The ABCs of Customer Engagement

Customer engagement–it’s a big deal. Everyone is trying to improve their customer’s experience. An engaged customer is a raving fan. They’re more loyal (greater lifetime value), will give constructive feedback…

Ellie Hutton | March 30, 2022 | 7 min read time

Article Last Updated: October 13, 2023

The ABCs of Customer Engagement

Customer engagement–it’s a big deal. Everyone is trying to improve their customer’s experience.

An engaged customer is a raving fan. They’re more loyal (greater lifetime value), will give constructive feedback (so R&D can make more user-first decisions), and more likely to champion your product (to feed your pipeline). This means great customer engagement should lead to more revenue.  

Who doesn’t want that? 

There’s no debate about the importance of engagement. It’s also not a new concept. And it’s really not rocket science. But why do so many companies get it wrong?

What’s so hard about it? 

Customer engagement requires the cultivation of a relationship between a company and their customer. Across the entire journey. Across all channels. With clear value for the customer. With content and touchpoints delivered at the right time, to the right people. Spoken in a consistent and empathic voice that builds connection. 

You have to earn the right to grow.

Engagement is not a one and done fix. It’s an ongoing, holistic, cross-functional strategy.

That does sound harder. So, what can you do, right now, to get closer to getting it right?

Let’s go back to basics and look at the ABCs of customer engagement (I love me some ABCs because it makes the insurmountable feel a lot more possible). 

  1. Alignment. Align the business around the customer journey. 
  2. Benefit. Drive clear value to the customer.
  3. Connection. Build human relationships.

A is for Alignment

Sometimes you gotta go slow to go fast. 

Your engagement strategy needs vision, purpose, metrics, ownership and accountability. It’s gotta have buy-in and execution across teams. And most importantly you gotta align it to your customer journey.

Press pause for a sec and do some reflection. 

Is your engagement strategy customer-first? Is it built with empathy and viewed through a customer lens? Is it aligned to your customer journey across all delivery channels and touchpoints (1:1, digital, 1:M – one to many)? Does it solve for the pain, obstacles and blockers to success in your customer journey? 

Who owns the customer journey? I’m less fussed about who the driver is (and team they’re on) as long as they look at the journey holistically and work cross-functionally to deliver against it. If your engagement “strategy” is owned and executed by just one team and it feels more like a “ooo I have a cool idea for a blog series” this is a tactic at best, not a strategy. Or worse, multiple teams throw content, asks, money grabs at the customer to fulfill their own team’s metrics. Get an owner. Work collaboratively. No siloes.

Are your company metrics aligned to customer engagement? If your north star is $, consider how improvements in customer engagement and experience will get you closer to attaining the goal. Go beyond things like early upsell revenue during onboarding, to considering how your engagement strategy will help you earn the right to grow.

What can you do today? 

  • Get a cross-functional group in a room (or zoom) to align around the customer journey. Build and dissect the journey from the customer’s perspective.
  • Make sure your left hand knows what the right is doing. Who is reaching out to the customer with what, when and why? 
  • Focus on blockers first. What is success for the customer? What are the blockers to success? How can you accelerate success? Who owns the overall delivery? What are the swim lanes? Fix the painful areas of the journey with your engagement strategy first. 

In practice, our cross-functional engagement strategy focuses on getting users to aha moments quickly. We know if users see value in the product in their first week, they will be more likely to purchase, stick around long term, and become advocates. This impacts company-wide programs, projects and experiments. The lens is “how can we deliver aha moments earlier” not “how can we convert more users”.

B is for Benefit

This is simple. No customer benefit? Don’t bother. 

The customer’s perception of your company is their reality. Their perception is driven by all the experiences and interactions they have. 

Every touchpoint, email, meeting needs to deliver value. If there’s no benefit to the customer, get rid of it. 

If it’s only driving value for you and there’s no clear value for the customer, figure out another way. 

Your mantra: Right content. Right ask. Right channel. Right time. Right person.

Things you may hear:

“But we need to drive upsell revenue right now while the customer is still onboarding!” Not if it adds friction. Only if it’s a benefit to the customer. 

“But we have to run QBRs (quarterly business reviews)!” No. No one wants to attend yet another zoom meeting. No clear benefit? No need to do it quarterly.

“We just closed a huge logo! Let’s do a customer story, and …” Only if it’s positioned the right way and Sales/Customer Success agrees it is appropriate timing. It needs to be a win-win. 

What can you do today? 

  • Advocate for your customer. If something feels wrong, do something about it. 
  • Look at your digital content with fresh eyes. Iterate. Update the value message. Tailor content to the audience and to each persona. Why would someone read or watch this? 
  • Look at your 1:1 touchpoints. What’s the benefit to the customer? Could you deliver this async or with video instead?
  • Write less. Say less. Quality over quantity.  
  • Experiment. If it works, bake it in. If it doesn’t, learn lessons and try again.

In practice, we’re in the happy place of building foundations from scratch from the ground up. We look at all content with a “what is the value for the customer” lens. We iterate on digital and 1:M content regularly to fine-tune the messaging. It’s amazing what fresh eyes will catch and fix. 

We have playbooks to consistently deliver value across the customer journey, and we hold regular “film reviews” to increase the value of our plays. 

We focus a lot of our engagement attention at the beginning of the user journey. We know if users get to an aha moment quickly they will be more likely to fall in love with the product, stick around long term, become champions, and tell others about their great experience. 

C is for Connection

People seek connection today more than ever. It means feeling seen, heard and valued. There’s a positive energy exchange. There’s mutual trust and respect. 

Connection is required for your content and message to get their attention and break through the clutter. The good news is you can connect with your customers in digital and 1:M ways. It doesn’t all have to be 1:1. 

What can you do today?

  • Get easy data for personalization. If you know what persona your customer is, and what pain they have, then you can digitally deliver nuanced value, tips, relevant offers, etc.
  • Be consumer grade. Align your tone and voice to your audience. But take that with a grain of salt. Although you may be B2B, you’re still talking to a human. So talk like a human. Not a robot professor. Unless your audience uses words like juxtaposition in their day to day conversations, then you shouldn’t use it in your communications. Communicating to C-Suite? To lawyers or doctors? They’re still humans. Talk like a human.
  • Don’t hire jerks. Our core brand value is “it starts with good humans”. Good humans have natural empathy, and intuitively are great at connection. 
  • Find your voice. Quirkiness is memorable. Encourage your teams to infuse their own personality and common phrases they’re known for into their communications.
  • Take an extra couple of minutes. If you’re sending something 1:1, whether that’s a prospect email or a follow up to a customer meeting, take the extra couple of minutes to add a personal touch. Otherwise you might as well have just used the standard template or sequence.

In practice, we ask users their role when they sign up for our product so we can personalize 1:M content about value, tips and use cases specific to their workflow. 

We had someone start recently and she asked how professional her written content should be. I said, just write and talk like you usually would, just without the swears. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but I’d prefer that over formal language.

Our brand voice is bold, playful and trusted so we have true license to talk like a fun human, make videos, and share cute GIFs. 

When you get customer engagement right you will be a lot closer to earning the right to grow as a business. Remember the ABCs!

Alignment, Benefit and Connection.

Don’t be shy. 

Connect with Ellie on LinkedIn here.

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