

Review sites, blogs, social media streams, and even your own website are all places where customers are sharing their buying experiences and candid opinions. You can no longer control or hide or censor customer feedback, because customer feedback can be found everywhere.

Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is talking online about what they are doing, where they are shopping, eating, going, and they are all open about their customer experiences. And the social-media-driven world of today is not going away, regardless of what the zombie apocalypse people say.

The rise of online review sites

The rise of the online review website (think Yelp and TripAdvisor) is one of the key developments. No longer are you on top of the mountain, blasting your marketing message down to the masses through your megaphone. All of a sudden, the masses are conversing with one another. If your service or product isn’t any good, they’ll out you.

Managing the social customer experience

This is why you need to become an expert in managing the social customer experience.  Potential customers are reading these reviews and making their decisions based on what previous customers have said.

You will know quickly when Mary didn’t like her special sauce or if Mark loved your friendly customer service. Everybody’s now a critic. These constantly streamed reviews have a direct effect on your future profits.

Positive feedback from satisfied customers inspire loyalty and can bring in new potential customers. Negative reviews, low ratings, and bad customer feedback, however, can mean loss of customers, directly affecting your bottom line.

Regardless of the sentiment or rating of the review, positive or negative, all of the information must be acknowledged and managed by your company in some way.

Customer feedback provides an opportunity for you to connect with potential and existing customers and improve upon your reputation. Feedback data can also help you understand where you customers are coming from, what their needs are, and even how your competitors are doing with their own products.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by online reviews, social media comments, and other forms of customer feedback, companies should embrace and use this valuable information.

Embracing Feedback for Social Customer Experience Management

Managers and department heads can use reviews, comments, and feedback to increase productivity in each specific area needed.  

Constant customer feedback activity provides information on these areas in ways that foster further development or improvement.

Customers today are frank about their experiences. And they educate themselves before they even shop, use, or purchase. They know what they want from your company and are willing to articulate it.

You need to listen. Business owners can stay ahead and compete by listening to the voice of the customer and making adjustments based on what their needs and expectations are. By monitoring all the chatter about your business, you can also prevent future problems from occurring. If you are savvy, you can even use this social buzz to respond to and address your customers directly, to turn customers into loyal customers or minimize the potential impact of any negative reviews.

Who are these vocal customers?

Do you truly know your targeted customer?

It is essential to be informed about your customers, the ones who are purchasing your services. You must know what their attitudes towards your company are and how they perceive your products and services. Knowing your customer helps with outcomes now and in the future.

The Voice of the Customer is a term that describes valuable data that companies can collect from customer feedback, from online review sites, social media, customer surveys, and other channels and platforms. Capturing and interpreting this voice is critical.

Positive and negative feedback

Positive reviews can be harnessed to help market your company online for you, and reach out to potential customer or clients. Whenever you receive good feedback, take the time to listen, respond, and follow through, in order to stir these satisfied vocal customers into recommending your products and services to friends and family.

Negative feedback, meanwhile, must be looked upon as an opportunity instead of a burden. Yes, low ratings and bad reviews can drag your sales down and discouraging future customers. Which is exactly why you should address this type of feedback. Identify and resolve customer experience issues that may have caused the negative perception and make adjustments in order to improve. At all times, you must stay competitive: follow up, follow up, follow up!

Let the customers see you

“When customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They’re actually teaching you how to make your product, service, and business better. Your customer service organization should be designed to efficiently communicate those issues.”

How are you dealing with your customer communication right now?  Have you ever evaluated it? Do your customers understand your company’s culture?  Do your company beliefs match your actions?

This is what customers want in today’s world. They want to be connected to you and your product or service. They want to feel that your company understands their needs. To keep customers loyal, listen to them closely and continue to engage with them. Customers want to be encouraged. They want their entire experience with you to be satisfying.

Employees can benefit, too

Keeping employees motivated can sometimes be a challenge. By capturing the voice of the customer and managing the social customer experience, you can impact employee morale and productivity, too.

Positive feedback helps employees know that they’re doing a great job, that customers highly appreciate the work that they do every single day. On the other hand, negative feedback can identify management issues you may have otherwise missed. It also provides space for a team to challenge themselves and listen more intently to the wants, needs, and expectations of the customers. One team working together improves morale and helps retain employees for the long haul; individuals who are engaged and thriving are even less likely to leave

Conclusion

Social media and customer experience management doesn’t have to be expensive or inconvenient. You don’t have to create an entire army of employees to oversee your company’s entire customer feedback landscape. The tools that are already developed can easily be integrated into any existing company, and leveraging feedback to help your business improve can simply be a matter of using software that directs all information into a single place. No matter what you use or how you craft your program, social customer experience management can make a positive and sustainable impact on your bottom line.