By Bobby Cude, nQativ Project Manager
“Customer Engagement” is a nebulous term used by marketers and customer experience experts to describe the interaction between a company and its consumers. It’s that great promotion you run that further cements a customer’s loyalty to you. It’s the above-and-beyond assistance provided by a store associate to a shopper that makes them recommend you to their friends. Or it’s the product quality and store cleanliness that keeps dedicated patrons coming back despite stiff competition.
However, that’s not all that makes up what Customer Engagement is anymore. Gone are the days when networking with customers was limited to face-to-face, brick-and-mortar types of interactions. Customer Engagement is now that blog you write for your current and prospective clientele. It’s that e-newsletter you send out every month.
The proliferation of the internet and wireless technologies has changed the game tremendously, but where is it headed and how do we keep up with it all?
Modern Customer Engagement Lesson One: Customers Don’t Want to Be Limited by Location
Remember when you could not engage with your customers unless they entered your facility, called you up on the phone, or happened upon one of your advertising pieces? For today’s consumer, this is no longer enough. They need you available whenever and wherever they desire. Your company’s website should be the cornerstone of your online Customer Engagement strategy. Through this site, they should be able to contact you, see your location(s), find out what your offerings are, get answers to common questions about your products or services (FAQs), and perhaps even place orders – not just on their PCs but on mobile devices as well.
In today’s market, not having a basic internet presence is considered to be major point of dissatisfaction for almost all consumers. Today’s user has come to expect immediate gratification. If they cannot contact you or get an answer about your product at 3am while they’re on vacation in Newfoundland, your standing just went down several notches in their eyes.
And that’s just your website. In order to have a well-rounded modern Customer Engagement strategy, you also need to venture into the rest of the online sphere:
Social Media – What are your customers saying about you on Twitter? Is there growing discontent on Facebook with your services that needs to be addressed? Organizations in touch with proper online engagement of their customer base can have entire teams monitoring feeds and what’s “trending.” At the very least, you need to become educated about tweets, hashtags, and the myriad of services out there that people use to express their likes and dislikes.
Blogging – Short for “web logging” – blogging is like your own little syndicated news column that you (or your staff) write for anyone who may be interested in you, your company, or what your company has to offer. It is a great way make your customers feel like they have a more personal relationship with you (especially if you have C-level executives blogging from time-to-time). Writing a blog is also an excellent way to help establish your organization as an “authority” on your area of expertise. (FYI, you’re reading a blog post right now).
Forums – Online forums provide an excellent opportunity for your customers to ask questions, interact with one another, share positive experiences, and get to know some of your staff. Just like the cork bulletin board in your office breakroom, a forum allows people to “post” things for people to read. From there, other customers can reply. Designated employees can chime in with tips or ideas as to when a new feature or product will be available. Regardless of how you use it, one important thing to remember when introducing a forum is to make sure it is moderated – meaning nothing appears online until you have approved it. Otherwise, you could end up with completely fabricated scathing reviews, inappropriate language, or even worse on your board.
Mobile Apps – You’ve seen it before: people walking, sitting, or even driving(!) while staring at their electronic devices. If you truly want to reach your customers where they are, you’ll need an “app” that runs on their device. Apps provide many of same features as those listed above, but they add the ability to seamlessly get directions to your location, to call you with the touch of a button, and to perform other “self service” actions that bring further ease to both you and your customers. Apps can be difficult and expensive to produce, so save those for when you’ve mastered the other aspects of online Customer Engagement.
Sound like a lot to take in? It is! And I didn’t even get into things like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Microsoft Cortana – which make up some of the new voice technologies currently dominating the market.
In our next installment, I’ll go into the second area of Customer Engagement: tailored communication.
In the meantime, go work on that company Twitter account!