In recent months I’ve been seeing and hearing the term “customer engagement” pop up more and more. Mostly from the technology community (vendors and analysts). I’ve wondered, is this another shades-of-Social-CRM attempt to rebrand CRM solutions? Is it just another term for customer experience?
For starters, “customer experience” seems consistently well understood. Bruce Temkin, co-founder of the CXPA puts it succinctly: “Customer experience is the perception that customers have of all their interactions with an organization.”
In business world, however, engagement can mean many different things. On the Internet, engaged visitors spend more time on a web site. With employees, engagement is a measure of how committed a worker is to the job and company. With customers, while there is no one definition, I think the common thread is that higher degrees of engagement mean a deeper commitment. More time. More emotion. More of a relationship.
But not everyone sees it this way. Epsilon President Andy Frawley, author of Igniting Customer Connections, has a different slant. He says customer experience is the emotional connection a customer has with a brand. Engagement, on the other hand, means “actions that the consumer can take include buying, posting, tweeting, liking, following, referring, and more.”
Attitudes and behaviors are, of course, the two main components of loyal customer relationships. If we provide experience customers like, they will have a positive feeling and will be more likely to spread positive word of mouth. And, they’re more likely to continue to be a customer and increase their purchases.
Over the years I’ve certainly seen terms come and go in popularity. CRM, for example, was introduced with great fanfare 20 years ago as a loyalty-building strategy. Now it’s more commonly used as a term for sales/marketing/service automation. Customer Experience (CX) has picked up the loyalty banner, with CX advocates using many of the same arguments as in those early CRM days.
Customer Engagement, though, is not used consistently. To illustrate, I asked a number of industry experts for their views.
“Customer engagement are the efforts that companies make to reach out and obtain some form of customer connection. The engagement may be limited to a purchase or a whole detailed discussion.
Customer engagement is something different, it’s a behavior and attitude, an outcome of customer experience.
Customer engagement is how you engage with customers. By engaging with them you give them an experience.
Customer engagement is what you hope customers will do for you; it’s either enticed or earned. Great CX earns it.
End-to-end customer engagement platforms enable companies to be proactively contextually relevant in real-time which lead to measurable revenue growth.
Customer engagement (is) the representation of the relationship between your brand and your customer. A fully engaged customers should be engaged to the point of advocacy – i.e. they become a ‘fan’ of your brand.
Walker’s Leslie Pagel, writes that engagement as a metric with four elements: product usage, sentiment, involvement, and competitive activity. This strikes me as the most useful and meaningful way to described how, um, engaged a customer is with a company. But, it may get lost in the noise as the term is used for marketing fodder.
So you can see that industry thought leaders don’t agree. Some say engagement is what companies do, others say engagement is an outcome of experiences — essentially a synonym for loyalty.
What about the vendor community? Quite a few years ago, Allegiance was one of the first vendors, in what we now call the EFM or VoC space, to use “engagement” as a synonym for loyalty. We’ll have to see if the company’s messaging changes after the merger with Maritz to form MaritzCX.
One of the first CRM vendors to use Customer Experience in its positioning was RightNow, a cloud-based customer service provider. Oracle acquired RightNow and has continued with CX in its marketing. My Google search on “CXM” found this ad: “Oracle CXM Solutions – Sell More. Know More. Grow More.” That reads pretty much like a CRM ad circa 2000. Clicking through to the landing page found marketing, sales, service solutions (again, CRM) positioned as the way to “deliver consistent, personalized customer experiences with Oracle’s complete, integrated cloud solutions that connect every customer engagement with your brand.”
On a recent briefing, SAP’s Volker Hildebrand essentially positioned Customer Engagement as what the company does to deliver a Customer Experience. In addition to CRM, Engagement includes Commerce, which may explain why the company is now marketing CEC (Customer Engagement and Commerce) solutions.
There has been some gnashing of teeth in consulting circles that software vendors will hijack customer experience to mean systems and software like CRM. Despite lots of marketing and some of the usual hyperbole about offering a “complete” CX solution (no one vendor does or ever will), I’m finding that the market is not as confused as in the not-so-good old CRM days. Both experts and business leaders seem to “get it” that customer experiences shouldn’t be mistaken for tools.
In the past I’ve argued that to avoid conflating methodologies with tools, consultants should use CEM and vendors CXM. But that idea went nowhere. Instead, vendors like SDL and others are promoting CXM as an alternative to CEM.
Engagement shouldn’t be used as a synonym for experience
Experience is what the customer perceives. If it’s a positive experience, you should see the customer becoming more engaged, otherwise known as exhibiting loyalty behaviors and attitudes.
So I find myself in a somewhat unexpected agreement that “customer engagement” is actually a good and useful term for the vendor community. After all, they do provide the systems that help companies deliver at least some customer experiences, with the goal of creating more engaged (loyal) customer relationships.
I’d like to suggest a new industry category of CES — Customer Engagement Systems. The platforms, systems and applications that help deliver some of the experience that customers perceive. That would avoid confusion with CEM/CXM, which should be more about the strategy of delivering experiences that will build loyalty.
That might help us all not confuse inputs with outputs.
- What is customer engagement? (Leslie Pagel)
- Solving the Customer Experience Vs. Engagement Vs. Omnichannel Puzzle (Christine Crandell)
- Customer Engagement is the Capstone of Customer Experience Management (Lynn Hunsaker)