An effective customer engagement strategy is critical for any successful business — regardless of product, service, or industry. But as this year has seen the transformation of countless consumers’ buying habits, companies must adopt a new approach to customer engagement, one that helps them succeed in a changed world.
2020 has been an incredibly tough year for businesses worldwide. Even massive brands like Neiman Marcus and J.Crew have been hit hard by the pandemic, while more than 100,000 small businesses across the U.S. have shut permanently since March.
If you’ve made it this far: well done. It’s been a grueling marathon, hasn’t it? And it’s only July.
With the first two quarters out of the window, businesses now need to look at Q3 and Q4 as an opportunity to rebuild and repair — with an emphasis on winning back customer spend and loyalty.
But where to start? It all comes down to customer engagement. After all, two-thirds of companies compete on the quality of their customer experience and 96% of consumers agree that customer service is key to their purchase decisions. But how can you do this in a post-pandemic climate?
In this post, we’ll explore three simple but effective strategies to help your business drive customer engagement online.
What is customer engagement and why does it matter?
First things first: what exactly do we mean when we refer to “customer engagement”?
Let’s start with the basics.
Customer engagement can be defined as the continuous and valuable interactions between a business and its customers. Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, running a successful business is not only about attracting customers to your website, converting them with a stylish landing page, taking their money, and thanking them for their custom. That’s crucial for ongoing success, sure, but actually engaging customers and cultivating valuable relationships takes entirely more finesse.
Businesses trying to make a major impact on their industry or niche must understand their core audience, their pain points, their budget, their shopping habits, their goals, the most appealing options available to them, etc. before they can start to really engage them.
A successful company focusing on customer engagement should have the data to anticipate buyer needs and to position itself as the ideal solution. Catering to target consumer requirements and delivering a quality service can help to secure shoppers’ loyalty, as highly-engaged customers are more likely to keep coming back — making repeat purchases, and recommending the business to others.
And the figures speak for themselves. Increasing customer retention by as little as 5% can increase profits by between 25% to 95%! So it’s little surprise that 82% of businesses agree retention is more cost-effective than acquisition.
So how do you do it?
Below, we’ll walk through three strategies for driving customer engagement in a world that has changed considerably in the last few months.
Customer engagement strategy #1: Empathy equals engagement
To quote Seth Godin:
“People do not buy goods and services, they buy relations, stories and magic."
And while your marketing campaigns will weave engaging stories and sprinkle a little magic on your brand DNA, your customer service is where relationships really thrive with the right approach.
The problem is, research by PwC shows that 59% of consumers feel as though businesses have “lost touch with the human element of customer experience”. And 75% wanted to interact with a person rather than an automated machine.
In short: the way many brands are applying tech in customer service teams isn’t working for the end user.
Anyone who’s ever called a support line and been greeted by a never-ending list of options, seemingly without an agent in sight or had to contend with an ineffective chatbot for that matter, will understand how frustrating automated service can be — especially when you know exactly what you need, but can’t find a single person to ask.
That’s not to criticize automation, of course: it offers businesses many benefits, streamlining processes, managing huge amounts of customer data, and providing fast responses (such as confirmation emails). But the point remains: the human touch is important to a lot of customers. And that’s where empathy comes in.
This has multiple angles.
First and foremost — at the most basic level — businesses have to understand their target customers and recognize what problems must be solved. This is fundamental to ensure you’re catering to the right people and answering the right questions. But your customers’ pain points and situations may have changed dramatically since the pandemic started to disrupt their lives.
For example, customers who rely on subscription-based services — Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky, etc. — to entertain their kids and keep the house running smoothly may have new worries. They may be thinking: “What if I can’t afford to pay for the package I need any longer? How will I keep the kids quiet? I won’t be able to get any work done at home.”
Equally, those buying ad hoc may also be reconfiguring their personal spend. They might be wondering what they’ll be able to afford from you in the second half of the year, thinking: “Will prices increase within the next few months to make up for your business’s COVID-19-related losses?”.
Businesses must train their customer support teams to be aware of this, and to offer a friendly ear. Returning to PwC’s research, just 38% of consumers in the U.S. feel that representatives they interact with seem to understand their needs (this jumps to 46% outside of the States, by the way).
Either way, that simply isn’t good enough. Customers want to be heard, respected, and handled professionally.
When people feel more vulnerable — and the future seems less clear than ever before — every company must work hard to deliver the level of service customers deserve. This might mean slowing processes down a little to allow agents extra time to listen to customers during phone calls or live chats. But customers will appreciate the extra effort, and in the end, this will benefit your business.
