What is customer engagement? The science and art of engaging with your customers  

Customer engagement is the art of involving the product/brand in your customer’s journey (empathetic conversations) and the science of involving your customers in the product’s journey (user interaction).

We live in a world where there is unity in opposites. Yin and yang, positive and negative, hot and cold, success and failure, science and art—these opposites shape every aspect of existence, every moment, and every discovery. Then there are choices—hard and easy choices to make. You can pick one of the two to frame your progress. But striking a balance is what makes you progress, almost always. Now, when we apply this to building and scaling a business, there is always science and art associated with different wings of the business and it’s all about setting the right balance and understanding.

In this blog, we will be talking in and out about customer engagement. Once you decode both the science and art of customer engagement, it’s easier to ace customer happiness and strategize your user interaction plan accordingly.

What is customer engagement?

Customer engagement is a two-way street. Engagement can be defined based on the positioning of the user in the user journey—we can precisely look at it as how the user interacts with the product (this is applicable only for users of the product) and how the brand interacts with the user outside of the product to build a good relationship (this can be both for current users and potential customers).

Scientifically speaking, in the context of products and services, engagement is the level of user interaction and involvement within a product. This refers to the frequency, intensity, or depth of interaction between user and product, feature, or service over a given period of time.

Looking at it from a different paradigm, customer engagement is the art of engaging in meaningful conversations with your customers inside and outside of the product. It’s the measurement of empathy, context, happiness, and proximity between the brand and the customer.

Customer engagement is an unbiased behavioral measurement and stands as a trustworthy, valid, and reliable measurement of customer satisfaction.

Why pay attention to customer engagement?

In today’s relationship-centric economy where most of the businesses are subscription based, customer engagement stands as the most infallible way to build and sustain your relationship with your customers.

Understanding your customer’s engagement and behavior toward your product and brand reveals how much your product meets their true need and how much your customers are hooked into using it. Different engagement metrics can reveal not just frequency of usage, but also depth and volume of usage that can be more indicative of value and great user experience.

A solid customer engagement strategy makes it easier to understand what is working and what is not working in your product, and hence help you in making actionable decisions with respect to your product updates and feature enhancements. For example, here are some actionable decisions you can take by planning and measuring your customer engagement:

Prioritizing features

When certain features demonstrate high engagement, your users are signalling that these features are valuable. This means you should consider developing these features more to make them even more valuable.

Discontinuing features

The other side of the scale are features that have low or even zero engagement. It probably means it’s time to stop investing in them and maybe put them to sleep.

Performing split tests

Split tests or A/B tests are helpful in choosing between different variations of a feature or a product. Engagement data helps in focusing these experiments on product areas that matter to your users. This can further help with deciding on which feature works and which doesn’t for your target audience.

When users are deeply engaged with key product features, it means you have reached the product/market fit. Actionable customer engagement can provide you with meaningful signals from your users. They expose you to truths about your product that you may not have been aware of and are a direct indication of poor or excellent user experience.

There are multiple ways in which you can achieve customer engagement. Moving along, we’ll further dive into understanding the art and science behind valuable customer engagement.

The art of engaging with your customers

Customer engagement

Customer engagement as a strategy focuses on building a good relationship with your customers and thereby helping them develop a strong likeability and preference towards your product.

As I already mentioned before, engagement happens in two parallel dimensions—both inside the product and around the product. Developing a product that’s highly engaging is a matter of sheer user experience intelligence, which is something that requires high technical expertise—we’ll leave this to the science side. When we specifically look at the art of engaging with your customers, it’s more about the behavioral aspect of your interaction and engagement. It’s about scaling a brand that is relatable and liked by all your customers. Here are some snackable best practices to build a highly engaging brand:

Know yourself and your customers

As they say, every relationship starts with the ‘why’ and grows with the ‘who’. Knowing yourself and knowing your customers help in building a concrete customer engagement plan as it provides you an opportunity to map out the behaviors of both the parties involved. Your customer engagement plan must start with a user persona—a step by step behavioral analysis of your target audience, the problems they face, their interaction pattern, and journey touch points. The second step is to create a brand persona, where you answer this question of ‘if your brand was a person, who would it be and what kind of an opinion, stand, voice, and tone will it imbibe?’ This sets the stage for a highly contextual customer engagement model.

Channelize your inner empathy

Place your customers before you, always. To build a truly meaningful customer engagement model, make your brand human-like and ensure that every user gets treated like they matter. One way to always offer a truly empathetic solution to your customers is by incorporating the ‘What’s in it for them’ approach. Every time you provide a solution, release a new feature, announce a product update, send out an email, set a campaign—whatever might be the reason or scope for interaction, always ask yourself, ‘what’s in it for them?’ This ensures an empathetic approach towards interacting with your customers and help in making your product useful and valuable to the users.

