When was the last time you experienced really stellar customer service?

Chances are, you’re now trying to remember an occasion where you had an issue with a product, service or brand, and a representative helped you solve it.

Because that’s what we tend to think of when we think ‘customer service’ — problem and solution.

So what about customer engagement, then? That’s often a little less clear.

After all, the word ‘engagement’ is more ambiguous than ‘service’ making it difficult to pinpoint exact moments of customer engagement — even if you’re the customer in question!

The thing is, customer engagement is happening all the time, everywhere. And, for brands and businesses, this aspect of the customer experience is only going to get more important...

What is customer engagement?

Every single interaction between a brand and a buyer represents customer engagement — it could be the packaging of an item at the grocery store, an email newsletter, the unboxing of an ecommerce delivery or interacting with customer support.

In fact, thanks to social media and other digital communication streams, businesses are now able to engage with their customers 24/7.

This means that customer service is just one cog in the wheel. If you’ve got lightning fast complaint resolution, but your social media messages always go unanswered, then you are not your customer engagement is not as good as it could be.

So what makes great customer engagement? How can businesses use their reach to improve on customer experience, at all stages of the buyer journey?

To answer this question, we’ll be deep-diving into the 3 key trends that are shaping customer engagement today and into 2020.

Let’s take a look.

Your customers are omnichannel, so your business needs to be too

If you’ve done your customer research well, then you’ll know exactly where your target audience is browsing, purchasing and communicating with brands.

This could be via an app, on social media, through e-commerce marketplaces and/or brick-and-mortar stores. Regardless of where your customers are, one thing is for certain: you need to be there too.

In other words, imagine a new customer comes across your product via a Facebook ad. This ad links to your online shop where it’s possible to buy from you, but not to speak to you. Although interested, this new customer wants to get a little more information before she commits to a purchase. But there’s no chat option... Sure, there’s a link to an email address but that’s too much effort. She closes the tab, and you’ve just lost a buyer. Usually for good.

With a simple addition of a chat widget, this potential customer’s query could have been handled by your team in a matter of seconds. And the end of this story may well have been a sale.

But delivering seamless, omnichannel customer support isn’t just for the benefit of new prospects, it helps nurture existing customers too. It can take years to establish loyalty and advocacy — but it’s fair to say this process is sped up immensely if frequent shoppers can chat, order, track and troubleshoot from multiple devices and platforms.

So, at the very least, your brand needs a communication presence on every platform that your customer base uses. Then, to truly excel in customer engagement, you need to have all these communication channels funneling into one central location to unify the customer experience.

This way, if a customer chats with you on Facebook one day, then reaches out via email the next, you’ve got one centralized location where a full customer engagement history is held. They’ll feel recognized, respected and valued  — and your sales will soar.

Conversations beat transactions

Whilst you can’t grow a business on conversations alone, brands would do well to realize the commercial value of supporting long-term, continuous dialogue with their audience.

In truth, the dynamics of brand to buyer communication fundamentally changed once businesses started popping up on social media. Suddenly, a two-way conversation was in play. Fast forward to today, and the traditional promotional approach of pushing out an advertising message, above or below the line, had lost a lot of its relevance.

Now, businesses rarely roll out one big-budget campaign each year. Instead, customers are won and retained through micro-interactions every day, and the voice that consumers have online can make or break you.

Listen to your audience, and you’ll learn valuable insight into how you can improve your service. Ignore them, on the other hand, and you will quickly find yourself falling out of favor.

Conversational Tech and Customer Engagement

This transition from transactional to conversational customer engagement was first recognized with the introduction of Social Media Management Software to help brands better track and respond to customers across different social platforms given the two-way communication that was now taking place. However, these platforms also typically had features such as content scheduling, influencer tracking and content performance analytics that were most relevant to marketing teams. This kept the customer support related inquiries in silos  - disconnected from the customer service department.  

Next came Conversational Marketing Software, with companies like Drift and Intercom creating chatbots that initiate conversations with customers and are primarily used as an acquisition and conversion tool for B2B organizations. Meanwhile, customer service teams were still stuck using transactional, siloed ticketing systems and unable to capitalize on the emerging desire for customers to actively engage with the brands they support.

Finally, the conversational tech trend reached the customer service software space and Conversational Customer Engagement Software was born. Now, brands can engage in continuous conversations with customers across several different channels in an easy, seamless manner.

In addition to the rise in popularity of conversational engagement, customers today also have much different expectations when it comes to response times from brands. Customers want to communicate in real time and typically expect answers within minutes. That is why channels such as live chat and messaging apps have continued to increase in popularity, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for being this speedy on other channels such as email too!

Hello data!

What should you use and when?

If you’ve got more customer data than you know what to do with, then you are not alone!

There’s no doubt that within data lies the potential to greatly improve customer engagement and support service, but the challenge is knowing what data to use, and when to use it.

Being able to utilize the most relevant data, at the right moment, will help brands deliver more personalized customer experiences — and with 72% of consumers saying they’d only engage with personalized marketing messages, this could be a big win.

To do it, you need to have the right technology in place to integrate across all your communication channels and fetch relevant information when needed. This is relatively straightforward with the right APIs. An API allows systems to sync data between each other, so if you want to pull a customer’s Shopify order data into a Facebook Messenger conversation with them, you can.

And with free no-code, build-your-own API services on the rise, this synchronicity is available to businesses of all sizes. If you’re not personalizing your conversations because you don’t think you have the data capacity — think again!

What will customer engagement look like for you in 2020?

Perhaps these three trends have got you thinking: what will be your customer engagement focus for the coming year?

The way that brands communicate with customers is constantly evolving. But one thing is for sure: if you want to build trust, inspire loyalty and — ultimately — earn more customers, you need to be having meaningful, holistic conversations.

To find out how Dixa’s Customer Friendship Platform can help you do that, book a demo today.