7 steps to better customer engagement
Posted by Laura Runham
Customer engagement is probably a term you’ve heard thrown around recently. It’s certainly fashionable. Management consultants write about it. Business magazines cover it. Even software companies, ahem, are blogging about it. But what does it mean for your business? Customer engagement guru Paul Greenberg defines it like this:
The ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer.
What is customer engagement?
In today’s constantly-connected world, your customers have many ways to interact with your company. They are not Customers Imagepassive recipients of your sales patter any more.
Good customer engagement is about listening to your customers, understanding their needs and providing intuitive solutions to their problems, sometimes before they even know what their problem is themselves.
Whether it’s a mention on Twitter, a review on crowdsourcing sites like Trustpilot or Feefo, or an email to your customer service team, you have a chance to go above and beyond and stand out from the competition.
It matters because the balance of power in the economy is shifting from producers to consumers, from vendors to customers. More importantly, it is important for the bottom line. For example, Gallup found that:
Companies that successfully engage their B2B customers realise 63% lower customer attrition, 55% higher share of wallet and 50% higher productivity.
Measuring customer engagement
There are lots of different ways to measure customer engagement. You don’t need to score top marks on every one, Measurementbut it’s important to know where your strengths and weaknesses are and how they affect your business.
It is also good to see how you measure up against your business peers. After all, if you can’t provide the customer with a solution, there are hundreds more companies who can.
This is why we commissioned a report – Driving Growth Through Customer Engagement – that surveyed 236 people in 212 different small and medium-sized UK companies to see how they engage (or don’t engage) their customers. The following questions are based on our findings and they will help you pinpoint the most important factors
1 How much do you value customer engagement?
We’ve already said how important customer engagement is for the actual customer, but what are the benefits to you asQuote 1 a business? A study by Gallup showed that ‘fully engaged’ customers accounted for a 23% increase in average business income.
If you value customer engagement to be important within your business, you stand alongside 97% of the respondents to our survey of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The number is high, perhaps because like motherhood and apple pie, it’s hard to argue against the basic premise. But without a commitment from the top, plans are impotent and intentions fall flat.
2 Do you know your customers?
You can have the greatest product the world has ever seen but if the right people aren’t seeing it, you might as well have no product at all. Really understanding who your customers are is the first step towards engaging with them effectively. How can you address their problems if you don’t know them?
Of companies that saw a decline in sales turnover in the last 12 months, 28% said a lack of customer insight prevents them from engaging with their customers. By comparison, only 20% of growing companies identified this as a problem. It’s a telling difference. Research helps and marketing personas can be a powerful tool for unlocking and sharing customer insight.
3 Are you better at offline or online engagement?
We now operate in an Omni-channel environment where a retail customer could browse products online, view them in store and then make the final purchase on their mobile phone.
Companies need to adapt to this new behaviour – the rise of what John Lewis calls the ‘master shopper’ – by excelling at online engagement, as well as offline. The best way to do this is by using a customer relationship management tool (CRM) like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online that gives you a unified view of your customers, however they interact with you.
If you think your business is effective at online engagement then you are among only 55% of SMBs, compared to the 79% who believe they are more effective at offline engagement. This imbalance suggests that there is an opportunity for differentiation and competitive advantage if you can master the art of omnichannel engagement.
4 What tools do you use to increase engagement?
There are countless possible ways to interact with your customers and new apps are being developed every day to facilitate engagement. It’s not good enough to only be using one or two tools. Not if you want to compete with your business peers at least.
Blogging, email newsletters, generating user reviews, creating guides and how-tos and ensuring customer information is on hand for staff are just a few of the tools you can be using.
Not surprisingly, given the high percentage of businesses focused on offline engagement, the most popular tool used by 69% of our respondents was building good rapport between frontline staff and customers. This was closely followed by email newsletters (44%) and personalising communication (42%).
5 Are you using social media effectively to increase engagement?
No longer is social media just for teenagers and twenty-something year olds. It is already being used very effectively by a vast number of businesses. Nor is it just for consumer-facing companies. While more B2C companies have an online presence (87%), B2B is not far behind at 80%.
According to Jason King, Head of Marketing at 4CornerNetworks:
You have to remember social is social. You’re entering into their world so you can’t be all promotional. Overall, about 80% of all our content is social or conversational with no more than 20% promotional.
Being active on social media doesn’t just mean posting tweets and status updates. It’s about getting involved in conversations within your industry and listening to your customers. Tools like Microsoft Social Engagement can help you listen, interact and engage customers effectively and at scale.
6 How consistent is your knowledge and data?
The black hole of unknowing is a very stressful place for your customers to be. For example, if you can’t track their Quote 3orders or see where they are in the project lifecycle, nor can they. Not knowing creates uncertainty and uncertainty creates distrust.
It should be easy for your staff to have a single view of the customer by using a tool like Microsoft Dynamics CRM. This can have a beneficial effect on business growth. Linking this knowledge to operational systems, such as warehousing, stock control and billing, using resource planning applications like Microsoft Dynamics NAV is key to giving customer a joined-up story and the latest information.
It pays to know what’s going on. We found that 43% of growing companies were able to track customer orders, compared to 28% in companies with declining sales turnover.
7 What engagement roadblocks do you face?
The road to success is rarely free of potholes and hurdles. It will come as some comfort to know that whatever challenges you’re facing, others are facing them, too.
The most common problem is predicting the future. Trends and buying habits change so often that keeping up with customer demand is not easy. 43% of survey respondents named this as their greatest challenge, closely followed by responding to all customer queries (29%) and managing capacity (22%).
However, having accurate data in CRM and ERP systems and using business intelligence applications to visualise it can convert hindsight to insight.
Driving growth through customer engagement
Now that you have more information about customer engagement, it’s time to look at how you can use it to drive business growth. Download your free copy of the full report to find out what your peers and competitors are doing to drive customer engagement and learn how you can improve yours.
Click here to find out more about how Microsoft Dynamics can help you connect with customers and achieve your growth ambitions.