Customer engagement in an age of fleeting loyalty
Running a business can be very tricky in today’s hyper-competitive environment. While the cost of new customer acquisition is at an all-time high, existing customers don’t feel the need to stay with a company that doesn’t interest them. In this age of fleeting brand loyalty, improving your customer engagement is the only way to sustain your business for the long haul. But like most businesses, you might not even be aware that your customer engagement is suffering.
So what are some ways to check the health of your customer engagement? If your engagement is suffering, your growth metrics — such as conversions, profit, brand retention, and loyalty — all go down. If you have noticed a significant lag in these metrics, here are a few reasons why your customer engagement might be suffering.
Your customer engagement might be suffering because of the following reasons:
1. Poor UI/UX
2. No direct feedback loop from customers
3. Reactive customer engagement model
4. Lack of measuring customer feedback
5. Lack of an omnichannel engagement strategy
6. Mediocre customer service
7. Poor employee engagement
Let’s get into the weeds by discussing all of these points in detail.
Your business website is your online storefront. It has to look and feel warm, welcoming, and wonderful. Customers deliberately avoid doing business with companies that appear shady or offer an outdated or clunky user experience (UX).
Humans are pleasure-seeking beasts — we respond to visually stunning designs and often make decisions based on the quality of our interactions with those designs. It’s how we choose friends, hire people, swipe right on Tinder, and buy overpriced iPhones. This evolutionary (and psychological) trait lends itself to the business world as well; the majority of us make our buying decisions based on how certain brands make us feel through their design experience – whether that’s the latest car, phone or website. When we like a website’s user interface (UI), we become enamored by it and keep coming back for more fulfilling experiences.
And this principle applies as much to a brick and mortar shop as it does to an online business. Just look at how the in-store experiences are crafted in Macy’s, Disney World, or Home Depot. These brands make it feel rewarding for us to shop with them. In the online world, Airbnb has upstaged the traditional hospitality industry mostly because they use design to their competitive advantage. It’s not much different with TurboTax, which has made the mundane chore of tax-filing a breeze because of their focus on designing a great user experience. These businesses have a huge customer following not just because their websites are window-dressed to look pretty, but because it evokes dopamine-inducing experiences.
If your website has cluttered navigation, unclear pricing plans, and bad checkout experiences—fix them with a surgical urgency. When you want customers to perform certain actions, offer them the path of least resistance instead of annoying them with slow loading pages, frequent pop-ups, or an unintelligible web copy. Invest in hiring a talented UX team who can apply design thinking to all aspects of your online storefront and give it an aesthetic facelift. After all, the best designers think like business strategists, not abstract artists—and that is a reason enough for you to expand your budget for hiring UX designers.
Every business is people’s business even if you are selling the most boring products to B2B clients in Antarctica. Brand engagement suffers a lot when businesses forget this simple fact and desensitize their relationships with consumers. They over-automate their operations, lose their human touch, and gloss over the fact that business relationships also need caring and fostering because it’s people buying their services.
It’s become more critical than ever to talk to your customers directly in today’s digital environment because almost all of your business correspondence happens through digital screens. When you don’t invest in talking to your customers directly, you miss out on the huge opportunity to feel their pulse—how they feel about your brand, what they expect, and how you can add more value to your current offerings. It’s a crucial feedback loop you can’t afford to miss.
When you talk to customers directly and more frequently, they can inform you on your product strengths and weaknesses. You might come across surprising discoveries that might lead you to make changes to your service to better align it with your customer expectations. They do your business a favor by giving you valuable feedback—even if its negative—and an opportunity to improve. It’s a much better place to be in than losing customers to a silent churn because 96% of all unhappy customers abandon a brand without even voicing their concerns.
This is a bit of advice we at Freshworks religiously follow. Every quarter, several Freshworks teams across our global branches invite our customers to join us at our Open Days for a couple of rounds of beer and pizza. But the food and beverages are just excuses—it’s actually an interaction opportunity for us to mingle with customers, understand their challenges, and to receive critical feedback on our products and processes. This has led us to a better understanding of how our customers think and has helped us create a sustainable customer engagement model.
Here are a few photos from our recent Open Day meet-up from Australia & New Zealand (ANZ) region:
We make it a point to interact frequently with our customers, be it through Open Day interactions or Refresh, the annual Freshworks’ user conference slated for September this year.
Our suggestion to you is: organize similar events or encourage feedback from your happiest and unhappiest customers and actively take part in events that see an influx of your customers or your target audience. This is the best way to compensate for the lack of direct engagement with your customers on a digital landscape. Also, engage with each social media post and product review website that mentions your brand and be responsive to your customer comments.
It’s a business attribution error to assume that customer engagement and service are fundamentally reactive. But that’s only the half-truth. Engagement in today’s context is a core part of your marketing and community outreach efforts. You can’t just expect your customers to gravitate towards your brand—you have to proactively create brand stickiness in order to improve engagement.
So simply monitoring and replying to social media mentions won’t cut it. A good customer engagement strategy is not just proactive, it’s personalized, contextual, as well as continuous. You have to come up with effective customer engagement strategies to get your customers drooling for more.
For instance, you can trigger a chat pop-up for customers logged in to your website and ask them if they need any help with your products. Or, you can send a weekly newsletter to your prospects and customers to announce new product updates and improve feature adoption.
Many of our customers love Freshchat because it makes customer engagement simple. As an example, even if a customer drifts away to another tab during a chat conversation, they will see a push notification that brings them right back to the chat. Similarly, Freshchat employs Smart Plugs to help service reps to know the chat history, user’s profile, and other related contexts before they can initiate a chat with the customer.
