5 tips to drive deeper customer engagement
Back in January of this year, I predicted in a blog post that the word of 2016 would be “engagement.” Now as we rapidly approach the end of Q3, it seems to be holding true. As mobile usage, gamification, and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to trend upward, customer demands for anytime / anywhere engagement are rapidly ascending as well. Considering growing customer expectations, businesses have no choice but to step up their engagement game.
So, we’re entering un-pioneered territory, but let’s not hit the panic button and enter a state of analysis paralysis, where we feverishly devise overly complex strategies to drive 24/7 omni-channel engagement that will likely never be successfully implemented (and even if they were, may confuse or overwhelm customers).
Rather, this new engagement game may give many companies the opportunity to think about what they do well, where their customers and employees already are, and how they can improve existing communication channels without muddying the waters. In other words, improving engagement doesn’t have to mean adding more channels. It could, but not merely for the sake of doing so. It may just mean improving existing systems or processes. For example, there’s a movement toward adding a gamification or digital motivation layer to solutions that your customers and/or employees already use to increase and drive activity and commitment to your brand. Similarly, you could identify areas where you could incorporate feedback mechanisms to inspire deeper engagement and evolve the relationships with customers.
Improving customer engagement doesn’t require a complete re-work of what you’re already doing. Some of the fundamental principles of customer experience apply in the engagement game as well. Once you fortify the experience and identify gaps, then you can assess where additional steps can be taken to push greater engagement at key points in the journey.
Some core principles of CX can inform how you increase customer engagement:
- The customer is still at the center. As you think about where engagement can improve, remember that it’s still an outside-in approach. New engagement initiatives shouldn’t be about internal processes; it should be about better understanding customers, aligning with what they need at that point in the journey, and shaping the interaction according to their expectations. If you don’t know what they expect, then by all means create surveys that ask those questions. Know what they want before you stab in the dark at providing “it.”
- The experience trumps technology. Every company wants to deploy the latest, greatest, most innovative technology, but doing so should never be about adding a shiny new thing or matching a competitor’s offering. Stay true to your brand and your customers’ needs. They may not even want to engage via some fancy new platform. They might just want you to streamline your existing communication channels. Exploring new channels should be the result of discovering weaknesses or gaps in the customer experience, where technology could help; it should not be about playing with a new toy.
Consider this quotation from Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service: “While the multi-channel environment demanded by customers has the potential to offer a faster more flexible service, it can also exacerbate problems if not done correctly. Challenger brands, often unencumbered by legacy systems and processes are gaining on their larger competitors by offering straightforward, personal, seamless and quick service experience.”
- New isn’t better. Proven is better. Similar to the point above, driving deeper engagement doesn’t have to mean running out and implementing some trendy new technology. You may confuse or off-put customers by forcing new applications at them, when they may just want shorter phone queues or more informed, empowered agents. Stick with what’s proven. Mobile should be at the top of your list — the usage statistics abound. Not every business type will benefit from every available tool. Personally, I don’t want that chat window to pop up in certain online buying interactions. The key is to analyze where your customers are and how they like to communicate.
- Enter the self-service revolution. 70 percent of consumers expect your website to offer self-service options for problem solving. This is a stat that isn’t likely to head in a downward direction anytime soon. For those of us who are tech savvy, critical thinkers (picture your Millennials, GenY and Xers, and even older), we want to jump online and have access to answers and information. A great way to drive engagement is simply to make your self-service channels streamlined, intuitive, and effective. Even better, make them collaborative and community-enriching for instant engagement points.
- Retention rules revenue. Aberdeen Group reports that companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omni-channel strategies. High engagement should be the main ingredient in your retention strategy. Engaged customers are far less likely to even consider your competitor’s offerings because they’re simply not shopping around. The more used to your brand they become (how you operate, how you treat them, etc.), the deeper that connection becomes. Engagement drives familiarity and familiarity breeds loyalty.