Customer engagement then and now: 5 differences across decades

Customer engagement evolution

Imagine it's the late 2000s to early 2010s.

  • Brick and mortar was the lifeline of businesses and gave identity to brands

  • Consumption options were determined by where you lived

  • People were dubious of ecommerce

  • Mobile devices were running on 256-megabyte RAM

  • Facebook showed minimal ads, and Instagram wasn't birthed yet

Like the chicken or the egg dilemma, the question of what propelled the above scenario to change is a puzzle. Was it businesses competing to gain attention that fastened this, or did customer expectations push businesses towards this transformation? Of course, technological advancements helped, but let that question be a puzzle.

Instead, we'll look at this from a different perspective: Customer engagement. The evolution of customer engagement over the decade helped make this transformation possible, but it's not a strategy etched in stone.

In this article, we'll discuss the importance of customer engagement, how engagement strategies and practices have evolved in the last decade, and how businesses can improve their engagement game.

The importance of customer engagement today

Not only have engagement strategies evolved over the decade, but engagement itself has become a differentiating factor as customers today prefer brands that provide uniform and consistent engagement experiences over others. It's no longer in the "nice to have" checklist—it's imprinted in the quintessential expectations. So businesses have no choice but to implement best engagement practices.

If you need to familiarize yourself with customer engagement, here's a brief.

 "Customer engagement is the combination of strategies businesses use to connect with customers/prospects and vice versa throughout the critical touchpoints of their journey."  

As the cost of acquiring and retaining customers increases exponentially, businesses employ multiple strategies to win their loyalty and make them stay longer, increasing their customer lifetime value.

Customer engagement is one of the strategies that helps businesses achieve the above benefits and plays a significant role in every stage of the funnel. Here's how:

  • Creating an opportunity for businesses and prospects to talk to each other helps provide resolutions as soon as the customers have any queries.

  • The timely resolution instills confidence amongst prospects that it's a reliable brand and kindles them to develop and attach loyalty.

Overall, it helps businesses provide prospects with a better engagement experience and increases the funnel velocity to make the purchase.

Not just for prospects—customer engagement is also essential to businesses even after conversion.

  • Best engagement practices help businesses retain the trust and loyalty of customers and turn them into your brand's advocates. They'll become an unpaid spokesperson for your brand and help you form a community around your business.

  • Creating a community of customers where active customers proactively help others with product/service queries helps businesses reduce their support operations costs in the long run.

  • It helps businesses make their customers happy, increase customer satisfaction scores (CSAT), reduce churn rate, and retain customers for a long time.

Customer engagement then and now: Five differences across decades

1. Availability

2. Medium/devices

3. Personalization

4. Benefit-centric to customer-centric

5. Customer expectations

1. Availability


Businesses hadn't gone truly global except for a few giants. Most businesses needed more resources to have a person available all the time. Based on the geography of most of their existing customers and target audience, they'd devise engagement strategies focusing on those regions. So businesses were only available to the customers if it was critical.


Availability has become one of the key factors people look for in businesses as we've genuinely broken the geographical barriers. Since people have become open to interacting and investing in businesses irrespective of their locations, they expect support whenever they have a query.

The advancement in chatbot tech and the adoption of AI have made it possible for businesses to answer simple FAQs, troubleshoot minor issues, or even remotely analyze without involving a human agent.

Since chatbots are scalable, they've also been expanded to prospects as they get to clear their queries any time they visit the website. 

2. Medium/devices


The predominantly used and preferred medium for customers to connect with the businesses or vice versa was via phone/email. But they had their disadvantages as well. Support via phone calls was expensive, and there were no options for businesses to see what was happening at the customers' end and resolve the issue.

The devices used at both the customers' and the businesses' ends were computers, as the other devices didn't have the capacity/provision to engage.


With live chat, customers/prospects can contact businesses anytime, and the available agent will attend to them immediately. Even the most complicated query can be conveyed, addressed, and resolved with audio calls, video calls, screen sharing, and remote assist options. The medium for reaching out to businesses has extended beyond the traditional email/phone options, and social media has become a communication platform as we have omnichannel customer service systems in place. 

The processing capabilities have made it possible for businesses and customers to run their operations from their mobile phones from anywhere. They no longer have to look for a particular medium or device to engage with each other.

3. Personalization


Brands only offered personalization to their long-term or big-profile customers when they walked into their regular brick-and-mortar shops. They'd be greeted by name, get a special discount, and sometimes get access to the products even before they were launched. It applied only to an exclusive bunch.

Because of the staff-customer ratio, it was never even visualized for the masses. Also, the level of personalization was limited.


Data was collected during the previous decades, too. However, the ability to process and utilize the collected data transformed the level of personalization businesses offered. Personalization started showing customers that every individual is unique. Brands nowadays offer products/services based on individuals' personalities as it showcases that they're not one among the masses, but only one.

4. Benefit-centric to customer-centric


To sell their products, brands focus on conveying the benefits of the product/service, and it was usually centered around the features they offered. They were considered mere goods without any emotional value.


It's not that brands nowadays don't convey the benefits of the product/service. They do. Along with that, they also focus on the emotion it evokes in the minds of its users and the overall experience it creates while interacting with the brands.

5. Customer expectations

Then and now

As they say, change is the only constant; over the decades, what customers expect from businesses has constantly been changing.

But if we look at it from the granular level, it's all about reducing the effort put into completing their tasks, which has been their expectation. They expect the product/service/technology to help them reduce the resources and time taken so that the customers can focus on what's important and the ones that require their attention more.

How Zoho SalesIQ can help you engage your customers better

Zoho SalesIQ, the Engagement Intelligence, comes with advanced features to help businesses engage their customers, including a versatile bot-building platform.

  • Availability isn't a concern as chatbots are available 24/7 to take care of customer queries.

  • SalesIQ can be integrated with all the popular instant messaging channels. So your customers can reach out to you from anywhere, and you can manage all their queries in one place.

  • As SalesIQ can be embedded on any platform you're using—website, cloud platforms, and mobile apps—your customers can contact you whenever they want to clarify their queries. It gives them a pathway to connect and helps them feel you're there throughout their journey. With the available information, personalization can be automated and scaled for all your customers.

  • By creating an avenue for conversation, SalesIQ helps businesses listen to their customers and understand what they expect. They don't have to keep an eye on changing trends. Just by engaging the customers, businesses can understand how customer expectations are changing and provide what's expected.

If you'd like to see what else SalesIQ can do, book a demo, or if you'd like to get a hands-on experience straight away, sign up for a 15-day credit card-free trial.


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