When we talk about engagement as it relates to customer experience, it should make sense that we subscribe to the school of thought that one doesn’t really exist effectively without the other.
Good customer experience by nature should be engaging – but that doesn’t mean it’s so easy to execute. While many brands and companies try to emulate a cultural value of service for customers, customer experience won’t reach its full potential unless you are actively working to create better, more interactive opportunities to truly engage with your customers and prospects.
So what is customer engagement exactly, and how do we create these engaging experiences? Many of us think of engagement in regards to social media metrics such as “likes” and “shares,” but this definition may be too simple to be applied to the full scope of customer experience. Synonyms for engagement include “participation,” “involvement,” and “commitment,” so in one way we can look at it from the standpoint of getting our customers committed to becoming more involved with our company by participating in our shared experiences (and vice versa).
When thinking about how to approach customer experience in a more engaging way, consider how you can create value through interaction, open up multiple channels for dialogue, and personalize content for more customized experiences.
1. Create value through interactive media and experiences
To have prospects and existing customers become motivated to interact with your company, you need to provide them with the opportunity to do so. Drive the methods, conversations, and media that allows for these interactions to occur – don’t leave it up to your customers to take the initiative.
Consumers are looking for value – whether that be in the form of the actual products and services you provide, help and information accessibility, entertainment, or methods for improving their personal or work lives. That means all experiences they have with you should also be striving to provide them with value. There are a few ways that you can easily create more interactive experiences that will add value and improve the customer relationship:
Video has been the reigning king in terms of highly consumable content for a few years now, and we’re still learning new tricks and ways to keep things interesting. We’re optimizing for length of time, adding captions when the majority of viewers watch video with sound off, and learning the types of video that are most effective.
As we continue to iterate this medium to find the best methods to reach our customers how they want and in ways they enjoy, we’re learning how to actually make video as less passive experiences.
The advent of virtual reality and augmented reality certainly break the mold when it comes to ensuring that users are not just watching video, but experiencing it. The difference in creating video in these ways ensures that users have a higher level of engagement, which can lead to greater insights about what our customers like.
Interactive tutorials, demos, and support materials
When VR or AR doesn’t make sense for your customers, or is not possible to manage, there are still ways to create interactive video experiences, or use other formats. For example, when showcasing new products, creating product demo tutorials, or when a customer support team member is explaining features of your cloud platform, video that allows for markup, highlighting, screen capture, and voiceover can feel much more interactive.
Better than a traditional tutorial video that can feel dull or tedious in the age of instant gratification, these tactics aren’t gimmicky – they work to hold interest. The better you can do this, the more engaged a customer will be, and the better the perceived customer experience.
Video conferencing technology has also taken a front seat when it comes to creating better experiences for customers. It can make instruction and explanation, especially in software and tech industries, much more effective. This does require manpower and availability, but can make a big difference if you are able to offer it.
Whenever possible, having in-person appearances where you can speak directly with your customers and put “faces to names” is an ideal engagement strategy. Attending conferences and events, hosting local meetups, or sponsoring other activities is a great way to interact and get to know your customers, and for them to get to know you.
However, appearances should be chosen with discretion. They should make sense for your industry, and align with your brand values. Choosing an event simply based on the amount of people, or target audience can be beneficial, but also can have the inverse effect of discrediting your company or alienating some of your customers.
Inviting “valued” customers to smaller, or more local events can also go a long way in making them feel appreciated, and ensuring that engagement can lead to a lasting relationship. The more you re-invest into your existing customers, the more they will spend in their lifetime with you.
2. Provide open channels for dialogue
One of the best things about inbound marketing and sales, and the increasing emphasis placed on customer service and customer experience, is that there are more opportunities to actually converse directly with people. And increasingly, customers and prospects want to be able to get through to us in an easy and meaningful way. But in order to be effective in this method of communication and dialogue, we need to provide not just enough channels, but the right ones.
While only the largest companies have the capacity to have a full service customer experience staff that is available around the clock, there are increasingly more methods for you to be accessible – even while all of your staff are sleeping.
The important thing is to understand how your customers would prefer to engage with you, and meet them where they exist on and offline (if possible).
