What is customer engagement?

Customer engagement is the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer.- Paul Greenberg

Customer engagement (CE) is a thoughtfully designed and well-crafted action plan by a company to increase customer interaction with them. The aim of customer engagement is to capture customer attention, earn their trust and loyalty, and retain them for a long time.

The difference between customer engagement and customer experience

There are many terms that sound similar to customer engagement, and it's possible you might feel confused by comparing customer engagement with customer experience (CX) or customer satisfaction (CSAT), but in fact they are all different concepts. Before we simplify customer engagement though, let's define CX to help you understand CE better.

Customer experience is how your customers feel when they see, understand, and interact with your product. Because customers interact with your product/service on multiple fronts—say, marketing, sales, and support—the experience they get out of each of your departments should be uniform.

Meanwhile, customer engagement is, as a brand, what you're doing to connect with your customers to build and maintain a healthy relationship via proactive, valuable, timely, and continuous communication.

Continuous is the key word here. Because you might provide proactive, valuable, and timely communication once, but if that standard isn't consistent or continuous, it won't enhance your customers' overall experience with your product/service, nor will it offer any benefit to your brand. Only when it's consistent can your customers recognize and enjoy the entire engagement experience.

Why is customer engagement important?

Customer engagement lessons

An excellent customer engagement strategy keeps your customer interested in your product beyond when they're buying it, visiting your website, or engaging with your service directly.

How is that possible? Let us explain it with a practical example.

Various seasonal sports, including car racing, are excellent at keeping their audience engaged even during the off-season when there are no actual races happening.

Theoretically, the masses should forget about it once the season is over. Yet, for so many season sports, the craze continues even during the off-season.

So how are they doing it?

They don't throw spaghetti on the wall, hoping some would stick. They have a clear and precise strategy that engages their audience, attracts their attention, and keeps them excited about the months to come.

First, they identify their target audience and segment them into multiple age groups. Even when all their target audience comes under the common umbrella of "Sports fans," they don't use the same strategy for everyone.

After segmentation, they prepare marketing materials, plan events, and initiate conversations that will encourage fans to participate in and get excited about the buildup to the next season.

For older fans, they might plan their engagement around evoking nostalgia, like sharing stories of their generation's heroes, conducting an exhibition that showcases iconic memorabilia, and more.

For younger fans, they might schedule events the fans can participate in and hopefully post about on social media.

For the ardent, expressive fans, they trigger conversations that will make the fans support their favorite team and engage in a verbal battle with other team fans. It ensures the topic stays on top of the fans' minds.

Non-sports brands should also follow these techniques. Customer engagement doesn't mean only when the customer is buying your product, visiting your website, or engaging with your service directly. It also includes the duration when they don't intend to spend any money.

Whatever your off-season looks like, you should be engaging with your customers during it to keep your brand's name on top of their minds so when they're ready to buy again, you'll be the one they'll come looking for.

You might have gotten a glimpse of why customer engagement is important from the above anecdote. But let's dig deeper for more.

Customer engagement is the process of interacting with customers through varied channels to develop and strengthen a relationship with them. - Gartner

As described in the definition, the primary purpose of building and practicing a customer engagement strategy is to earn your customers' trust, support, and loyalty.

Earning customer's trust, support, and loyalty

Gone are the days when you offer low prices and the masses will rush to your doors. Now people are willing to pay a premium to enjoy a great experience with your product/service, and they expect brands to engage them.

If you treat your customers as mere transactions, they'll treat you as just a provider. You can't form and develop a healthy relationship with those dynamics. Only by engaging with them on a continuous basis can you forge a relationship that will earn you their trust and loyalty.

Prolonging customer retention

Churn is unavoidable—at some point, even your most loyal customers might jump to your competitors. But when you've got a great engagement strategy and you're consistently engaging with your customers, you can prolong the retention duration and considerably decrease customer churn.

Cultivating a community that works for you

While most people mention Apple when describing the importance of community, we'll consider Adobe instead. For decades, Adobe has been consistently engaging with its customers.

What's the result?

  • It built them an army of supporters who preached and propagated Adobe for free for decades.
  • Having multiple products in their kitty helped Adobe cross-sell their products within their community and earned (still earning) them big bucks.
  • Adobe used its community to ask about features they'd like to see or to find bugs in their program. This helped them stay relevant for ages without getting outdated by any of their competitors.
  • Communities are data mines. Adobe mined and refined the feedback from their customers to understand more about them as well as their target markets. It helped Abobe make their products approachable to everyone.

Improving the overall brand experience

As we discussed earlier, your brand's overall experience will increase when your engagement plans are symbiotic with your CX strategy.

Key elements of customer engagement

When you sit down to formulate a customer engagement strategy for your organization, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Including these key elements will help you frame an impactful strategy that could help your brand stand tall against your competitors.

Identify your long-term plan

Many make the mistake of planning a customer engagement strategy in terms of what they do for social media. Customer engagement shouldn't be a hit-or-miss strategy. Since it's the overall engagement your brand offers, it should be a hit that impresses your visitors and customers.

The strategies you put together will come with you as you bud, grow, and bloom, so don't plan for short-term benefits. If you want to rise to be a brand that enjoys ultimate support from the masses, think about your long-term goals when planning your CE strategies.

Keep customers at the center of every intersection

As we discussed, this is the era of customer-centric strategies, and if you're not adhering to those, you'll be left in the mud all alone. Put yourselves in your customers' shoes and design every point of engagement to delight your customers. Also, make sure you offer value to your customers at every intersection.

Personalize the experience

Personalization is an essential element when constructing CE strategies. You can't please people with mass marketing strategies anymore. If you want to grab their attention and make them your devoted and loyal customers, your engagement strategy should be personalized to each and each individual.

Stay proactive

Be it for sales, support, or marketing, don't wait for your customers and prospects to reach out to you. Your strategy should be proactive, and it should engage with people even before they decide if they want to initiate a conversation with you. When you're proactive, it makes it easy for them to reach out to you.

Get feedback

You're not going to construct a perfect strategy the first time out. It'll take some time and iterations to understand what your customers want and any issues they're facing. To simplify the understanding part, make sure you get feedback from your customers at multiple touchpoints. It'll help you identify the issue then and there so you can work on it.

If you'd like to learn how to incorporate these key elements into practice, check out our blog on how to build an effective customer engagement strategy.

How Zoho SalesIQ can help your customer engagement

Zoho SalesIQ, the best customer engagement tool

Tools make our life easier. But suppose you're looking for a tool that should handle multiple touchpoints of customers' interaction with your product/service, such as customer experience or customer engagement. In that case, it's not possible to have a single tool that can do everything.

Zoho SalesIQ, the Engagement Intelligence platform, comes with excellent built-in features and integration options that can help you engage with your customers better at the three pillars of customer interaction: marketing, sales, and support.

Features like visitor tracking/live view, lead scoring, and AI-based profile enrichment for companies can help you create different engagement strategies for different people based on how they're interacting with your website. Using our proactive live chat, you can instantly engage with them, resolve any queries they have, and cultivate a relationship that goes beyond business. SalesIQ also offers multiple IM integrations that will empower your support team to better serve your prospects and customers.

If you'd like to learn more about how Zoho SalesIQ can help you in customer engagement, check out our customer engagement strategy blog.

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