The Path to Active Customer Engagement

“Engagement with the customer today isn’t just pouring a message on their head and hoping they get wet. It really is understanding that you must be present in a conversation they want to have, not when you want to.” – pinterest.com

Every business would realize that active customer engagement is the path to creating raving fans from customers, who become more loyal and profitable with time. No company exists without customers, and hence it would be imprudent to believe that companies do not need strategies that lead to engaged customers and that would consistently enhance their level of engagement. Despite the importance of keeping customers engaged, very few companies actually succeed in actually doing so and an even fewer number have a culture and a company-wide approach to this vital aspect. We know that customer service should not be the ‘duty’ of one department alone, but something that everyone in the company understands and works towards in everything they do. It must begin by first ‘engaging’ employees enough for them to ‘spill’ this attitude to the customers and other business ‘partners’ of the company.

Just like with every business metrics, gauging and monitoring to know if your company is on the track for active customer engagement, is essential. Monitoring this metrics however, is not easy – it is quite complex and requires measurement of several attributes that would determine how customers perceive a company. We know that customers relate to a business through various levels such as rational and logical, emotional, ethical and those that involve certain beliefs. This means that for many companies active customer engagement is a herculean task and nothing short of a daily battle. Companies would need to build ‘muscle’ of added skills, effort, talent, top leadership, and proactively design strategies to ensure that their customers remain happy and the business continues to flourish. What businesses sometimes fail to understand is that these challenges and ‘battles’ can be won by constantly focusing on active customer engagement even when all is working smoothly.

To ensure active customer engagement, companies must engage with customers at the right time, through the right channels and with the right offers. Companies often believe that ‘shoving’ products and brands towards customers would draw them in. This is a self-defeating move since customers view these activities, as attempts to sell that are impersonal, and those that the companies are doing for their own interests. Customers want and expect to be engaged as and when they want, and the activities must be addressed to their pertinent needs. There is no genuineness in offering loyalty cards and programs to customers over email and other channels, and then making them wait incessantly when they approach your company directly or over the phone.

Active customer engagement is all about putting across strategies when customers find value in it. The fact is that customers will buy more and prospective ones will be attracted a company and its offers, if the company first works on the relationship without attempts to sell. Creating affinity and closeness to the brand through a variety of means would draw people in and get them interested in the company enough to want to know more and build an association. Engaged customers in fact, work equally hard on their association with the company – they link their success with that of the company, create new opportunities, and help to prevent failures.

Companies that see active customer engagement as a cost would fail to use it as an opportunity to grow and become valuable to customers. Instead, engagement of customers must be seen as an aspect of business that would gain profits by assessing the needs and expectations of customers proactively and by preventing minor issues to escalate to full-fledged complaints.  Resolving customer issues and queries early on in fact, saves a lot of time, money, effort, and embarrassment for a company – we know that irate customers do not wait to let others know of their poor experiences, leading companies to press extra resources to play in order to prevent the negativity from spreading. Research and data proves that the average annual value of each customer lost to competition or them just leaving a company, is around $289-300. Multiply the figure by each customer that may leave, and a company could face serious losses and near closure.

We know that the customers of today place customer service at the top of everything else that a company may do for them. Active customer engagement stems from top class service – that is support and help when customers need and want it the most. A company should be able to help customers make informed decisions, provide them with engaging and interesting content, and make the association as human, personal, and emotionally connected as possible. The company must focus inward to have a culture of customer-centricity with policies, processes, strategies, and employees – all aligned towards keeping customers at the centre of everything they do. When companies focus on making customers successful, customers remain satisfied and happy, and over time become engaged on a personal level with the company. Through active customer engagement, a company would be able to get customers to associate on a personal level and be more amenable to accept offers and solutions from the company, without ado. This over time forms the basis of a strong and robust relationship replete with trust, dependability, and value.

To ensure active customer engagement, a company must consistently check back with customers on the various parameters of service and the reasons for why they would continue doing business with the company and what would make them leave. Engaged customers are more likely to provide honest and complete answers to customer surveys, providing companies with great insights into what they need to do more of, and what they should improve. Engaged customers are also more willing to divulge personal information, since they trust that the company would use this data for the benefit of the customers and make their lives and business easier to run.

We know that customers have easy and more access to information given the internet, smart mobile devices, and a plethora of channels from which to gain the information they seek. However, the downside of so much information is that it is more complicated and time consuming to sift the data that would be relevant to them. For active customer engagement, a company could consistently provide customers with information – not just about their own products and services, and industry but also on a wide variety of subjects and across industries. Providing customers with engaging and useful information allows them to be more informed, make swifter decisions, and overall improve the quality of their business and lives. Over time, customers tend to trust a company and show this faith through repeat business and referrals of their associates and friends.

Active customer engagement must therefore be one of the top goals for any company / brand, irrespective of the industry and size of business. Engaging customers, as mentioned, is certainly not easy especially with growing competition and with traditional mind-sets that some companies continue to maintain. Working in silos, placing the responsibility of customer service on a particular team, and in effect remaining unaware of what customers really need and want. Active customer engagement, like all business imperatives with regard to customers, is a process that each person in the company must be aware of and be willing to work towards consistently. What does your company do to encourage active customer engagement?

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