We live in a world that’s interconnected on many fronts. This has led to the proliferation of content as well as data giving customers accessibility to more products and services. You would think that all this interconnectivity and information would lead them straight to product sales with businesses laughing all the way to the bank, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy and it all starts with customer engagement.
What is Customer Engagement?
Customer engagement is about encouraging your customers to interact and share in the experiences you create for them as a business and a brand. When executed well, a strong customer engagement strategy will foster brand growth and loyalty.
Businesses that focus on customers engagement are focused on value creation, not revenue extraction. These are businesses that know how to engage their customers by providing them with real value whether it be through an exceptional end-to-end customer experience, great content or strong customer support that are about delivering more than the traditional sell.
Here are a few customer engagement strategies to consider when it comes to strengthening your customers’ experience with, and loyalty to, your brand:
Humanize your brand
At the heart of everything, it’s important to understand that every customer wants to feel you understand their needs and that they can relate to your brand. For fun consumer brands like Red Bull or Nike this may seem an easier task than it is for brands with more conservative attributes or those in the B2B realm. But even these businesses can be humanized without trying to squeeze themselves into a contrived persona that won’t resonate with their audience.
For example, find a personality within in your organization who is passionate about your brand and a natural communicator, you can grow them into a thought leader and give them a voice to humanize your brand and engage your audience.
Create opportunities for them to build their presence and promote your brand – they can regularly blog on your own site and guest blog on others, be used in video content, engage in speaking opportunities, present webinars and publish white papers and e-books – all ways to establish your brand’s voice with a trusted face.
Happy Customers Are Your Lifeblood
As Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, will tell you, obsessing over your customers is key. It starts with your company culture and ensuring your customer support team, the frontline of your business, is empowered by and shares your focus on providing an amazing customer experience. For example, Zappos, the leading online shoe retailer renowned for their customer service, doesn’t enforce call time tracking because they believe their reps should spend that little extra time with customers rather than be focused on getting through each call.
Think about your business model and how you can best service your customers. When do your customers need you? What hours do you need to be available to them? Seamless, the online food ordering service and one of my favourite companies (not least because I love to eat at all hours!), services customers in different time zones across the US. Not only are they fantastic at providing customer service around the clock but they’re stellar at timely, relevant offers like snow day discounts and engaging you with fun food facts across their twitter and email channels.
The customer experience you provide is key because it gives marketers and business owners a way to increase satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. A study by White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that 80% of U.S. consumers would pay more for a product or service to ensure a superior customer experience. Isn’t that telling?
It’s about looking at all of your customers and delivering them exceptional service no matter if they are worth $1 or $1M to your business. Remember, in the long run, your customers will determine your revenue.
Social Media: Surprise and Delight Your Audience
Social media is no longer a trend or a phenomenon – we’ve all acknowledged it’s a part of our everyday lives. To that end, any good marketer should see this as an opportunity to engage her audience and build a community. However, it’s just not enough to simply post status updates and photos on social media. To keep your audience connected, it’s about valuable content and creating a shared experience that keeps them interacting with you – just like Capn’ Crunch did.
As an American cereal mascot with cult status, Cap’n Crunch has a huge audience base spanning generations. The brand wanted to find a way to engage with men in their 20s and 30s, who often eat the cereal as a snack.
Using Twitter to speak directly with this target, Cap’n Crunch replied to brand mentions in hilarious, unique and surprising ways that captured the Cap’n’s fans and mainstream media as well as capitalizing on Twitter trending topics. For example, when #ThreeWordsSheWantsToHear was trending, the Cap’n replied:
Timely, relevant, humorous. Similarly, when questioned about whether or not he was a real captain, Cap’n Crunch was quick to respond, drawing even more followers to a potentially negative attack and launching a fleet of retweets, favorites and new followers.
By using social media as part of their customer engagement strategy, Cap’n Crunch has transcended the supermarket aisles and launched himself into the digital sphere surprising and delighting a new audience along the way.
Using Great Content to Deliver Value
Using content to educate customers was a previously under-used customer engagement strategy but it’s now becoming increasingly common to enhance the customer experience and increases satisfaction. Companies like Hubspot and KISSMetrics excel at using content to deliver more than your standard product knowledge and customer support. They’ve positioned themselves as the go-to experts in their field for educating customers on everything about inbound marketing and analytics.
The content they create is all about helping their customers to understand trends, best practices and the ‘How-To’ guides that once again focus on adding value for their customers, not revenue extraction. These include regular blog posts, webinars and email updates with great insights that I look forward to each week.
If you’re a time-poor or smaller business, creating a library of great content may seem overwhelming at first. Start with an editorial calendar and work how much content is feasible for you to create. Don’t forget you can re-purpose a blog post into an email newsletter, a Facebook post into a tweet – if the content is good, it will keep people engaged across a variety of channels.
Small steps go a long way
Regardless of the long-term customer engagement model you build, starting small can go a long way. One of the easiest ways to deliver exceptional customer experience is to see where you can provide an aspect of your product or service for free. The now-free luggage carts at LAX is a great example. If you’re big on travel like I am and having been through LAX too often for my own liking, I became used to lowering my expectations. However, expecting I’d have pay for the carts meant I was pleasantly surprised when they no longer charged for them. This is less about discounts and cheap wins; it’s more about the value add. It’s about knowing when to absorb the expense to go beyond your customers’ expectations and deliver a great experience.
Ultimately whatever customer experience strategies you employ, be consistent – think about the brand messaging you employ, your customers’ end-to-end experience from their very first interaction and the various departments these customers will move through. Give them a consistent (and exceptional) experience and you’ll be rewarded with their trust and loyalty.