This is the business version of burying your head in your sand. You won’t see the dangers that the lack of customer engagement creates for your business until you measure your customer feedback. But therein lies the danger—because what you don’t know will hurt you.
Trying to improve customer engagement ends up being a guessing game if you don’t actually track the engagement metrics that matter. Consider this—you have a great product and amazing customer service. Even your lead conversion rate paints a very rosy picture. But somehow, your customer retention is falling through the cracks. For some mysterious reason, people churn away from your brand after an average of one year.
This gets your marketing team guessing: Is it because your pricing is too high? Are your customers switching to cheaper brands? Or, is your product’s relevance dying? Jumping to all these conclusions is like shooting darts in the dark.
But if you go deeper, you might come to a solid understanding of a problem. It might very likely be the lack of a community feeling or the absence of a referral program might be creating a distance between you and your customers. You can solve these problems by creating and actively moderating a user forum and launching a referral/rewards program to close the relationship gap.
Make it imperative for all your teams to measure your customer engagement metrics across the board. Make use of live chat to analyze your CSAT rating, implement upvote/downvote buttons in your support articles, and encourage customers to share their candid feedback. Monitor your brand’s NPS health and social media engagement. Optimizing your engagement becomes easy once you have a clear understanding of your customers’ problems.
Traditionally, business deals happened in the client’s boardrooms, over a game of golf, or on a website’s payment page. And these were the places where businesses focused their customer engagement efforts. But with the wild spread of new platforms in recent decades, the surface area of customer engagement has expanded too. You can’t concentrate your customer engagement strategies on a few fronts and leave other areas unattended.
But that’s actually what might be happening with your brand. You are either not present at all the places where your customers are, or you are simply setting up a presence across multiple channels without an integrated plan. For instance, you don’t regularly post updates on social media because you believe social networking doesn’t appeal to your B2B clients. Or it could be that your social media interactions feel disjointed from your customer service. Imagine how broken this experience might feel to consumers, the majority of who expect brands to offer an omnichannel experience.
If your customer engagement is lagging behind, chances are you are not fully optimizing an omnichannel experience to your customers across all these channels:
- Your website
- Social media
- Retargeting platforms
- Offline events
Here’s the deal with omnichannel engagement—customers love it because consistency breeds predictability. Cohesive omnichannel interactions reinforce customers’ trust in your brand and help them seamlessly navigate through the buyer journey from a wide spectrum. That’s why we are pioneering the customers for life philosophy to help businesses like yours offer a wholesome customer engagement model.
Much like customer engagement, service is another pillar that buttresses your brand’s success. They have a directly proportional relationship; when customer service stands on wobbly knees, your brand engagement wavers out of balance. But that’s not the worst part—the bigger tragedy is that poor customer service costs businesses billions of dollars.
Mediocre customer service is far below today’s accepted standards of customer service in businesses across industries. It diminishes the perceived value that consumers might have for your brand, which ultimately makes them defect from your brand. Just look at Comcast as an example; their consistent lack of delivering good customer service earned them the notoriety of being one of the most hated companies in the U.S.
If you want to ramp up your customer engagement, set a high standard for your service offerings and create an action plan for achieving that goal. Start by taking a thorough audit of your customer service quality. Measure all the important service metrics, such as first response time, first contact resolution time, and customer satisfaction (CSAT). Streamline your refund and return policies and train your service professionals to be customer champions.
Most businesses suffer from poor quality customer service because they still rely on delivering support via phone and email. While these channels are still relevant, they are slower and reactive ways of solving customer problems. On the other hand, modern brands leverage live chat for customer engagement, in addition to the traditional support stack. Chat is more justifiable to your return on investment (ROI) because it offers self-service advantages and comes with proactive service capabilities.
Once you understand how customer service improves customer engagement, it’s easy to see how live chat can help your brand improve on both fronts.
Remember the saying—charity begins at home? It’s a maxim that is true for your customer engagement as well. Several studies have found that customer engagement takes a dive when employee engagement falters. If you dig deeper into the culture of businesses that are grappling to keep their customer engagement healthy, you will most certainly find them lacking a good employee experience (EX). The correlation has a direct impact on all your touchpoints and it eventually hits your bottom line.
A great EX often leads to a great CX because the foundation of a strong customer engagement strategy is rooted deeply in how an organization thinks and feels. If you don’t care for your employees and respect them, they will grow frustrated and that emotion will eventually reflect in your customer engagement.
The remedy is to take an employee-first approach. Launch employee advocacy programs, start caring personally for your employees as people and cheer them for their personal and professional growth. It’s not a coincidence for companies such as Zappos, Hewlett Packard, and Adobe to have a world-class reputation in customer engagement; it’s because they have stellar records in employee engagement.
Engage, empower, and earn customers for life
Engaged customers are your best customers. They are the first ones to open all your emails, retweet your social media posts, and advocate your brand to other people in your network. In today’s age of fragile brand loyalty, your brand’s success depends highly on how good are your customer engagement metrics. When you engage with customers with all your might, you will soon reap the rewards of retaining loyal customers for life.
On the other hand, non-engaged customers lead to high brand attrition and can cause your business to die a death by a thousand cuts—one lost customer at a time.
(Illustration designed by Mohanraj Nainan Selvam)
Want to get actionable insights on improving your customer engagement? We have curated an in-depth survey on the new rules for customer engagement, based on the responses of 3000 consumers spread across 6 countries. Download it here: