Are You Really Engaging Customers? 3 Tips to Get It Right


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Too many marketers assume that their strategies and offers are engaging their customers. This assumption is often wrong. Unless you are engaged in two-way dialogue and providing value-added communications…you have NO idea what customers think about your business and your marketing tactics.

We just completed VoC research for a major up and coming brand. A key competitive differentiator cited by customers was that the company provides ongoing opportunities for feedback in all communications and sends friendly, engaging surveys and then acts on the suggestions from customers! That makes customers feel included and valued.

Additional findings from our 16,000 plus hours of VoC interviews indicate that there is a dangerous chasm between the CX fantasies of brands versus the disappointing CX realities of most consumers.

Here are 3 Tips to help you get it right.

#1 There is either high value engagement or NO value engagement

It is now the norm to hear from BtoB and BtoC customers of client brands such as IBM, HP, QVC, Gilt and Shinola, that they have higher and higher expectations for CX excellence, and that this is becoming a core expectation! Due to many smart competitors and more screens and options to choose from, customers are feeling entitled to demand the best or go elsewhere!

Insights for you:

  • As technology evolves, marketers are empowered to utilize new avenues for engagement that push engagement to new heights. Look at tablets, phones and smartwatches as opportunities to engage consumers when they are within a “range” of a physical store.
  • But, be sure that all messaging and online content is scalable to be presented on any screen size. The multi-screen consumer is a great opportunity for higher levels of engagement and personalized content.

#2 Listen first, then deliver on that need

Too often, marketers “spray and pray.” This is a useless and brand damaging activity. In our VoC research, consumers consistently explain that they either want communications and experiences that address their individual needs or, just don’t communicate with them! They view generic messaging as a waste of time and emphatically state that it reduces the likelihood that they will open future emails from that company.

Insights for you:

  • What do customers want? Have you asked? Or, are you blindly sending “vanilla” marketing “stuff” and missing the chance to segment your messaging and connect on a deep and value-driven level with your segments and especially your microsegments.
  • Now is the time to equip your bricks and mortar staff with tablets to do appropriate preference profiling with customers.
  • And, do post-purchase, cart abandonment, web abandonment consumer feedback on experiences to get a realistic view of what the actual customer experience IS, not what you THINK it is.

#3 You can’t build engagement without first building relationships

True engagement is rooted in the ability to forge strong relationships. This serves as the “grace account” upon which to draw when there is the inevitable problem or temptation from the competition.

Insights for you:

  • Important new research findings: customers state that when they have just purchased is an appropriate and comfortable time to ask their deeper preferences, so the company can provide better levels of communication. This applies to purchases made in-store, online or via phone!
  • This will enable you to understand your customers as individuals not “cohorts”. You want to learn what makes them unique, and what is unique about the way they want to engage with the company.
  • Use that information to provide much smarter and value-oriented experiences that directly address their individual situation, needs, preferences, usage, and “wants.”
  • Setting up a preference center as part of your new customer onboarding enables you to capture valuable information right from the start that will shape relationship-building data-driven activities.

Final Points

When it comes to cultivating valuable and long-term relationships with customers, don’t make any assumptions! And, don’t make your sole focus the next sale. Instead, take time to nurture the relationship by demonstrating that you are caring and trustworthy.

You cannot get to the next sale without developing a foundation that supports the previous sale. Customers will be loyal based on how you treat them and engage them with compelling, value-driven content. Nothing less.

Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp. and author of Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame due to the results his VoC research-based CX strategies achieve for clients such as IBM, Microsoft, QVC, Gilt and HP. ERDM conducts deep qualitative research to help companies understand how customers articulate their feelings and expectations for high value CX and personalization. Named one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.


  1. Excellent post about keeping customer satisfaction by providing value to customer in their business relationship with a company. Your right they will go elsewhere if they are not satisfied with the level of service they are receiving. I was wondering if you know of any methods that will allow a company to rebuild relationships with former customers?

  2. Great question Nathan!
    Effective strategies to win back previous customers include the following;
    > Conduct in-depth research to understand what has triggered attrition, ie, is it the product or friction at key points in the customer journey, or, something else?
    > Use these insights to improve the product, CX, quality/targeting of communications.
    > Contact previous customers, tell them that you asked for customer feedback, made improvements based on feedback, and ask them to try the customer-driven improved product or service.

  3. Thanks for getting back to me about my question. Brilliant advice on all fronts. I will try these methods and see how it works out. Thanks again Ernan!


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