Two-way communication is important for engagement
It’s crucial to note that engagement isn’t really true engagement if you aren’t allowing for two-way communication. Customers don’t want to be talked at, they increasingly want to be a part of the conversation – or at least have the option to be. This can include ways that they and your company interact one-on-one, or even include others into the conversation in a community-like way.
A key element of engagement is for customers to feel that they are heard, and also that they are connected with a real human – one that cares about them and is actually working to improve their experiences or solve their problems through every stage of their buyer’s journey. This is impossible without allowing for dialogue, and offering easy ways for them to make this happen.
Get feedback and offer support
A great way to motivate engagement with customers is by giving them opportunities to provide feedback. Asking them to participate in surveys or focus groups, join community pages, or become “members” are all good ways to understand how they are feeling and thinking about your company, your products or services, and their purchasing habits. You can more easily get direct insights about sentiment from your existing customers, but also make them feel appreciated, that their opinions matter or can make a difference, and reward them for being your customers.
By providing avenues for your customers to give feedback, you are also more easily able to identify ways to offer support. When someone expresses a concern that you were not previously aware of, you now have an opportunity to address it. Or if something comes up (either positive or negative) that you haven’t considered in terms of your customer experiences, you can take action to improve your overall process and engagement channels.
Use as many methods as possible
A customer support channel and social media are standard methods for customers to interact with companies, but finding a way to get in contact or discovering the direct line of communication to talk to a human at your company shouldn’t be a challenge for them. Also, don’t only create communication channels for dialogue that exist solely for issues and troubleshooting. Dialogue should be possible for bad and good discussions, pre-purchase and after-purchase, and for every type of customer. This is what creating the whole customer experience is about.
Remember that if you aren’t quick to answer a question, provide resources, be helpful, or address concerns, there will likely be a competitor there waiting to jump on the opportunity to provide these kinds of support. And if you aren’t going above and beyond to show appreciation, motivate loyalty and referrals, or make customers feel as though they are a part of your community, you may also lose them to competition who has a better customer experience in place.
Use conversational marketing techniques such as on-site chat functions, send personal emails inviting conversation, or help organize user group meetups or other in-person events.
If you cannot have a support team, or have the capacity for account managers, utilize ai chatbots and automation solutions that make it easier for you to follow up at a later time. When customers are interacting with humans, they are expecting responses immediately. When they are dealing with bots, or via email, you have a lot more time to respond when needed, without harming the perception of your business as being available.
3. Make use of highly targeted content
Personalization is also becoming more important as we see the segmentation of our audiences and customers playing a bigger role in marketing and post-sale interactions. Increasingly, consumers don’t want to feel like a “number,” and even in B2C industries, customers are seeking out more high-touch or concierge style customer experiences.
In order to give the feeling of being seen, heard, and understood as part of their customer experience, offer your customers as much personalization as possible.
Personalize based on customer interests
Many companies have a one-size-fits-all approach to their library of content on their website, and any newsletter blasts that go out. But segmenting these things to provide more personalized customer experiences can impress your customers and encourage more engagement.
When you identify your buyer personas, you likely think about the goals, challenges, and traits these individuals have. If they vary, why shouldn’t your content and customer experiences?
More targeting means greater likelihood of sharing and interacting
Personalized experiences for customers serves a larger purpose other than just creating engagement with you directly, because it can encourage outward engagement from your customers. Great customer experience is actually crucial for creating word-of-mouth exposure and referrals to your business, so keep this in mind when creating your strategy.
Highly targeted content and personalized customer experiences have a greater likelihood of engagement in the ways we often think about: shares, likes, and comments on social media, forwarded emails, newsletter signups, etc. When our customers can easily relate to how we interact with them, provide them with information or entertainment, or do a good job of speaking their language and keeping their interest, they are more likely to share those experiences with others.
Truly successful customer experiences are ones that encourage engagement. You simply cannot have one without the other. When seeking to create opportunities that build your relationships with your customers, consider the types of content you can use that are less “passive,” how you are creating avenues for conversation, and how much personalization you are offering. By taking these aspects into consideration, you can be much more effective in providing an excellent customer experience.
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Learn more about Zight (formerly CloudApp) for Customer Support here.