Messaging to the rescue

Customer engagement is basically interaction between the brand and its customers. Nowadays, with messaging becoming the number one medium of interaction between people, users want to use the same medium to communicate with businesses as well.

As the world grows smaller and smaller due to the multiple opportunities to connect and build relationships, it is important for businesses and brands to forget announcement-based communication tools and apply asynchronous and modern messaging solutions to engage in context-sensitive conversations with their customers.

Proximity matters

It is imperative for your brand to stay with your customers throughout their journey, in the most non-intrusive way possible. Which means it’s fewer pop-ups and help-windows and more choice-based conversations. This is where proximity comes in. Ensure that you employ the right tools in your website and product to be available for your customers round-the-clock, ensuring accessibility and conversational support whenever needed, in whichever way they want to reach out to you. Make yourself reachable. Make yourself available. Hear them out and be there for them—as close as possible and as subtle as possible. Live chat tools are your best options to achieve non-intrusive proximity with your customers.

Let’s talk science behind customer engagement

customer engagement

Looking at engagement as science enables us to devise a more actionable engagement strategy—like a formula for success. These formulas, unlike the art of engagement, are measurable and scalable. They are more factual and require you to treat them as more of a process than a strategy.

Don’t over-engage

Identify the core, most valuable, revenue-driving, or satisfaction-driving features to implement engagement strategies. Focusing your attention on just a few critical features helps everyone understand what is the experience and where most efforts should be directed.

Products and services may have dozens, hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of different features. Every feature doesn’t have to be built with the intention to encourage user engagement. Some features are just good to have. Some features might aid specific users at specific touchpoints and cannot be treated as a medium for engagement. When you build your engagement plan outside of your product, ensure that you have identified platforms and touchpoints that work for you. Do not be present all over. This leads to suffocation. Understand the places where your target audiences are present and device measurable engagement plans on those tracks.

Behavior over attitude

As per Google’s paper on measuring user-centric metrics for web applications, there is an established practice of measuring attitudinal data (such as customer satisfaction). However, in terms of behavioral data, the established measurements are mostly small-scale and are mostly task-based, example: effectiveness (task completion rate, error rate) and efficiency (time-on-task). It is important to start paying attention to off-the-shelf behavior metrics that give you a glimpse of true engagement stats.

Customer engagement strategies are mainly targeted towards two things—user engagement and customer happiness. Both are behavior-based metrics that can be measured by observing how the customers are engaging with your product in real-time rather than measuring their attitude towards your product. What do I mean by this? What people say does not necessarily match how they behave. As far as customer engagement is concerned, give more attention and weight to behavioral (what they do) rather than attitude (what they think).

For example, rather than asking your users to predict their future behavior using an NPS question and bizarre calculations, ask them about actual behavior they have demonstrated recently or even better, track it. “In the last two weeks, did you recommend us to a friend or colleague?” [Yes/No]. The score would be the percent of people who answered “Yes”.

Context-based measurement

Measuring engagement out of context will lead to a skewed engagement report. Engagement with a product must be measured at the right time, the right place, and with the right person. If you ask about satisfaction using an annual survey while people use the product or feature once a day, people don’t remember what happened. If you measure satisfaction not during or immediately after people use it, you are measuring out of context.

If you are planning to send out a satisfaction survey, convert it into a likeability survey and send it immediately after the customer uses the product. Make the survey personalized based on the feature or product used by the customer. Also, importantly, ask the question to the right users and be prepared to make alterations to your product once you understand that they did not have a good experience with a particular feature.

Use the right tools

Deploying the right tools for engagement helps in propelling the interaction game in the right direction. Some useful tools that you can swear by are:

Live chat tool

 A good live chat tool that allows you to have a proactive and conversational interaction with your customers within your website. Nowadays, live chat tools come with multifold possibilities and are specifically designed to enable user engagement. Using a live chat tool, you can achieve a friendly and participative collaboration with your users.

Split test tool

There are hundreds of website A/B testing tools, which can be used to test customer engagement. These tools can be used to test different UI options and interaction designs to retain the engagement model that works and remove the ones that don’t work.

User journey tool 

Using a journey tool provides the right context before starting a conversation with your customer. These tools also provide heat maps on the pages that were explored by your users before engaging with you, and the time spent on these pages.

Personalized push notification 

Use personalized messaging tools that can push out notifications and help messages that are highly personalized based on the tasks performed by the users.

Hope you got a hang of the science and art behind customer engagement. The right balance of both helps you formulate a fool-proof customer engagement model that results in happy and engaged customers.