We are in an age of empathy, engagement and meaningful interactions. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that ‘conversations are the building blocks of today’s businesses’.
Conversations shape user journeys and impact their life cycle. Empathy, engagement and emotion are becoming the stepping stones of a sturdy business.
Whether you’re looking to onboard new customers, retain existing ones, or check how they’re getting on with your product, there are multiple engagement strategies that you need to incorporate.
As it gets more and more important to effectively engage with customers, businesses are finding it difficult to identify conversational deadlocks and swim through sales black holes. Most businesses these days are daunted by the challenge of effectively engaging with customers to grow their business.
More than half of companies admit to not having a formal customer engagement program in place, and 60% didn’t know how many customers they’d lost over the past year. – Convero
Customers do not seem to fit themselves into a funnel or a life-cycle graph anymore. They are scattered, and they are getting unpredictable. It is getting extremely difficult to understand their behaviors and map their journey. Understanding your user persona, mapping their journey, analyzing their goals, and engaging with them on the right platform with the right tone is becoming a disconcerting task.
Your unique selling proposition is going to be all about what you say, how you say it, and when you say it. Your engagement style is going to stand as a differentiating factor for your brand perception and reputation.
By 2020, customer engagement and experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiators. – Walker
Customer engagement is a concept that is married to user journey. Every user behaves in a certain way as they move along this lifecycle. Some of the most important phases in a user journey where businesses can achieve maximum value by effective engagement are:
- when the user is a first time visitor (engagement for acquisition),
- when the user is using the trial version of your product (engagement for onboarding), and
- when the user becomes a paid customer (engagement for retention).
It’s important to decode these and have best practices for each of these phases to ace customer engagement and win your customers heart.
We are getting to a pace where we cannot afford to not have a strategy for customer engagement. So, what next? I’ve put together a list of best practices to ace customer engagement based on user journey – some ideas you can use to align with your own strategy and get you off the ground.
Customer engagement for acquisition
There is a misconception that customer engagement starts somewhere in the middle of the funnel. Though it makes sense that engaging with your existing customers helps reduce churn and improve retention, it’s all the more important to start engaging with your potential customers as well, early on. First step to achieve this is to chalk out the persona of your target audience and understand their requirement. Have a detailed picture of where they are present, what they are looking for, how they behave, and when you should start engaging with them. Let’s look at some of the ways in which you can engage with potential customers or first time visitors.
- Create your online brand persona – The first step to customer engagement is creating a brand persona that your target audience would want to interact with. This persona should reflect on mediums like your website, social media profiles, blogs, and other social interactions. If your brand was a human, what’s his/her identity. Decide on tonal factors. Map adjectives that define your brand’s style online. Should your website be colourful, chic, expensive looking, relatable, or friendly? Should the content that you create be opinionated, factual, personal, joyful, informative, or controversial? Should your social media accounts be playful or professional? These are some of the questions that you can start with.
- Be a social media ninja – Be observant of what your target audience are saying on social media. Hear them out, and most importantly answer their queries whenever possible. Engage by posting valuable content on topics they want to know or learn about. This phase is all about creating visibility of your product and helping people discover ‘why’ they should invest in you.
- Use conversations to capture leads – This is specifically for first time visitors on your site. Make sure that you have a live chat tool, that helps you engage in conversations with your customers as and when they visit the site. You can have a catchy and persuasive triggered message that drives the user to respond. Chatbots can be integrated to capture leads and collect user details, thereby reducing the first response time.
Chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by the year 2020. – Gartner
Customer engagement for onboarding
The next most important phase for customer engagement is when the customer signs up to use your product or service for the first time. Your engagement strategies at this point decides the journey of the customer with your product. At this stage, you need to start showing your customers that you care, so stating the obvious – empathy is the key. Here are ways to improve engagement with your customers during their onboarding phase.
- Create a strong impression – Your users are looking for reasons to continue engaging with you. They are using your product to solve problems or achieve goals. You need to be able to help them accomplish this. Send out emails with guidelines and best practices based on specific use cases that they might need to use your product for. Give them a chance to take a tour of your product and ask them for feedback. Send them in-app messages to proactively engage with them and keep them informed of updates.
- Provide help in every way possible – One of the most important ways to engage with your customers is by providing an omnichannel engagement experience. Your support should be solid and accessible through your customers preferred channel, be it messaging, call, or email. For customers who do not prefer such interactions, keep them engaged through in-product FAQs, which lets them explore the product on their own. Proactively share help videos and checklists if you find them inactive for a while.
- Create a habit among users – Every kick-ass brand out there, like Google, Facebook, and Slack are doing great for a reason – they create habit among their users. Try to help your users build a habit using your product. The only way to do this is to be consistent and persuasive with respect to the content that you post. For example, Twitter posts interactive tweets to allow users to interact with the brand.
Multiple brands send out newsletters that offer huge value to the readers, so much so that the users eagerly wait to read and share their insights and thoughts on social media. You can look at creating habits by means of rewarding people who have crossed a particular number of transactions in a month. For example, if you run an ecommerce site, you can offer a great discount, or provide a free gift if a user makes regular purchases for more than a particular amount. This way you encourage the user to purchase every month.
Customer engagement for retention
Customer retention is a true representation of how successful your company is in terms of satisfying your customers. A study by Price Intelligently showed that a 1% increase in acquisition affects your bottom line by about 3.3%. But improving your retention by 1% increases your bottom line by around 7%. Retention can be twice as powerful as acquisition in terms of profitability. And guess what? Customer engagement is the direct quantification for retention.
Source – Prince Intelligently
Here are ways to improve engagement to retain your customers.
Obtain feedback and act on it – Be on the lookout for feedback and testimonials from your customers. Act on feedback, answer queries, and offer shoutouts to good testimonials on social media. At this phase, your customers have specific expectations and they want to be heard out at all times. Ensure that you employ channels like live chat that enable instant and proactive customer support. Keep an eye on CSAT scores. Reach out to your customers whenever you receive a mediocre score to understand what’s missing.
Encourage and reward customer advocacy – Most businesses take loyal customers for granted. Avoid this. Analyze your CSAT and reach out to customers who have given you a good rating. They are your potential advocates. Collaborate with them and encourage them to talk about your product to their friends circle and followers. Offer incentives for leads generated through them. Build a community and share newsletters, guidelines and videos on a regular basis to keep them engaged. Every time there is a product update, include them in the testing phase.
Deploy a customer success team – Deploying a customer success team is proven to improve retention of customers. A customer success team should ideally have individual clients to deal with. The team should engage with the clients on a regular basis, by sending out personalized messages and emails. These messages should be highly contextual. For example – It’s NOT the best experience to send a “Congratulations” message and offer a window seat to a customer, whose flight just got cancelled. Customer success teams can host regular meetups with their clients to discuss market trends and existing problems to be solved. These guys can also send out incentives that are personalized to specific customers.
The bottom line being, if you’re really in for the long haul, then pay attention to customer engagement.
So yes, customer engagement is vital. If you do not take good care of the different phases of user journey and engage with your customers efficiently, it might cost you more than just your revenue.