These days, customer engagement has been getting a lot of press. New roles and titles have been born and vast amounts of content has been published, all aimed at informing and encouraging a focused effort on engaging customers with businesses, products, brands and people.
Many businesses are focused on using data and tools to maximize their "digital experience", but we must also remember the other significant engaging channels, as well as the human factors involved in engaging a person. This is because it is the powerful combination that technology affords, together with the understanding of human behavior and emotion that will maximize your total customer experience.
What is Customer Engagement?
Put simply, Customer Engagement is looking at all of the interactions a customer has with a company (before, during and after using a product/service, including both digital and non-digital) and the effects those interactions have on them. Although you will find varying definitions, it is important not to confuse Customer Engagement with another currently widely popular term - Customer Experience.
In short, Customer Experience is the perception that customers have of all their interactions with an organization.
Both are vital, and both need to be purposefully designed.
Why is Customer Engagement Important?
A whole post could be written on why engaging your customers is key in today's competitive landscape where customers have a choice of offerings at their fingertips, but here are just a few reasons -
Customer sentiment is incredibly important as 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated (McKinsey).
Experience has a real affect on the bottom line impact, as much as 55% of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience (Defaqto Research).
Customers will judge your brand and product, based on their experience with you. Our association with a brand is based on how it makes us feel. In fact, it has been found that it takes 12 positive experiences to repair the damage caused by a single unresolved negative one.
And many, many more, but basically, customer engagement plays a large and important role in your business' success.
Moments to Engage
At first it can seem overwhelming, there are just so many moments in which to engage your customers. Not to mention the variety of emerging channels and an array of different devices.
You have several moments to engage your customers during the buying process, from the moment that they become aware of your product, going through the sales process, right through to the actual usage and potential support services. Now though, not only do you need to design for each channel, but you also need to design the interplay between channels as well. This is no mean feat as evidenced by the fact that the majority of businesses are unable to support an omni-channel customer journey and only 12% can provide a seamless hand-off between channels.
For example, a customer could start by being engaged online looking at a Tweet, then go to your website, then look up reviews, then call for a demonstration or sign up for a trial... just look at how many interactions need to play together to keep them engaged and get them through to the next steps towards purchase.
With the increase in industry buzz around Customer Engagement and Experience, Customer Journey Maps have also been getting a lot of press lately (even though they have actually been around for quite some time). A customer journey map basically tells the story of the customer's interactions through the initial contact, the process of engagement and into a long term relationship.
They are an incredibly helpful tool to think through the landscape, however, simply producing a customer journey map is not enough. It is important that you know how to use it effectively to make the right design decisions and trade-offs, as well as how to elevate it to look at the whole experience eco-system.
Changes in the Buying Process
Another crucial point is in understanding that in today's market, the buying process has changed. It has grown massively more complex in terms of channels and sources for research, taking it well beyond a traditional linear path and into a whole web that needs to be successfully navigated.
It has become easier to formulate a perception about a brand or company, before you even interact with the content the company themselves have authored. Not to mention that social proofs of an experience are waiting right there at the tips of your fingers.
Customers today have an expectation that they will be able to experience your brand, company or product before they purchase. This is huge and has even greater impact as research shows that 83% of consumers are comfortable making a referral after a positive experience (yet, only 29% do so, so you need to make it super easy for them to refer you to others). After all, we all know the impact of a referral given that 65% of new business comes from them [New York Times], while 92% of respondents would trust a referral from people they knew [Nielsen].
Product demonstrations and initial customer product meetings are one way in which you can engage your customers and provide an experience of your brand and product. This can be via interaction with your go-to-market teams (e.g. sales, marketing, product etc.), uploading a video about the company/product online or holding an in-person demonstration/meeting to talk about the product. These methods are huge sales and marketing tools and are key for both retaining existing customer's engagement and continuing that already established relationship, as well as enabling potential customers to see and experience your solution, thus engaging them in the initial stages of their journey with you.
But even something like this takes conscious design to be successful as you need to bring together the data, tools, content and people elements to ensure your customers want to continue the journey with you.
Tools, Data, People, Process and Content
More and more companies are focused on "using customer data" to provide better engagement. This is incredibly important, however, it is just as key to think through when and how you use the data to produce an optimal effect.
You will also need to look at the interactions between the data, the tools you have, the processes in place, available content, and the people involved if you really want to design an optimal experience. I cannot repeat how important it is to remember that your customer interactions include all physical world interactions, as well as all digital exchanges, and the interplay between all of these.
We see many companies focus on their "digital customer experience" and not see the results they expected. This is because while focusing on digital is a hugely critical component, without the consideration of the human interaction points, your solution may still not be optimal or effective, unless data and process interactions are all designed together. Not to mention that you also need to take into account how you are measuring the customer experience and link this to your moments of engagement (and no, this isn't a C-Sat score). While thinking digital gives you a focused place to start your effort, and it is certainly a sub-set of the whole experience ecosystem, just remember - that there are many factors affecting the experience.
How Experience Design Thinking Can Help
Experience Design offers a way of thinking - stringing together the whole ecosystem of tools, process, data, content and people across the channels to maximize your chance of sales, customer loyalty and retention. We often take our clients through working sessions to build their experience ecosystems, bringing together all these components in a holistic view. At the core, we look at how the customer's emotions, needs and behaviors are impacted through all the touch points.
Using this thought process to design your Customer Engagement programs provides you with a structured approach to tackling what can feel like an overwhelming arena. Experience Design Thinking will ensure you are reaching and engaging your customers at all the stages in their journey in alignment with your Customer Experience strategy.
Lastly, remember, the power play today is in providing the combination of great customer engagement, a great user experience and a great customer service experience throughout the entire customer journey.