And what about those customer service agents themselves? Life may be more challenging for them, too. While more employees are returning to offices, working from home is still recommended whenever possible in many places. Customer support teams can make calls and take part in live chats in their own home, but it’s likely to be a very different working environment than the office they’re used to.
Parents of young children may struggle to keep them quiet while dealing with customers, and callers will probably hear crying or yelling in the background during conversations. This could be considered unprofessional and frustrating, but businesses should remind customers that employees are doing their best in unusual circumstances and thank them for their patience in advance.
During these unprecedented times, overhearing family playtime unfolding in another room or a dog barking for a walk will just have to be endured.
To help with that transition, businesses must take a fresh look at their audience to identify any unmet needs and be more empathetic towards them as they adjust to a new way of life. Then, they should be honest about their new customer support set-up and ask that all involved are patient with the agents trying to do their best in a domestic environment.
Customer engagement strategy #2: Personalization
Customers interact with multiple companies on a regular basis, from ordering their groceries, buying a new pair of running shoes, and reading the news 100 times a day, to returning clothes that don’t fit.
Some of these brands will deliver a personalized service that helps customers feel visible, valued, and respected. Others won’t. And that means they’re less likely to engage their customers to their full potential.
Research shows that 31% of consumers wish their current shopping experiences were more personalized, and only 22% feel satisfied with the level of personalization they receive. More than half are willing to share personal data to facilitate this, for both relevant product recommendations and personalized shopping experiences.
Fortunately, customer service software empowers brands to deliver a level of personalized service not previously possible. For example, being able to access a customer’s interaction history enables an agent to understand their previous issues, what promises were made, what their preferred communication channel is — the list goes on! They’re not greeting the customer cold and asking them to provide their name, age, location, problem, etc. The service becomes faster, more efficient, and — critically — impressively personalized.
All of this matters, when an average of only 22% of consumers classify their shopping experiences as highly personalized. And, 40% of consumers in the U.S. admit to having purchased something more expensive than they had planned for because of a personalized experience.
Customer service software unifies communications across phone, email, chat and messaging, so your team can instantly access the information they need, all in one place. Customer recognition features provide agents with context to keep interactions personal (rather than starting from scratch each time), as do integrations with Shopify, Magento, and other popular systems.
Support teams can collaborate and solve problems together, thanks to easy transfer and listen-in options. This reduces the amount of time wasted and frustration caused by bouncing customers from one agent to another. Consumers will see teams working harmoniously to solve their problem, rather than trying to pass the buck.
Put simply: embracing more personalization in your customer engagement strategy will help your audience feel more valued. That’s why 44% of consumers are likely to become repeat buyers after personalized service and 39% will introduce their friends or relatives.
Customer engagement strategy #3: Agility is key to success
COVID-19 forced businesses to pivot; making quick changes to their operations and processes. Routines that had become established over years (or decades) were transformed almost overnight, as companies learned to adapt to survive.
For companies who had already embraced remote work and utilized cloud-based services, the transition may have been easier to manage. But businesses with no experience with online collaboration or communication had to learn on-the-go. This increases the risk of delays and disruptions to services — including customer support.
Fortunately, flexibility and adaptability are the cornerstones of remote working: embracing the right software solution empowers teams with the freedom to work from any location in the world as long as it has an internet connection.
Agents still have access to all the analytics and customer insights they need to offer a personalized experience, engaging consumers with a service tailored to their needs and communication preferences. This creates a stable foundation to build an efficient, effective, successful customer service network upon — no matter where your employees are.
Quality customer service software helps agents to cope with fluctuating workloads and to pay equal attention to every communication stream. Employees can monitor all relevant channels in one place rather than switching between them again and again. This reduces wasted time and boosts efficiency.
As intelligent routing prioritizes inquiries based on their importance, agents are unable to ignore interactions with the potential to get complicated. As a result, customers won’t be left waiting for a response while “easier” issues get addressed sooner. There’s also less risk of making genuine mistakes that frustrate customers — even when agents are working from home.
Lastly, businesses can expand their customer support teams to accommodate an increase in demand in a more cost-effective and fast way. They can set new agents up and increase efficiency without trying to find more office space.
That leaves your business truly ready for whatever the rest of the fiscal year brings.
Okay, 2020. Let’s try that again...
It’s not too late to turn your 2020 fortunes around.
These three strategies show how companies can boost customer engagement and secure long-term loyalty. They’re all easy to incorporate into your standard processes, and the right customer service software can be integrated hassle free — no matter how far your agents may be scattered.
To learn more about how Dixa can transform your business and your customer experience, book your demo now.