The “customer engagement” term was coined back in 2006 by the Advertising Research foundation, and it was also used by Gartner and other big thought leadership organizations later on. Since then, this is a term broadly used by all organizations from different industries, where different studies and research shed light about what is it, why is important and what are the principal components to factor in.
It gained momentum due the context, and it is true that companies and organizations should focus their attention on this, if there really want to put the customer at the center of what they do, and if are willing to survive in this uncertain times we are navigating into.
The big question is, who get benefits of the “customer engagement” approach? Is it the organizations or the customers? Even more, stepping back, what are the strategic benefits when looking through these lenses?
We can analyze this “customer engagement” catchy term, from different angles. If we put ourselves on the customer shoes (just think on your consumer side), you search for more than a sole product. When you have a need, the product characteristics and the monetary value, is only of the criteria to evaluate. What the company stand for and the brand image during the purchase process counts too
On the other side, it is very known, from the enterprise side, that get a new customer is, at least, twice expensive that make a sale in an existing one. So, having a long term relationship with customer is more efficient, and more profitable.
It looks like this approach (a good customer engagement) puts the customers and the organizations in a win-win situation. The customer is aware of the organization activities getting all the ins and out, understanding more what is committing to, and the organization is able to maximize their initial investment to get this customer by subsequent sales (cross-sell and up-sells).
There is no discussion about the big leverage we can get from new technologies in this arena. From blogs, chatbots, automated customer insights or social media, all of these, help organizations to engagement with customers in different ways, adding multiple channels, real time interactions and insights. Considering all the benefits that this could bring us, and the great accessibility of the technology nowadays, how we can merge both, to bring this into live, and what are the critical success factors?
Where are we heading? Who are we team up with?
Organizations needs to be sharp with their vision and strategy. The vision marks the future goal we want to hit, and the strategy is how we will get there. Due the dynamic environment we run our activities, the organizations have to be liquid and agile. However this doesn’t mean that each team should achieve their goal in isolation in order to move faster. All the opposite, it was never so important as it is right now the alignment at enterprise level. All the organization’s team should row in the same direction, should have a common goal. This impacts directly in the engagement, as all the teams should have a common view from the customer, should have a common approach on how to address their needs and more important should be coordinated in those actions. The customer engagement, will be result of a strong alignment between the different part of the organizations, showing the customer is heard, listened and their needs addressed. We used to think in technology when talk about customer engagement, it should start in a previous level, being an absolut strategic mandate
Way of working. Agile, iterative, stand for actions
Reflecting on the previous point, there is a need to assess not only how the interaction with the customer was, is and will be, but also how the interaction and the internal way of working was, is and will be. Due this strong alignment requirement (explained above) the teams should count with several artifacts. Those will help to evaluate if the activities they are executing are aligned with the vision and what are the overlaps with other teams (let’s avoid rework in these times where everyone seems to be stretched and lack of resources). In fact, any activity should be executed in a crossfuntional effort, ensuring we really put the customer in the center, looking through all different lenses, and covering the whole customer lifecycle, instead of work in silos and focus only on certain processes
AI.for interaction (chat bots) and insights
The artificial intelligence is one of this buzzword that pops up everywhere at anytime. It is a powerful tool to get this desired customer engagement. If we know how to use it. Often time we expect that the AI will solve problems for us, and this doesn’t work like that. Artificial neural networks, Deep learning, machine learning and other AI algorithms and techniques are very good answering questions. This means, that we (as organizations) are tasked to ask the correct questions. We are infoxicated (overwhelmed with information and data), so let’s be bold and nimble in this data activation. Let’s be clear on what we want to achieve, setting the direction and the AI will give us some hints on how to keep the ball rolling. Getting valuable insights via artificial intelligence techniques will help companies to be more data driven organizations, and if well executed, we can act in real time, address better and faster some of these customer needs. Another example in this field is the use of Chatbots (part of this AI portfolio solutions) toward a higher customer engagement. Having in the front line of the interaction some of these chatbots, will help customer to answer some of the more frequently asked questions, and free up time of our human experts for more complex duties. The introduction of chat bots not only impact in the internal efficiency of our teams, but also reply to a need on the customer side, as it was stated in some research, customer is not interested in talked over the phone with an human, but get answer via other channels.
Emails, sms, push notification… mingled and coordinated
The chatbot is one of the newest introduced channels. We should not forget about the more traditional ones such emails, SMS, app push notification, event onsite (events, trade shows) or contact center. What is the role of all those in the customer engagement? Well, there is a tied linked between customer engagement and customer experience. The latest drive engagement, if well executed. This is the reason why a solid omnichannel strategy is so important, where all the assets, journeys, channels are coordinated.
Sales, marketing and customer services. Three partners in a not linear process.
A omnichannel strategy used to coordinate channels, assets, actions. And have to include all the teams interacting with the customer. There is this old-school-thought that the life cycle is a linear process, where marketing catch the customer eye, sales close the deal, and the customer services will do the rest. The reality is that any of these points can be the entry point for a new sales. A customer service agent can answer a question of a customer (presales?), that can trigger a search for a new product, or an upgrade, for example. So, let’s not assume that sales is a linear process. The customer journey is complex, mingled and with so many touch point that sometimes is not easy to control. The result of all these interactions, if well aligned and executed, will be a high customer engagement.
It is not easy to keep a balance between the simplification of an important topic, and the underestimating of the same. We heard, and can read very good literature, about the purpose driven organizations and how they will get better results. The customer engagement is a pivotal part of that, and it encompassed all the mentioned (and some other) components listed in this article. So, to wrap it up, the customer engagement is the result of an aligned, synchronized strategy where customer is in the core of what the organizations do, having a long term relationship, not only based on an economic transaction (leveraging often times technology to foster and boost this relationship)