Increasing customer engagement is central to any effective sales-and-marketing plan, and for good reason. Engaged customers are more likely to expand their relationships with you to other transactions, and even bring new consumers into the fold through positive word of mouth. Happiness all around.
Such feel-good interactions reduce churn and boost satisfaction. Among other benefits, that offsets the costs of acquiring new customers, which can be 25 times more expensive than keeping the ones you have already. Engagement is no less important in acquiring new customers, though. Besides improving sales conversion rates, it also can deliver more qualified leads.
Engagement is the pulse for any business, steady and sure. But how can it be achieved? This question is especially timely as commerce continues to shift to digital-based platforms, transforming the very nature of customer interactions.
And digital channels are the front lines of this new customer-service frontier. They range from chatbots to SMS, from shopping carts to apps, from eBay to Instagram. Through them, customers participating on a huge variety of formats—or trying to, anyway. In such a fragmented marketplace, how can businesses tie everything together to achieve increased engagement?
Getting Smarter about Artificial Intelligence
Ideally delivered by automated chatbots to ensure 24/7 availability, live chat has become an essential engagement tool. Whether delivered via website or app, this communications channel leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to quickly and efficiently route customer inquiries. In the process, it also provides automated responses to simple questions, enabling more efficient use of live agents for complex issues.
Yet the most important part of this equation is the balancing of AI with IA (intelligent agents). As software executive Bob Segert told Forbes, “86% of consumers expect to have the ability to transfer to a live agent should the interaction become too complicated.”
In today’s marketplace, “less commitment is required on the part of the customer,” agreed Susan Patel at Inc.com. For them, “it’s easier and cheaper than ever to leave and seek alternate solutions if value isn’t being delivered.” The strategic use of AI can satisfy a customer’s immediate needs, as well as usher them into a seamless experience designed to keep them engaged through conversion with a service agent.
Making the Shift to Omnichannel Integration
One of the most startling aspects of the explosion in consumer technology in recent years is the sheer amount of it. Smartphones and tablets have given people almost limitless methods for communicating with businesses, whether it’s via mobile e-commerce, texting or social media. The social network goes beyond likes, tweets and follows to include actual online marketplaces, job boards and seller feedback platforms.
It’s up to businesses to make themselves available on each of these channels. Failure risks losing out not just on an important relationship, but potentially an entire market segment. Success requires offering an effortless flow among them all. That goes beyond syncing AI and live agents. It involves a fusing all existing communications.
The ideal omnichannel strategy involves a cross-platform assimilation that merges diverse customer communications and touchpoints. In practice, that could be taking a social media coupon clickthrough directly to a payment page. Or it could let customers call a service line at any point during checkout to speak with sales reps, who instantly knows the details of their entire shopping journeys.
On top of ensuring a seamless brand experience, omnichannel service helps a business grasp and invest in channels their customers prefer–be they a robust website, a more interactive social media or an intuitive app It also can improve efficiency by directing all inquiries to the appropriate channel or resource.
Leveraging Data Intelligence and Analytics
Each interaction with a customer generates data. This includes the first moment of contact, the moment of conversion or drop-off, and all points in between—even in the documentation of the periods of time where no contact was made at all.
Data intelligence and analytics, the science of tracking and using this data to improve your bottom line, isn’t new. But it has evolved in remarkable ways in recent years.
Today, the strategic use of advanced analytics can provide a suite of benefits, including:
- A clearer understanding of the exact customer journey, pinpointing bottlenecks and bounce triggers.
- Insights into precisely which customers are most valuable, which are most engaged with the business and which are more at risk of churn.
- A means to predict customer behavior, not only expands relationships with existing customers but also break into new markets.
- The tools to create fully personalized customer experiences, turning casual shoppers into lifelong brand advocates.
In short, the more discernable the data, the better understanding of what each customer likes and expects—down to the time of day he prefers to shop, along with other valuable insights.
All of this data is more readily available than ever before. Smart companies invest in actionable intelligence to anticipate and deliver predictable consumer outcomes. These industry leaders know how, where and when their customers will arrive—even before they do.