Customer Engagement for Competitive Advantage

“In this age of the customer, the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge and engagement with customers.” – Forrester

With so much competition to beat off and the oceans of information that is available to everyone, it is so for companies to get lost in this frenzy and as a result lose out on customer attention. However, the upside is that there are many more channels through which to connect with customers. Companies need to master the art of managing and assimilating all the channels to reach out to customers from all segments, thereby ensuring customer engagement, attention and ultimately business from them. In order to gain a competitive edge through customer engagement, companies must be sure to provide meaningful communication, valuable information, customized products and personalized customer service. Customer engagement drives profits and increases the chances of a company’s sustainable advantage.

Customer engagement can also be had by ensuring that each contact point, every interaction and connection that customers make with the company displays a commitment to serve and be of value. It is about giving customers positive experiences that will create indelible and lasting memories. Everything that a company does for its customers must create a robust foundation to ensure that these positive experiences occur each time if they expect to gain customer engagement and loyalty over time. Customer engagement takes place when each customer perceives that they are receiving tailored and personalized communication and service and not rote and mechanized versions of customer service. Companies must continually develop the efficiency to connect with customers through the most appropriate communication channel thereby ensuring that the focus remains on customer engagement and retention.

Most companies probably believe that they are doing their best – in fact doing everything they can to tap into possibly the most lucrative portion of their business – customer engagement. However, if customers do not believe this to be true, then the efforts of a company would prove unfruitful. According to a study, a very small percentage (8%) of companies received the thumbs up from their customers on the subject of customer engagement. This percentage is way below the percentage of companies that ‘believe’ they are doing a fantastic job at customer engagement. This gap must be filled and hence companies have their work cut out for them if they wish to increase profits and gain long term success. Companies with a customer focus would be investing time and other resources in to creating customer engagement for a happy and loyal customer base. A study revealed that even a minor increase of 10% in positive customer experiences could push earnings up by more than a billion dollars and that is solid business that no company can afford to ignore.

Customer engagement gives rise to loyalty and trust and when customers learn to believe and depend on a company, they are more likely to spend more, ensure that your company is the first one they turn to when they need something and most importantly bring more customers with them. This is the best kind of publicity and marketing technique for any company since people are more likely to believe existing customers than the best marketing and promotional campaigns of a company. The revenue and profits of this kind is enough to drive your competitors crazy and make your employees, investors and other stakeholders love you and stick with you for a long time.

The other and perhaps most critical benefit of customer engagement is reduced customer attrition. We know that it is an uphill task to attract customers but it is even more onerous to retain them – competition is just waiting to grab them away and customers love the attention! However, when your company is able to keep its customer’s attention and consistently churns out strategies and policies to ensure customer engagement, retention becomes a lot easier. With even a 5% increase in customer retention, companies are in a happy position of being able to raise their profits from 25% to a whopping 125% – according to a study. If there are happy effects of customer engagement, there are also devastating consequences of not being able to do so, primarily customer churn.

Given these astounding figures, it is rather befuddling that some companies still fail to do a good job on customer engagement. It may not be simple, but investing in customer relationship management tools and software, dedicated and highly trained staff, customer focused culture and other such customer friendly strategies make the task of customer engagement a lot easier. Through these tools companies are able to collect, collate and analyse customer data and create customized offerings, experiences and services for each of their customer segments. As customers perceive the attention, focus, personalization and commitment they become more interested in your company and soon this leads to customer engagement. Customers may be a tough set to please, but when your company sincerely and consistently serves them, they are more than happy to stay loyal, profitable and willing ambassadors.

Customer engagement is a complex part of customer relationships. It happens when every part of the company is working together seamlessly. Employees must be aligned to this goal, technology must be consistently upgraded, the business model must constantly be redefined to match the changing market scenario, the content of the communication that goes out via multiple channels must be uniform, the branding of the company must be unique yet consistent and other such business imperatives that act as stimulants for customer engagement.

The basic idea is to improve and constantly upgrade customer experiences. As a customer you know that if you can associate a company with happiness and comfort, you are more likely to want to return. For example – if you visit a restaurant for the first time and everything is perfect – the food, ambience, seating, service staff and even the music – chances are very high that you would go there again and you would expect that the second time too would be the same. If it is, there would be another visit and if not then you would dismiss the first time as a fluke. Unlikely that you would recommend this place to friends either. For positive customer experiences to turn into customer engagement, the experiences must be consistent and uniform. Customers are unlikely to give a company another chance – they don’t need to with so many companies running on similar lines and perhaps with better customer service than what is offered in your company.

Customer engagement cannot happen without regular and relevant communication. When a company is able to personalize the communication it sends out and the channel through which these messages go out, customers are more inclined to read and believe it. Providing a call to action at some portion of these communiqués enabling the readers to share it on, is also a way to boost customer engagement and attract more attention to your company and its offerings. When a customer is excited enough to share ‘news’ about what they receive as service and products from your company, it is the start of customer engagement that will improve as their recommendations are accepted amongst their associates.

Whatever your company does, the winning strategy is to think about how your customers would perceive the actions. Think about how you as a customer would like to be served and what would you associate with as being a great customer experience. Customer engagement comes from truly and actively listening to what your customers say and then acting on their suggestions swiftly and effectively for sustained competitive advantage.

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