Customer engagement is how your existing customers (or prospective customers) can interact with you and your brand. It is an essential component of any good business model as it stimulates customer loyalty. Also, it serves to evangelize your customers – meaning your customers take on a bit of the marketing and advertising load for your company.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to customer engagement. Every business is unique, just like every customer is unique. However, there are some tried-and-true philosophies and guiding principles that we can examine together. These should stimulate some ideas and allow you to create your own customer engagement strategy that is best suited for your particular business and your particular product or brand.
How to Engage Customers – The 3 Pillars of Customer Engagement
Since customer engagement boils down to establishing a dialogue, encouraging and fostering a meaningful exchange of ideas and opinions, we find that the principles of good customer engagement seem to mirror those of healthy communication practices. If you’re a good communicator, the chances are high that you will be good at fostering customer engagement too.
Let’s begin at the beginning, with the mindset that is fundamental for establishing good customer engagement – empathy.
Empathy isn’t necessarily about understanding your customers’ concerns and needs. It is more of an approach or a mindset that informs you to listen to your customers, put yourself in their shoes, and feel the same pain they feel when confronted with a problem or a point of frustration.
An empathetic mindset is receptive to feedback and experiences it on an emotional level. When you have empathy for your customers, you do not see them as data points or dollar signs, but as real flesh-and-blood individuals. You are happy when they’re happy and sad when they’re sad.
When you feel empathy for your customers, you are eager to propose a solution that effectively addresses their concerns. And when you have no solution on hand to offer, you are eager and determined to seek one out, to create or develop one if the case may be.
It does little good to feel the customers’ concerns if you aren’t available to do anything about it. Just like in any healthy relationship, you need to be available for your customers. Your customers need to feel that they can reach you no matter the time and from a variety of different platforms – online, via email, use social media, support team, text messaging etc.
Being available for your customers means they know how to contact you, they know it will be hassle-free, and they know you are there to respond in a timely fashion.
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In order to establish effective and long-lasting customer engagement, it is important that your customers feel important. They need to feel like their opinion matters, that their contribution is valued, and that they have the power to take action and make a positive impact.
Something as simple as a customer satisfaction survey does little to empower the customer if none of their suggestions are taken into consideration or acted upon. On the other hand, if a change is made in response to some specific feedback a customer gives, all of a sudden that customer knows that he or she has the power to make a contribution, the power to bring about a positive change. All of a sudden, that customer feels empowered, and a high level of customer engagement is established.
Engage Your Customers – Engagement Means Action
Let’s build off of these three pillars of customer engagement to see if we can’t come up with tools and tips that allow us to express our sympathy, be more available for our customers, and give them a sense of empowerment. In short, let’s look at different ways to engage the customer.
How to Express Empathy to Your Customers
If the empathetic mindset is genuine, it shouldn’t be too difficult to express it to your customers. However, not everything we feel is always correctly communicated or correctly interpreted as such. In order to effectively communicate your empathy, try to incorporate some of the following rhetorical devices and practices.
Take Ownership of Your Customer’s Problem
When a customer says ‘I have a problem’, immediately your rhetoric should reflect the empathy you feel. Instead of acknowledging ‘You have a problem’, an empathetic actor will express ‘We have a problem.’
When a customer expresses a concern – ‘I don’t think this product is meeting my needs’ – immediately your rhetoric should reflect that you too share this concern. Instead of responding ‘Maybe you should try X’, an empathetic actor will take ownership of the concern – ‘I think maybe we should try X.’
Imagine the Effects or Consequences
When a customer expresses a problem – ‘I’m experiencing a lag time of nearly twenty minutes between messages.’ – an empathetic actor will be able to imagine the possible repercussion of this problem, how it could adversely affect the person. For example, an empathetic actor might respond with, ‘I bet that is frustrating. We might be missing some important messages or our users might not have the patience to wait out the lag.’
While you don’t want to take the customer’s problem or concern and then paint a dreary picture of the effects, it is important that you express your ability to feel and imagine the pain and frustration this problem or concern could bring.
Celebrate Your Customers’ Success
Empathy isn’t only about feeling pain. It’s also about being able to feel and share in the joy others are experiencing. When you receive good news from a customer – their dental check-up revealed no cavities – to an empathetic actor, that news is good news for them too.
Don’t be shy about celebrating your customers’ successes in demonstrative ways. For example, consider congratulating them on social media. Put on some celebratory music at the office to announce the good news. Wear a big bold smile.
How to Express Availability to Your Customers
In order to create effective long-lasting customer engagement, your customers need to feel they can reach you easily from many sources and at any time.
If you miss calls from your customers, or if their messages aren’t responded to quickly, that means you aren’t working off one of the three essential pillars of customer engagement – availability.
Let Technology Work for You
In today’s business climate, customers don’t expect to be ignored. They expect all their calls, emails, and messages to be answered promptly. And rightfully so. With the automation technology that exists today, there is no reason why any customer should experience a missed call or an unanswered message.
Companies that use Weave – the complete business toolbox – don’t experience missed customer calls or unanswered customer messages. With unlimited rollover lines, a mobile app that takes and manages calls when you’re out of the office, and automated messaging, missing an opportunity to be available for your customers is now a problem relegated to the past.
Respect the Diversity of Your Customers – Be Available Through Multiple Channels
What message does a company send when their customer service or customer support is only available by phone? Are they deliberately trying to exclude the hearing impaired? Unlikely. But it’s equally unlikely that they are creating a positive customer experience and building good customer engagement.
Your customers are diverse individuals with differing habits and needs. When you make yourself available only through one channel of communication, invariably, you are excluding a certain percentage of your customers.
