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Enhance your customer engagement

As consumers’ and business customers’ behavior rapidly evolves with digital, they demand very different kinds of relationships with companies. With so many channels, platforms, and devices to get right, companies frequently struggle to coordinate and prioritize the many different ways that customers interact with brands. More customer interactions across more touch-points in an omni-channel environment are shaping the degree of engagement a customer feels with your company. We know that people who have excellent customer experiences become strong advocates for a brand, spend significantly more, and are much more loyal than customers who have poor experiences. Companies in every industry can improve their customers’ experience through engagement and thereby generate significantly higher growth.

A paradigm shift is still rippling though companies across industries where the value-proposition in products & services is becoming all-inclusive with focus on customer experience. The critical barrier to harnessing the potential value in this shift is organizational—companies that learn to design and execute effective customer-engagement strategies will have the advantage; the others will lose ground. Changes in customer interactions present significant organizational challenges, as well as opportunities. The biggest is that all in the company become marketers: the critical moments of interaction, or touch points, between companies and customers are increasingly spread across different parts of the organization, so customer engagement is now everyone’s responsibility.

Any comprehensive customer-engagement program needs to start with a clear vision of what a complete digital experience must look like. Making that a reality requires an intricate understanding of the customer journey with all touch-points & episodes across all channels—and building the technology and organizational capabilities that deliver on the customer’s increasingly high expectations. Here we focus on the organizational capabilities that can become necessary to have:

  1. Listening centers: Companies must take an active role in getting a good understanding about what is being said about the company, products, and services on social media, blogs, and other online forums. It is important that companies comprehend the two way communication that must happen in any engagement. Listening centers must be established that actively monitor all chatter pertaining to the company. When hardwired into the organization, such listening centers, can shorten response times during real and potential crises, complement internal metrics and traditional tracking research on brand performance, feed consumer feedback into the product-development process, and serve as a platform for testing customer reactions.

  2. Customer-engagement committee: This committee, which should be an operational and decision-making body, must translate the findings from all sources about customer-engagement into specific actions at individual touch points. To accomplish this goal, the committee’s membership needs to be large enough to ensure that all key players are represented but small enough to make decisions efficiently. This company must meet regularly on weekly or monthly basis depending on what key engagement activities the group is driving and their cycle time. To make fact-based decisions, the committee needs information on everything from priority touch points to customer behavior and the moves of competitors from reliable sources in the organization. The committee must have a customer-engagement charter. To reduce the risk of gaps, rework, and turf wars, everyone in the organization needs clarity about decision rights over touch points and the key processes that affect them. This committee must often serve as a mediator and decision maker in conflicts between functions and business units and as a filter for what must be escalated to the C-suite for resolution.

  3. Content Officer: Companies need to create a supply chain of increasingly sophisticated and interactive content to feed consumer demand for information and engagement, not to mention a mechanism for managing the content consumers themselves generate. The emergence of companies-as-publishers demands the appointment of a “Content Officer.” This role is designed to provide the on-brand, topical, and provocative content needed to engage customers. He/she must incorporate storytelling craft to engage with the customer. He/she must develop and manage all aspects of the supply chain for content, ranging from deciding where and how it’s sourced to overseeing the external agencies and in-house creative talent generating it. He/she will have to work closely with the team responsible for shaping brand perceptions to understand the company’s character deeply—its heritage, purpose, and values—and with areas such as corporate social responsibility, investor relations, general council and government affairs to gain a full perspective on how the company interacts with external stakeholders.

  4. Customer-engagement budget: Companies can now communicate with customers much more productively using digital and social channels that are radically cheaper (and sometimes even more effective) than traditional media communications or face-to-face sales visits. Find the opportunities to make trade-offs across functions and optimize the impact of investments across the entire set of touch points. Such decisions should be made not just on the projected financial returns but also on a strategic assessment of how customer expectations are evolving, how competitors are changing their methods of customer engagement, and where your company may have distinctive capabilities that could help it win through superior customer engagement. Take a look at the entire customer-engagement budget and identify where it is underperforming or missing out on new approaches to engagement. With a baseline, reduce the traditional marketing budget, invested in customer service, and reallocate into other marketing expenditures to focus on digital, social, and mobile channels for customer-engagement with lower costs and higher margins.

  5. Customer-engagement conference: Company must hold annual or semi-annual conference to discuss and plan customer engagement that goes beyond managing the experience at touch points to include all the ways the company must motivate customers to invest in an ongoing relationship with a product or brand. Participant list must start right at the top and cut across units and functions to coordinate the activities required to reach and engage customers across the full range of touch points. The participant of the company ought to agree on the elements of the customer-engagement ecosystem that should be undertaken in-house and those that will involve outside partners. Internal resources probably won’t be able to deliver all of the requirements imposed by a world with many touch points: for instance, content and communications; data analytics and insights; product and service innovation; customer experience design and delivery; and managing brand, reputation, and corporate citizenship. Senior leaders in the conference need to decide how to carry out these activities and design the mix of in-house capabilities and external partners that will deliver them. These customer-engagement planning sessions, in addition to informing and motivating the organization as a whole around customer engagement, can help avoid spreading scarce resources too thinly.

Today’s marketers can’t succeed without the new technological and analytic tools; the tools offer insights that weren’t available in the past. But marketers also need a holistic view of the people they are trying to reach, in order to forge emotional connections with engagement. The most effective companies use Big Data analytics to scale up their abilities to serve, tailor and enhance the engagement with their customers. They must still rely on humans for creativity, making trade-offs and engaging with customers where it matters—that is, in all the areas where human judgment and empathy come into play.

Improving customer engagement & experience delivers real benefits to companies that successfully execute customer-centric strategies. Companies are constantly testing and learning to improve their communication and engagement with customers, and to identify potential issues early and enhance personalization. Brand individualization offers companies the chance to engage consumers one-on-one and to build enduring—and self-reinforcing— relationships. Expectations from personalization run high and some companies are achieving eye-opening results—and establishing big leads of their own. Because personalization is about establishing individualized brand relationships, early leaders tend to lock in customers, heightening the barriers for those that try to follow.

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