We now live in an outcome-based economy. Customers want solutions, and if you don’t provide a solution and provide it well and fast enough with flexibility in price and offering, they can easily opt for one of your many competitors. To this flexible mindset add tons of data and an endless array of influences, and you’ve got a customer journey that is much more volatile than in years past.
The bottom line is that you have to keep your customers constantly engaged or they’ll go elsewhere. At any given moment, they’re deciding whether to purchase more of your products, if the experiences you create for them are worth their time, or if they should drop you like a sack of potatoes.
Here are a few tips for assessing and improving your customer engagement strategy.
Assess your customers’ level of engagement
Before you set out trying to change or improve your customer strategy, it’s important to first understand your existing level of customer engagement. You can take a quick high-level assessment by answering three simple questions about your customers’ interactions:
1. When is the last time our customers reached out to us and why?
If you don’t regularly hear from your customers, they’re probably not engaged. Whether you’re in the B2B or B2C space, truly engaged and excited customers will contact or interact with your company.
It’s also important to consider the reason behind their correspondence. Are they reaching out to tell you how much they love you, your product, or your service? Or are they sending you a scathing email or leaving a public review about your terrible customer service or faulty product? While this type of customer might be “engaged,” it’s certainly not for the reason you want.
2. When is the last time we reached out to our customers and why?
Customer engagement is a two-way street; companies have to put in their part as well. Are you regularly reaching out to your customers? And, similar to the question above, what is the motive behind your engagement?
If you only contact your customers to tell them about policy changes or updates to your terms of service or a problem they may or may not experience because something “went wrong,” your relationship is probably seen as cold and impersonal. Think about the last three times you contacted your customers and what message you sent them. If you were the customer, how would you perceive this communication?
3. How are our customers progressing in the customer journey?
If you’ve mapped out your customer journey—and hopefully you have—take a look at it in comparison with your current customer base. How are your customers moving along?
Whether this is defined by the length of time they’ve used your product or service or how much money they’ve spent on your offering, it’s important to regularly assess your customers’ progression along this path. Determine if they’re on the right track and meeting the milestones you’ve defined.
Focus on the customer and those interacting with the customer
When it comes to customer engagement, the customer knows best. If you’re not already in the habit of creating customer surveys, start. Regularly ask customers how you’re doing. Consistently use a platform to implement and record customer survey data. While individual customer experience is important, the collection of experiences tells you where you really need to go as an organization to positively influence the greatest number of customers.
The second part of this is to make sure the people in your organization who interact with customers understand how critical they are to the overall customer experience. The Boy Scouts have a rule: “Always leave the campground cleaner than you found it.” I’ve adapted this rule for my team: “Always leave customers happier than you found them.” This should be a guiding principle for all employees on the frontlines of customer interaction.
When employees truly understand that their impact goes well beyond the specific purpose of an interaction, they can make judgments on the fly when interacting with customers and ensure that they’re left more engaged and excited than before. Not only does this strategy positively impact the lifetime value of a customer, employees also start to feel that they’re part of something bigger and begin to produce better work as a result.
Be authentic, not salesy
Organizations should always put more emphasis on solving a customer’s problem than trying to make a sale. If you can’t muster that kind of authentic care for your customer, then you shouldn’t be in business in the outcome economy. Consider taking a consultative approach to selling. Because you’re so interested in the customer’s journey right from the beginning, include an account manager on initial sales calls. Customers will speak to a sales representative, as they would with any sales call, but they’ll also talk to the person who would manage their account and overall success down the road.
When you connect the right people to the customer from the very beginning of his or her journey, it makes all other conversations much more natural. And as an added bonus, it usually results in significant lift for the company because the customer buys in to why they matter and know that you care right from the beginning.
Customer engagement matters now more than ever before. People care more about what your customers are saying than about what you’re saying. It’s the same reason we value restaurant reviews of complete strangers more than information from the restaurant itself.
When done right, a comprehensive engagement strategy can result in an army of customer evangelists who consistently have great experiences with your products and your brand, who are engaged, and, most importantly, who tell others why they should buy in to your company and your product.