Seven steps to better customer engagement
Posted: Thu 25th May 2023
Customer engagement is probably a term you've heard thrown around. It's certainly fashionable. Management consultants write about it. Business magazines cover it. Software companies blog about it. But what does it mean for your business?
Customer engagement guru Paul Greenberg defines it as:
"The ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer."
What is customer engagement?
In today's constantly-connected world, your customers have many ways to interact with your company. They're not passive recipients of your sales patter any more.
Good customer engagement is about listening to your customers, understanding their needs, and providing intuitive solutions to their problems, sometimes before they even know what their problem is themselves.
Whether it's a mention on Twitter, a review on crowdsourcing sites like Trustpilot or Feefo, or an email to your customer service team, you have a chance to go above and beyond and stand out from the competition.
It matters because the balance of power in the economy is shifting from producers to consumers, from vendors to customers. More importantly, it's vital for the bottom line.
Measuring customer engagement
There are lots of different ways to measure customer engagement. You don't need to score top marks on every one, but it's important to know where your strengths and weaknesses are, and how they affect your business.
It's also good to see how you measure up against your business peers. After all, if you can't provide the customer with a solution, there are hundreds more companies who can.
Here are some simple questions to ask yourself. They should help you pinpoint the most important factors when it comes to engaging your small business customers.
How much do you value customer engagement?
We've already said how important customer engagement is for the actual customer, but what are the benefits to you as a business? A study by Gallup showed that 'fully engaged' customers accounted for a 23% increase in average business income.
If you value customer engagement as important within your business, that's great. Without a commitment from the top, plans are impotent and intentions fall flat.
Do you know your customers?
You can have the greatest product the world has ever seen but if the right people aren't seeing it, you might as well have no product at all. Really understanding who your customers are is the first step towards engaging with them effectively. How can you address their problems if you don't know them?
Often, companies that see a decline in sales turnover cite a lack of customer insight as the reason they're unable to engage with their customers. On the flipside, growing businesses don't tend to identify this as a problem. It's a telling difference.
Research helps and marketing personas can be a powerful tool for unlocking and sharing customer insight.
Are you better at offline or online engagement?
We now operate in an omnichannel environment where a retail customer could browse products online, view them in store, and then make the final purchase on their phone.
If you haven't adapted to this behaviour – the rise of what John Lewis calls the 'master shopper' – you must. You need to be excelling at online engagement as well as offline.
The best way to do this is by using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that gives you a unified view of your customers, however they interact with you. There is an opportunity for differentiation and competitive advantage if you can master the art of omnichannel engagement.
What tools do you use to increase engagement?
There are countless ways to interact with your customers and new apps are being developed every day to facilitate engagement. It's not good enough to only be using one or two tools. Not if you want to compete with your business peers at least.
Blogging, email newsletters, generating user reviews, creating guides and how-tos, and making sure staff have customer information to hand are just a few of the tools you can be using.
Are you using social media effectively to increase engagement?
A vast number of businesses are already using social media, some of which may be your competitors. And it isn't just consumer-facing companies – business-to-business (B2B) companies are in on the act as well.
According to Jason King, head of marketing at 4CornerNetworks:
"You have to remember social is social. You're entering into their world so you can't be all promotional. Overall, about 80% of all our content is social or conversational with no more than 20% promotional."
Being active on social media doesn't just mean posting tweets and status updates. It's about getting involved in conversations within your industry and listening to your customers. Use tools to help you listen, interact and engage customers effectively and at scale.
How consistent is your knowledge and data?
The black hole of unknowing is a very stressful place for your customers to be. For example, if you can't track their orders or see where they are in the project lifecycle, nor can they. Not knowing creates uncertainty, and uncertainty creates distrust.
Using a dedicated tool makes it easy for you and your staff to have a single view of the customer. This can benefit business growth significantly. Linking this knowledge to operational systems, such as warehousing, stock control and billing, using resource-planning applications is key to giving customer a joined-up story and the latest information.
What's stopping you from engaging?
The road to success is rarely free of potholes and hurdles. It will come as some comfort to know that whatever challenges you're facing, others are facing them, too.
The most common problem is predicting the future. Trends and buying habits change so often that keeping up with customer demand isn't easy.
However, having accurate data in CRM and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and using business intelligence applications to visualise it can convert hindsight to insight.