I have recently come across several articles that are focused on strategies for successful customer engagement (e.g. ‘Top 3 Strategies for Customer Engagement in 2017’1). Most are good articles with interesting viewpoints, however, they fall short with addressing the fundamentals required to achieve true customer engagement. Without mastering these fundamentals, any those stated strategies will fall short.
“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals” 2– Jim Rohn, Author and Motivational Speaker.
Consistently applying basic fundamentals builds the ‘muscle memory’ necessary to ingrain engagement as part of your brand culture and the foundation to achieve true customer engagement.
Customer Engagement: A working definition
Defining the fundamentals requires an agreed definition of customer engagement. Thunderhead defines engagement as:
“… an on-going, value-driven driven relationship between a customer and a business, which is consciously motivated according to the customer’s reasons and choices”
Essentially, a relationship between each customer and the brand that evolves and builds trust over time, provides value during each interaction throughout their journey, and is driven by the needs and preferences of the customer.
Here are the four fundamentals:
1. Listen to Understand, Not Simply to Reply
Listening is “one of the most sincere forms of respect”3 and respect is a foundation for building trust between a customer and your brand. Most brands listen explicitly to customer feedback, responding to statements made directly. However, there is tremendous value in listening to customer behavior as it reveals more insight about intent, needs, and preferences.
To make listening a core part of your strategy focus on selecting an engagement platform that provides the ability to understand customer behavior on any channel, allowing your brand to recognize the intent of each customer at every moment throughout their journey.
2. Connect the Dots
The most overlooked, and maybe the most important fundamental element, is connecting the silos of channels and data systems to create a profile that represents deep understanding of each customer. If you cannot recognize customer behavior and their intent across channels or devices and you cannot retrieve key data from your existing systems, then you do not have environment to build real engagement.
To make connection part of your brand’s muscle memory focus on engagement platforms that provide the ability to:
- Recognize visitors/customers across multiple channels or devices, stitching together behavioral understanding over time.
- Retrieve customer/visitor data from back-end systems, in real time, to insure the deepest insights about customer demographics and transactional history.
3. Focus on Journeys, not Channels
Albert Einstein famously stated that insanity was defined as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different”4. Unenlightened brands continue to focus on a narrow, channel-centric view of how to engage customers, but expect the results to change. It is the unique and personal flow of interactions based on context, preferences and choices of the customer (Customer Managed Journey) that reveals true intent about what a visitor or customer is trying to accomplish. Only by understanding the real-time customer journey and using those journey insights can your brand deliver real engagement with customers.
To create an environment of continuous improvement with respect to engagement, focus on engagement platforms that make the customer journey focal point, reveal the true customer journey (not an internal view), and adapts to changing customer behavior. Just remember it’s their journey, not yours.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Engagement is a game changing strategy but don’t put it on your ‘too difficult pile’. If you master the fundamentals and put them into practice every day you can build brand muscle memory that makes engagement second nature and achievable.