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Setting the stage for a great relationship

This is where the wheels hit the road and a business or organisation performs well or not in it’s relationships with customers. How to engage with customers is an on-going challenge as the expectations of customer change (and the technical tools at our disposal develop).

Customer engagement is difficult. Customers (or other service users types such as students, or patients) are by their nature outside the control of the organisation. However, both parties need each other and must engage to transact and interact. The nature of this engagement is the front-line where services can be effective or fail, delight or irritate customers, be profitable or costly.

Engagement with a proposition

Most customers spend most of their time unconcerned with the specifics of the services they need in their day-to-day lives. Most marketing reinforces basic awareness but does little to move people unless it is lucky and catches consumers at the point where they have a specific need. Identifying these points and creating engagements that speak directly to the customer will enable them to engage with the propositions personally rather than through the mass media.

A service strategy should not only provide strategic direction, but should clarify how service should be organised for customers across the organisation, instead of creating one more helpdesk.

Engagement with an experience

Many organisations wish to move their customer. Either towards a new offer or a new behaviour. For example health services want fewer hospital visits and more local consultation & prevention. But it is hard to change peoples’ habits. If we engage people in an experience that shows them a new way they are more likely to adopt that practice the next time. Creating opportunities for new experience helps to move customers.

Engagement through the customer lifecycle

Engagement is a changing and developing activity. As customer move from being unaware to aware, to a contract and use of services, their needs change and the challenges of engaging them develop. Knowing where customers are in their lifecycle is the first step in developing a productive engagement. If a customer is developing an interest in an offer the engagement must effectively inform them to enable them to move forward.

94% of all online retailers provide email customer service but 27% of email inquiries are answered incorrectly.

Engagement across the channels

Organisations often ask, ‘what channel do customers prefer to use?’ The correct question is more complex: how do our channels work together to deliver for customers? Primarily customers are looking for the result they seek. They will use the channel that is most effective for them. Active design of the customer engagement enables control of channel use by offering customers the best route to their goals.

A strategy for customer engagement

Customer engagement can get messy – different departments create different activities that make sense in isolation but when added to the whole can cause confusion. Each initiative creates an alternative touchpoint for customers and may not work together with other channels. Understanding and sharing the overall concept for customer engagement in the organisation and establishing some clear directions is the first step.

Engagement leading to better outcomes

Ultimately customer engagement must develop a relationship with customers that is productive for both parties. Whether it is increased sales or decreased incidents, the outcomes are the goal. Engagement is not an end in itself it is a means to create value. However, it is the core mechanism to create value and deserves top priority.