Relationship Marketing Pillar #1: What Really is Customer Engagement?
Ask a room full of marketers for the definition of relationship marketing, and each will likely have a different response. In today’s customer-centric world, relationship marketing can no longer be defined by CRMs and one-off communications with consumers. We wanted to challenge the status quo of current relationship marketing strategies, so we partnered with Elaine Gamble, relationship marketing expert, to redefine relationship marketing. Check out her first post here.
For the second post in our relationship marketing series, Elaine provides her perspectives on customer engagement. She shares her wisdom on customer engagement excellence, supporting you in championing customer engagement within your organization.
Customer Engagement is now a term used across industries. The renewed focus on being customer-centric has resulted in greater interest in customer engagement success. At the same time, it seems organizations define customer engagement differently.
What does customer engagement really mean?
Let’s begin with the dictionary definition of the word engage:
Causing someone to become involved in a conversation or discussion; to occupy, attract, or involve.
In building on this foundation, my definition of customer engagement (in a marketing context) is:
Two- way communication with your customer, providing information while demonstrating you are listening and driving ongoing, sustained interest in a next interaction.
Although organizations across industries often discuss customer engagement or perceive this is practiced day-to-day, they may not really be implementing true customer engagement at all – why?…
– In practice, industries may confuse customer engagement with a response. A response alone (i.e. email open, Facebook “like”, etc.) is not evidence of sustained interest and true, ongoing engagement.
– Most customer communication is one-way that never actively invites feedback (in a real-time manner). Although a goal in true customer engagement is a conversation, as marketers, we do all the talking.
– Across industries, organizations believe they’ve delivered on customer engagement with satisfaction surveys; however, these are meaningless most of the time for customers. We may have a false sense of customer centricity by issuing them.
– An organization might measure response rate in bulk (i.e. email response rate) but may not confirm the same group of people (i.e. email responders) is continuing to respond over time.
– Organizations may settle for customer inertia, where the customer consistently responds, yet their interest in your communication, product, or service is actually quite passive at best and has been for some time. (i.e. email open, Facebook like)
What Customer Engagement in practice really means….
– Not settling for just response in your definition of success – inspiring interest in ongoing response and a next action assessed to have high engagement value. As part of this, confirming a core group of customers continues to perceive value in your communication over time.
– Being perceived as a trusted advisor to your customers by acting on their preferences, along with inviting and providing opportunities for them to share feedback in a real-time manner, a true conversation.
– Confirming you have a true customer journey or experience with your audiences. Ideally, customers should want to interact with you in a variety of ways over time, not just one that is more passive and/or occasional – i.e. Facebook “like”, etc.
– Actively requesting and developing customer advocates; this should be much more than providing a link to Facebook or an invitation to “like” your page. Having advocates is a thoughtful process of inviting the highest potential engagers to be advocates, and providing the tools to truly deliver on their role – i.e. suggested areas of focus for their discussion, etc. (and through this, supporting customer engagement)
– Being transparent with customers about your strengths and opportunities (based on what you hear from real customers); validating your customer in this manner and appearing authentic will give you more credibility (and enhance engagement).
– Being relevant in timed and contextual ways with your customer –not just pushing out communication on a schedule that you define, but being in the moment for when you engage with an audience. Optimal sequencing of communication is also part of this.
– Implementing an omnichannel engagement approach – including digital strategies without an over-reliance on digital. Understand the role of each channel for the customer’s decision (digital and offline), then tailor communication to align with each channel’s “job”.
Measuring Customer Engagement – A few perspectives
Measuring customer engagement is related to assessing response, but they are not one in the same. To start measuring customer engagement, confirm you are engaging a core (and high value) group of customers over time. Ask yourself: “Are we maintaining customer interest from a core group or are the respondents entirely different in each execution?”
The second part of measuring customer engagement is to assess what percent of engagement opportunities your loyal customers have taken advantage of over time. If it is consistently low, this could signal a preference for a certain type of channel, or could it mean customer does not perceive value in most of what you present to him/her? (which puts them at risk for defecting). You should complete this assessment even if total return on investment is positive.
Lastly, measuring customer engagement is to remember that customer satisfaction is not just a “nice to do,” but instead is a “must-have” – have a clear approach or algorithm within your organization for how it is directly correlated with return on investment.
True Customer Engagement is an exciting opportunity across industries. Its success involves a thoughtful process of understanding your customer, being perceived as a partner, and driving sustained interest to achieve your goals.
Look for my next post in the relationship marketing series: the role of customer experience in relationship marketing.
Elaine Gamble is a consultant, evangelist, and subject matter expert in relationship marketing and omnichannel strategies. She is also co-chair of the Relationship Marketing Committee at the Association of National Advertisers. Contact Elaine for consulting engagements and exploring these areas further for your organization – firstname.lastname@example.org