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June 13, 2017

6 Practical Tips for Improving Customer Engagement

In the past, businesses discussed their interactions with customers in terms of “customer service.” However, that phraseology is archaic in today’s world where there are dozens of different touchpoints where customers can interact with businesses. Instead, the idea of “customer engagement” has been popularized. And while it may seem like nothing more than a tweak in semantics, it’s actually a totally different approach to interacting with and serving customers.

What’s the Hold Up?

Customer engagement strategies are designed with the intention of providing positive, cohesive interactions with customers, regardless of when or where they’re engaged. But if your business is like most, it struggles with the ability to maximize customer engagement. What exactly is holding you back?

According to Zoom Data, which develops robust analytics and big data visualization tools, there are three pain points that every organization faces when trying to improve customer engagement. They are:

• Data silos;

• Incomplete understanding of customer behavior;

• Inconsistent metrics.

Your first step to improving customer engagement starts with addressing these three points of friction. In most cases, the solution is to adopt the right set of tools that enhance the ability to collect, analyze and apply the right data so effective steps can be taken toward better serving the needs of customers.

6 Tips for Improving Customer Engagement

Once you overcome the three barriers that Zoom Data highlights, you’re free to focus on directly improving your customer engagement strategy. In case you aren’t quite sure of where to start, we’ve provided you with a list of helpful tips.

1. Become More Accessible

One of the very first things you need to do is make your brand more accessible. In other words, you need to make it easier for customers to contact you via different channels. But do you know how customers prefer to contact you?

According to a recent study, online customer service is most popular. One out of four consumers have used live chat within the past year and 73 percent of these customers have been “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the results. In terms of satisfaction numbers, e-mail and social media came in second and third place, respectively. Surprisingly, phone and SMS have consumer satisfaction rates well below 50 percent.

But it’s not only about being contacted. How are you communicating with customers? According to a 2015 study on the topic, e-mail is the preferred method of contact. Roughly 72 percent of customers surveyed prefer e-mail communication. Postal mail, television ads, print media, and SMS round out the top five.

Instead of hyper focusing your attention on a single channel or medium, make sure you’re opening yourself up to multiple avenues – including the ones that customers overwhelmingly prefer (such as live chat and e-mail).

2. Correct Your Online Listings

When customers want to engage you, they don’t pull out the white pages or drive to your store. Most customers are going to run a quick Google search and find your contact information. Are you sure that it’s accurate?

According to a study from location software company Yext, a total of roughly $10.3 billion worth of potential sales are lost annually because of wrong, missing, and/or incomplete listing data. Spend some time making sure your information is correct on your website, social profiles and any industry databases.

3. Gather and Use Survey Data

A lot of businesses gather survey data from customers, but very few put this data to work in order to make positive changes. Once you take the time to hear what your customers have to say, don’t ignore the all-important application phase.

“When customers share their thoughts and opinions, they expect to see change…Ignoring the voice of the customer can be exponentially more harmful than not asking for feedback at all,” explains a 2016 Gallup Poll on the topic.

4. Use Chatbots the Right Way

“With chatbots, the game has changed. People see chatbots as a directional communicating channel vs. SMS which is perceived as a uni-directional push,” entrepreneur Murray Newlands says. “These chatbots replace and streamline the service provided by call centers and e-mail response teams, leading to cost savings for retailers and more efficient experiences for customers.”

The problem is that many companies have poor chatbot configurations, which results in frustrating user experiences. If you’re going to use chatbots – which it’s suggested that you do – it’s important that you improve the user experience. As Newlands explains, you have to focus on personalization, fast response times, and seamless integration with your website or app.

5. Show Your Employees Some Love

How you engage and treat your employees has a direct impact on how your customers feel about your brand. This connection can be seen in a recent Harvard Business Review study. In it, 71 percent of respondents rank employee engagement as having a very important impact on customer satisfaction.

If you want to see improvement in the area of customer engagement, it stands to reason that you should also focus on enhancing employee engagement. Both of these areas directly influence one another. 

6. Create Relevant Content

You know all about the importance of content – it’s been tattooed on your brain over the past decade. However, what you need to recognize is there’s a difference between valuable content and useless content. From a customer engagement perspective, valuable content is content that addresses pressing customer questions and issues.

Instead of developing SEO type content that only floods your website with keywords and fragmented topics, you should invest more energy into blog posts, white papers, videos and case studies that practically address common pain points. This will serve you much better in the long run.

Putting it All Together

When you consider all of the different marketing tasks you can focus on, few things are as important as customer engagement. The relationship you have with individual customers constitutes the lifeblood of your brand. You can’t afford to go on any longer without addressing the underlying issues you face.

The good news is that it’s fairly easy to foster some positive growth in this area. It’s going to take some manual intervention on your part, but it’s not something that’s unrealistic or far out. If you start working on your customer engagement strategy this week, you’ll notice some progress by as early as next week. That’s how quickly things can change.


Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.