Customer Engagement – The Holy Grail

Customer Engagement – The Holy Grail

Customer engagement strategies are key to attracting clients and keeping them so that you can do lucrative repeat business with them. This group is aimed at professionals and business people who are interested in sharing skills and exchanging information about winning customer engagement strategies.

The Holy Grail

Currently many businesses are looking for the Holy Grail when it comes to attracting and retaining customers. The maze of new technologies and social media platforms means that traditional advertising and PR techniques are under increasing pressure to adapt to the changes in order to deliver results. This is especially the case in the climate of the past few years where customers have become ever more switched on about media and savvy about the multiple communication channels they can use to get it.

Furthermore it has become abundantly clear that customers are no longer willing to passively receive advertising messages. Even more they increasingly decide the when and where they will accept messages.

In fact customers are often trend setters who are able to lead when it comes to the type of services or products that they want to buy and woe betide those businesses that do not listen. Think about the vast UK greetings cards market and the way that Funky Pigeon and Moon Pig have got us buying online greetings cards in droves whilst Clinton Cards went under without ever getting a look in on this new burgeoning market. There have been other examples where consumers have “voted with their feet. Think about the way that we deserted film and paper photographs in favour of digital pictures and the impact that had on a Kodak’s film camera business who filed for bankruptcy in January 2012.

Furthermore customers are eager to share their views about their experiences either on their own social media accounts or to sign up to websites that allow them to “go public” and rate their experiences good or bad for all other existing and potential customers to see. We have all seen the havoc that websites like Trip Advisor have brought to the trade of hotels that have been accused of not living up to the expectations of their clientele. On the other hand sites like Ebay and Amazon have used the rating system positively to encourage good customer service and client security online by encouraging customers to rate their experiences and thus to dissuade trade with the bad and enable good traders to attract more clientele if their ratings are good.

Jargon and scary experts

So where does that leave the average business? Well frankly – often – a bit like rabbit in the headlamps trying to work out which media offers the best return on investment. Struggling to find the time to update their updates. And more often than not playing catch up with the ever increasing range of technologies, jargon and scary experts who seem to know everything -way before the rest of us…

To top it all – amongst marketers who are prepared to admit it – it is an open secret that the newer media options and the social media revolution is nothing more than what we have always known!

Cheesy one liners

In fact all of those cheesy one liners that you have heard marketing people use are now more relevant than ever. One liners like “people buy from people” and that “word of mouth is king”. The trick is to be able to ensure that what you say in your word of mouth conversation is relevant and useful/ entertaining/ interesting so that your listeners find you engaging and want to join in and talk back to you.

Furthermore in order for it to be a true conversation you have to “listen”. In the new social media ecosphere, not implementing a sound strategy for listening to customers is a recipe for disaster. For the companies that chose not to listen, they risk the possibility of losing customers or even worse, an online viral PR nightmare where, if you are not listening, you will be the last to know. In other words – like any other relationship that you want to work – the conversation needs to be two way. And there you have it. The fundamentals of a sound and compelling customer engagement strategy.

If you don’t believe me take a look at the conversations that are going on on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Yeah you do still find plenty of business people bleating on about their great products or services in the wilderness without much two way going on. Now be honest – do you find this engaging? Check out the real players who get it and have gone out of their way to start building online communities to give them online clout.

For examples see the most “liked” companies on Facebook. Topshop is the most followed retailer in the UK with 1.3 million fans on the social network, with River Island in second place at 902,000. And for specific campaigns, Starbucks says engagement on Facebook boosted UK sales of its Christmas drinks by 15 per cent last year.

The downside is that once companies engage in public with their customers it opens up the flood gates not just to the good – but also the bad and the ugly comments. It is critical to ensure that your company’s social media strategy includes a customer service strategy to ensure that customers are able to contact you or help with issues. Many larger companies offer dedicated help phone lines, email or real time chat. Clearly it can be more challenging for companies with a smaller staff or sole traders, but the bottom line, in more ways than one, is making sure that you keep your social media communications strategy two way.

Diana Chrouch
Chrouch Consulting
Marketing and Income Generation Specialist

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