In a world where both grabbing, and keeping, a customer’s attention is becoming increasingly difficult, companies are constantly on the lookout for the most innovative and interesting ways to increase customer engagement.
But what does that really mean? How does an increase in customer engagement improve the customer experience and impact your bottom line? And what ways can you make sure you create an engagement strategy that drives real value for your business?
Customer engagement means different things to different people, and to different companies, and rightly so. While many definitions of customer engagement focus on interactions, there is no one-size-fits all definition of the term that suits everyone. In fact, the sheer volume of definitions on offer proves just how tricky the term is to pin down. So, what if we take a different stance: let’s not restrict the term to one definition at all.
Here’s a look at how it’s defined by some industry leaders:
- Customer Success platform, Gainsight, defines customer engagement simply as ‘the interactions between the customer and the company or brand.’
- Writing in Forbes, Customer Experience advisor, Adrian Swinscoe, states that most definitions of customer engagement centre ‘on developing ongoing and loyal relationships.’
- In an interview with Hubspot, CRM expert Paul Greenberg explains customer engagement as the “ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer.”
- For support software, Freshdesk, it “includes every positive interaction that a customer initiates with the brand, or with other customers.
Precisely because customer engagement doesn’t have one all-encompassing definition, companies can mould the meaning to fit their needs—this becomes particularly clear when you consider the main difference in customer engagement in B2B and B2C organisations:
In B2B organisations, customer engagement tends to be more focused on stakeholder management. In other words, instead of dealing with one specific customer, as in B2C companies, B2B engagement often means working with a number of decision makers in an organisation, who may change position at any time.
With this in mind, our Customer Success Manager at inSided, Martine Van Deursen, focuses on the two-way relationship building behind engagement in her definition:
“Customer engagement in B2B is all about customers experiencing a real partnership. When customers feel listened to they tend to share their opinions and experiences with you, and each other, in order to influence the development of your products and services. This both drives revenue and allows you to continuously improve your product.”
Ultimately, no matter how you define customer engagement, the truth is that organisations are becoming more and more aware that it’s way to generate revenue for the business.
Customer engagement on the rise
Despite the varying definitions, what’s not in dispute is the growing popularity of the term—as you can see from Google search trends over the last ten years:
Clearly businesses are understanding how important a role customer engagement plays in their success and, at the same time, customer experience expectations are constantly rising.
In fact, according to ‘The State of the Connected Customer’ survey by Salesforce, a massive 54% of customers think companies need to transform the way they engage. This could mean anything from reducing reliance on automated chatbots, to improving the response time on customer requests, to increasing communication with customers through social media…but before we move onto the how, let’s look at the why.
What’s the value in customer engagement?
As a general rule of thumb, the more active and engaged the customer is with a company, the more satisfied they tend to be.
Think of it in terms of this flow diagram:
There are some that argue with this point by saying that it’s not the role of an organisation to make customers happy, only to make them successful— check out this article, Customer Success is NOT about Happy Customers as a case in point. But either way you look at it, it’s fair to assume that a customer that more readily finds success, is more likely to be satisfied.
So taking this to be true, customer engagement is a key indicator not only of the happiness (or successfulness) of your customers, but also of the health of your business. A recent survey on Customer Success from Deloitte indicated that, “nearly three fourths of the respondents include customer engagement and sentiment indicators in customer health evaluations today.”
In other words, an increase in customer engagement results in a better customer experience, which leads to higher customer satisfaction and likelihood of success…ultimately ending in an increase in customer retention and more revenue! Simple, right?
When you put this idea into the context of, say, having a meal at a cafe or restaurant, it’s quite easy to understand.
You have a waiter who asks how you are, interacts with you and informs you about the menu. Your waiter checks on you during your meal to make sure everything is meeting your expectations. You automatically have a more pleasant customer experience. You are more likely to be satisfied and go back to that restaurant.
Not only that, but if your experience was really good, you might even recommend it to a friend, write a positive review or give feedback to the restaurant on what you loved from the menu or what you would like to see them offer up in future.
While this is a simplified example, wouldn’t it be fair to say that the engagement goes a long way to influencing your decision to return to the restaurant and/or share your positive experience? When you add to the mix that acquiring new customers can be up to five times more expensive than up-selling, it’s easy to see why businesses are making customer engagement and retention a focal point.
What’s more? Customer engagement isn’t only a key driver for retention, it can create brand ambassadors—those customers who are loyal to your company, give you repeat custom and rave about your product to others.
While brand advocates have been a mainstay in B2C marketing for years, more and more B2B companies are now tapping into the power of customer ambassadors. Advocates promote your product or brand, suggest use cases that others may not have considered, and even give your business feedback on your product or service so that you can continually improve.
At inSided, we use our own online community as a platform where our customers can engage with us, and each other. In fact, 83% of our customers are active in the community, and have shared over 250 ideas, 10% of which have been taken up and acted upon by our product team. For a more detailed look at how a community can drive engagement and product ideation have a read of our case study.
Additionally, as we move more and more into a subscription economy, with customers paying a monthly or yearly fee for a service (be it Netflix in B2C or Salesforce in B2B for example), it’s hard to overstate the power of brand ambassadors and word-of-mouth-marketing. The vast amount of choice on offer means that customers rely on authentic recommendations they both believe and trust, and who better to give those than other customers or users themselves?
Don’t believe it? Check out this Inc blog that even goes as far as saying customer engagement is the new marketing!
So we know its value, but how do you go about improving customer engagement? We’ve answered these questions and more on our guest post on G2 – Check out our guest post on G2 for the top 5 ways to improve customer engagement!
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