Most businesses today are familiar with the term “Customer/Client Engagement” and are doing various forms of it on a daily basis. Very few, however, are taking the time to properly implement it into their communications plan. It can be hard to exaggerate the impact of engaging customers and yet so many businesses are failing to place the importance on customer engagement that it deserves.
Customer or client engagement is one of the most important aspects of your business. When the content you put out starts creating conversation and momentum among your clients and prospective clients, you know you’ve hit the jackpot that so many businesses strive for.
Ongoing, meaningful contact between you and your client not only helps to bridge the gap – it actually drives revenue.
The rise of social media has led to a shift in the way businesses engage with their customers. It’s no longer about using those “touch points” during the marketing and sales process. Businesses are using social technologies to form meaningful, ongoing relationships that involve online interactions. You just can’t run away from it.
Research shows that companies that engage with their customers through social media have more loyal customers; and customers who engage with a brand online report spending 20% to 40% more on that brand, or on that company’s products.
So what does this mean for you and your business? For starters, you need to expand your concept of customer service. It’s no longer an isolated section of your business model but part of a larger, customer engagement strategy. Responsibilities that traditionally fell to the marketing and product teams now fall within the realm of customer service. Your bottom line is dependent on your ability to deliver excellent service while actively engaging customers.
In order to build loyal relationships throughout the business life-cycle, you need to understand some basic principles of the new definition of customer engagement and put them into action.
Building Positive Interactions
Customer engagement is an ongoing dialogue. Companies need to keep their fingers on the pulse. What this really means is listening to customers who are already having conversations about brands (yours and others) in traditional channels as well as over social media platforms. So join the conversation! This is a great way to build trust and form relationships through open interactions over time – interactions that create positive experiences and outcomes for your customers. Whether it’s answering questions, solving problems, sharing perspectives, and yes, even learning something new, these interactions can benefit both you and your client.
Interacting on social media helps you build relationships quickly and expand your client base. More than the relationships you have with your clients, they too form relationships with others through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. So while this approach may not directly sell your product or services, you get to facilitate and build an active, passionate online community around your product. If and when a customer decides to purchase a product, they are likely to go with one they know and trust!
Although communication with clients is an ongoing dialogue, you can’t just indulge in everyday chatter for the sake of it. Ask yourself “What is the point of the conversation?” Perhaps you’re looking for feedback on a product or increasing sales or nurturing brand loyalty. While the product team is responsible for development, marketing is responsible for increasing brand awareness and driving sales, and at times the lines can be blurred. Nurturing an ongoing and genuine relationship with your clients will naturally have a major impact in both these areas.
Anytime, Anywhere, Any Place
Company-customer interaction usually happened in isolation in the past. Customers relied on phone calls, emails and sales letters. That’s all changed now – we live in a hand-held “wired” world ruled by our mobile experience – apps, apps, apps – just seem to appear every day. A mobile survey conducted in 2011 found that customers were using mobile apps 10 times a day, and a growing number of customers have used an app to buy a product. An astounding 78% used mobile apps for customer service purposes!
In short, if you’re not engaging your customers on-the-go, you’re essentially neglecting them, or are at least missing an opportunity to nurture the relationship through open, honest interaction.
Win-Win for All
Any customer engagement strategy should feel less like a marketing and sales campaign and more like a well-developed friendship founded on the basis of inter-dependent needs. The feedback you get from your customers isn’t just important for you, it’s important for them as well. If you can listen to what your customers are saying and improve the product and their experience, everybody wins. After all, relationships are a two-way street. On one hand, your customers feel heard and they can see the ways you’re actually contributing to their company. At the same time, you get free feedback, and have the opportunity to improve your business and are likely to attract more customers.
Remember the days when cold-calling was part of a marketing strategy? Today, it is all about customer engagement and positive interaction. Your customers decide if and when to communicate. Your job is to give them the tools that make the interaction and communication easy and accessible. Do they have a question? Do they want to shout about a new product? Are they experiencing a technical difficulty? Present your customers or clients with an intuitive tool for communicating with you, and let them initiate.
When you put control in their hands, you’re more likely to be able to meet their needs. More importantly, you also win their trust, and ultimately, you build the loyal customer base you need to grow and succeed.
What about you – how do you actively engage with your customers? We’d love to hear from you!