In the digital age, customer engagement can make or break you — and you have less time than ever to make a good first impression, because it might be the only impression you make. With the glut of content being online, complete with more avenues of communication and ways of connecting than ever before, it’s even more crucial to develop an airtight strategy when it comes to boosting customer engagement. Tell a compelling story, be accessible and responsive, and go above and beyond to make an excellent first impression.
James Cash Penney (founder of the department store chain), once said that “courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.” If this was true in the early part of the 20th century, it’s magnified about a thousand percent nowadays, when a bad review from a single customer can be seen and interpreted by masses of people. Hence, customer engagement can make or break you— and in an alarmingly short period of time.
The Importance of Customer Experience
Customer experience has become more than just a sales pitch. As a phenomenon, it has a ripple effect and touches every single part of the business model. It’s not just about troubleshooting or resolving problems that customers have (although those are still very important). It’s about connecting the customer with your brand in an authentic and meaningful way. If this is done properly and completely, the customer will ideally feel so satisfied that they feel compelled to share their experience — with their friends, colleagues, and, in the case of reviews, even strangers.
When start-ups are being created every other day, standing out is tough. Exceptional is the rule, and this means to not simply claim that the customer comes first, but to embody that mentality in every way as a business. As business owners, we need to see our customers in a holistic light. In other words, as complex human beings who aren’t just voices at the other end of a customer service line. Have you humanized not just your employees, but your entire brand? Because it’s this move that will determine your ultimate success. Each customer interaction is an opportunity to keep or lose not just that customer, but potentially everyone they know. When viewed in this light, it makes the term ‘customer service’ seem kind of archaic. ‘Engagement’ suggests involvement on an enhanced and sophisticated level. But how do you put the emphasis on customer satisfaction in a tangible way? First, you identify the tools that you’ll need along the journey.
Tools to Boost Customer Engagement
There are many different tools you can use to increase customer engagement, and every tool involves an element of strategic storytelling:
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This is an obvious and easy way to interact with your customers. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even Slack offer platforms that allow you to listen and respond to customer opinions and complaints in real time. Our societal need for instant feedback and gratification? Fulfilled with in-app customer service and communications. A loyal customer base can be born here, and can grow here. That’s no small thing, as the size and quality of this base often determines how fast your company will grow. No successful business denies the mammoth powers of social media when it comes to customer engagement and interaction. Hold contests, offer rewards, invite customers to collaborate on product ideas, hold a poll: these will all make the customer feel like they are being seen, heard, and ultimately valued.
Although it’s tempting to lean heavily on social media to reach your customers, don’t underestimate face-to-face interaction. There are customers who value this over emails and chatbots. Give a talk on your product. Spread the word on social media, but show up for those customers who are looking for a face to put with their product. This is just another way to humanize your brand.
Much like public speaking, but more far-reaching, webinars offer customers the opportunity to empower themselves by learning to use your product. Webinars also satisfy a kind of human need in us to get a glimpse of what actually takes place behind the scenes of a business.
Videos can be webinars, but they can also be interviews, mock newsreels, and a way to introduce your brand to the public. Interviews are especially effective because again, customers want the whole picture when it comes to becoming a loyal follower of the brand. And when it comes to retention, images and videos are generally more effective than text.
In general, an omnichannel approach is the way to go. Make your company available via every means possible. The more accessible you are as a business, the more chances customers will have to give valuable feedback, and the better your prospects will be.
Personalization is Fundamental
Besides using the tools above to enhance and allow for a greater level of customer interaction, it’s also important to realize the power of personalizing the customer’s experience. This can be done in a number of ways. Customization in e-commerce, for example, is huge at the moment, just because everyone in the world loves nothing more than to talk about him or herself. Whether it’s to complain or exalt, or even just to describe, every single customer has an opinion, and they not only want to share it, they want to be asked about themselves in the process. Companies like Prose and True+Co have utilized this tactic, and the results have been emphatically positive.
Remember, an engaged customer is a better customer and every single one is an essential opportunity to succeed or fail.