Building a Customer Engagement Mind-set

“The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.”- John Russell

The quote clearly indicates that building a customer engagement mind-set is essential to begin to understand what customers expect and how a company should go about giving it to them. The goal of any company should be to create and build robust relationships with their customers, since it is the relationships that help a business thrive and remain successful. To create and build relationships, there is no doubt that an organization must have a customer engagement mind-set such that it is continuous and not one-offs. Research however, indicates that a very large number of companies are still lagging in this area – have not updated the content they send out, have websites that look the same for ages, send out ‘umbrella’ communiqués to all customers, do not mobile friendly sites and other customer service faux pas. This is indicative of a lack of a customer engagement mind-set since they are unable to provide customers what they want in terms of personalized offerings and messages, updated information, memorable experiences and the like.

The reasons for this lack of customer engagement mind-set could be many and it would behove a company to look closely at their processes and kind of experiences that customers have. A company may believe that they know exactly what engaging with customers means – they hold events, have customer programs, send out all kinds of content and messages, ask for feedback, put together customer advisory boards and other such activities. While this may seem like perfectly good methods to engage with customers, if the results are not what the company expects, there is clearly a mismatch. Building a customer engagement mind-set is about thinking and understanding what the customer wants – how often do customers want to engage, how do they want to do so and what they need when they decide to engage. Hence, it is important to build a customer engagement mind-set in order to address the needs of the customers in a consistent and focused manner and in the way they deem appropriate, not as a standalone effort. The fact is that customer needs and expectations are constantly changing and without a sustainable customer engagement mind-set, companies would find hard, nay, impossible to even understand those needs, let alone provide for them.

Putting together myriad activities one after the other does not spell customer service – in fact customers may view these programs as a company’s efforts to push its offerings and promote its efforts – this is completely the opposite of what customers expect. For them these activities must focus on their needs and must look at building the kind of relationships that they deem useful. Without a customer engagement mind-set, companies would make the fatal mistake of inviting all customers to all events. Some of these events could be irrelevant to many customers, thereby raising doubts as to whether the company really understands their needs and focuses on them as individuals. The hard reality is that despite a company’s efforts to build engagement, it could actually be pushing customers away.

Without a customer engagement mind-set, companies would focus internally and would be busy putting together programs that they believe would be useful. This would result in an overload of communication to customers, which they may not find useful since these varied messages would not specify how engaging with your company would be useful to them. With so much information ‘thrown’ at them, customers would end up feeling confused and even irritated, which could result in them not attending any program (even the possibly useful ones) and even walking away from a company. If a customer is unable to see a customer engagement mind-set on the part of a company, they would rather associate with a company that does display such focus. The other downside of putting together programs that show a lack of customer engagement mind-set is that customers view them as being isolated events not focused on learning and gaining feedback from them. This would make customers feel unimportant and part of a crowd, reducing the interest they would have in associating with a company. The fact is that customers should see the activities meant to engage with them as valuable and based on an exchange of ideas and thoughts – not a ‘downpour’ of thoughts from the company. Companies that have not truly built a customer engagement mind-set, would not be able to create holistic and satisfactory experiences for their customers, irrespective of the number and kind of processes and activities they put together. It will not be long before customers walk out the door and straight to companies that will give them what they want.

For a company to be able to display a customer engagement mind-set, it must first communicate with its customers via the channels they prefer, while ensuring its presence on all the other channels as well. While customers may prefer communicating via one or two channels, they are most certainly ‘visiting’ the others as well and by ensuring that the content is interesting and updated on all channels, a company would be able to convey interest and commitment. A customer engagement mind-set enables a company to align its objectives to that of its customers – making every aspect of business relevant to the customers. Such a mind-set encourages a company to understand each customer well. Based on requirements it can place ‘similar’ customers in segments ensuring that the messages and experiences for each segment remains focused and personalized. In addition, the content requirements for new customers would be different to long-standing ones and through an understanding of their needs, a company would be able to serve them better.

There a number of ways that companies can display a customer engagement mind-set. They can focus on ensuring that every touch-point that a customer could possibly connect through provides the same high quality and consistent information and service. This would encourage customers to interact more often and better since they would have access to the same quality and speed of responses via all channels. Another focus of a customer engagement mind-set, is working relentlessly to bridge the gap between online and in-store experiences. Negative experiences via any channel could be detrimental to the relationship – the opposite result of what companies hope to achieve with their customers.

With a customer engagement mind-set, companies would think long-term, focusing on building relationships with customers for life. They would put in processes to not only meet the current needs of customers but also anticipate their future needs. This would enable them to create personalized, timely, effective and highly useful products, services and experiences for their customer base, drawing them closer. As customers come to experience high quality, they are more inclined to provide repeat business and encourage others to do business with the company. As long as customers perceive value and a customer engagement mind-set, they are likely to stay with a company and not beyond. Customers now, have far too many options and choices to compromise on quality and service, so those companies that do not match up, are setting themselves up for failure.

It is obvious then, that the stakes are too high for companies to ignore customer dictates. Success for companies will be determined by the customers based on their ability to listen, respond, provide value and top class customer service. To do this consistently, companies would need to inculcate a culture of service and a company-wide customer engagement mind-set. Doing so will ensure that customer experiences are memorable and pleasant and they in turn will help your company to differentiate itself and succeed long-term.

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