You need to make yourself available to your customers through many different channels – phone, email, text, social media, a post on a blog, online, in person, etc. All these channels of communication might seem like a lot to manage. But you don’t have to manage them alone. Instead, consider upgrading to a comprehensive office management and customer engagement software package.
How to Express Empowerment to Your Customers
Your customers matter. You value their opinions. You welcome their feedback and their ideas. Their concerns are your concerns. Their problems are your problems. If this is true, and the customer feels that it is true, the only thing left to do is give them the sense that they have the ability to do something about it. Give them the sense that they can take action and bring about a positive change.
Empowerment is Predicated on Choice
In order to develop good customer engagement, we need to give the customer a sense of empowerment. To do that, we need to present them with a choice (or choices) for them to act upon.
Presenting your customers with a choice could be as simple as offering two different days for an appointment, or let them choose the time. Also, you could offer multiple ways for them to pay. Regardless of how you go about it, the concept of presenting your customers with a choice should permeate all aspects of your interaction with them.
Asking your customers to either comply with your way of doing things or inviting them to go to one of your competitors isn’t exactly an effective choice. In fact, this way of doing business is quite the opposite of empathy, availability, and empowerment. Instead, in order to build good customer engagement, let the customer express their individuality. Let them choose how they want to set up an appointment, how they wish to pay, etc.
Self Service – Handing Control Over to Your Customers
Empowerment, when you boil it down, is about relinquishing control and putting it in the hands of someone else. This aspect is key to developing good customer engagement. One clear and obvious example of this is in self-service. However, what is less clear and obvious are the different ways we can extend self-service to our customers.
Companies that use Weave – the complete business toolbox – know about empowering their customers through choice and self-service. The software package includes payment options that enable the customer to pay how they want – in-office payment, mobile payments, manual card entry, and even text to pay.
Weave’s ‘text to pay’ feature is a good example of customer empowerment through self service. With this feature, the customer is in control of the payments and can carry them out through any device of their choosing.
Customer Reviews – I am Customer, Hear Me Roar
When a customer feels empowered, they feel like their opinion matters, like they have a voice and how they use it will have an impact. There is perhaps no greater illustration of this than in customer reviews.
In order to take advantage of this clear and easy way to empower your customers and build customer engagement, you should be encouraging and facilitating your customers to leave reviews of your business.
It’s especially empowering when a customer leaves a review on a popular website, then they see that same review later on the company’s site or the company’s social media accounts. Then, they get the clear message that their voice is being heard.
Weave allows you to monitor, collect, and manage customer reviews from multiple sources. Recognize your customers’ voice, hear it, and take heed. Give them a sense of empowerment and watch your customer engagement grow.
How to Measure Your Level of Customer Engagement
Depending on the specifics of your business and the sector of activity you are working in, there are a number of metrics you can use to measure your customer engagement.
Frequency of Visits
This is perhaps the best and most obvious metric used to measure customer engagement. How often does your customer visit your business or your website? While software programs can be used to measure how often a customer visits your website and how long they spend on a particular page, when you need to factor in live or in-person interactions, it becomes a bit more complicated.
This is where Weave can be of great help. Weave features analytics that can effectively track your customers’ interaction with you and your company. This feature is widely used in medical and dental practices to assess and notify when a particular customer is due for a check-up or a follow-up appointment. But, it can be used by any company in any field to get a better sense of the level of their customer engagement.
Time Gaps Between Messages
Another common way we can measure customer engagement is by looking at the gaps in time between an out-going message and an incoming response. If the customer responds frequently to your messages in an almost instantaneous way, this is a good indication that the customer feels highly engaged.
On the other hand, if a customer repeatedly takes days to respond to your message, this is a strong indication that your customer does not feel very engaged.
Warning Signs of Poor Customer Engagement
In addition to long gaps of time between out-going messages and incoming responses, there are a number of other indicators to keep an eye on to get a sense of how well or how poorly you are doing in terms of customer engagement.
Frequent Cancellations or Missed Appointments
This indicator is widely used in medical and dental practices to assess their level of customer engagement, but it is applicable to any business that requires the customer to make and keep appointments.
However, it’s important not to read too much into this data. If your customer misses an appointment, it could be a simple case that they forgot. Either way, it is a problem and one that Weave can help you minimize.
With intelligent fast confirmation and automated reminders, Weave guides the customer from making the appointment to going through and keeping the appointment. Using Weave’s business toolbox software should have a dramatic impact on reducing the number of missed or cancelled appointments.
A Lack of Feedback, Good or Bad
If a customer is prompted to give their feedback on your product or service, they very well may choose not to. That, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily mean you have poor customer engagement. However, if you extrapolate that over many customers on many occasions, you will begin to get a more accurate assessment of just how well or how poorly you are doing in customer engagement.
The old adage ‘No news is good news’ is definitely not applicable to customer engagement. If you’re getting ‘no news’ from your customers, that is very much ‘bad news’ for you and your business.
In today’s business climate, customers expect their voice to be heard. They expect the companies to whom they are loyal to value them and value their opinions and concerns. They expect the company to be available and easily reached through a multitude of channels.
These customer expectations differ greatly from customer expectations of generations ago. And it’s no surprise. Comprehensive software packages, such as Weave, make it easy for companies to engage with their customers, to express their empathy, to remain available to them, and to empower them with choice and self-service.
They say that ‘knowing is half the battle’. Now, that you know, it’s time to wage the other half of the battle. And the competition is fierce. Don’t go into the battle unarmed. Schedule a demo of Weave today and see the many ways we can help you improve your customer engagement.