High-quality products and services are a critical component of any successful business. But quality is not the only thing that drives sales. Your approach to sales can make a substantial difference in how customers perceive you, and whether or not they want to keep coming back for more. Customer engagement is your bread and butter for creating repeat customers who are brand loyal.
The Foundations of Customer Engagement
Excellent service is the keystone to building a positive relationship with customers that will increase their trust in your brand. We know they are crucial since about 86% of consumers would say that their loyalty is driven by brand likeability, and 83% say trust.
So how does a brand stay likable and trustworthy? Quality, service, and shopping experience make up three areas to focus on when it comes to engaging customers.
1. Seek First to Understand: Customer Engagement in Practice
Poor service will inspire about 79% of customers to seek out a competitor within about a week! Luckily, you can turn these moments into opportunities with the right approach.
When crafting messages for your target market or working to resolve an unhappy customer’s issue, it is both important and strategic to allow the other party to clearly state their needs in their own words. Listen with a non-judgemental mindset and try and put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you were in their position? How would you advise someone close to you to proceed if they were in the same predicament?
The Power of Active Listening
When someone has a complaint, hearing them out and giving them the benefit of the doubt will make them feel supported. Additionally, you will learn the nature of their real problem with your products or services. You are likely to hear a bit of venting (think of it like venting the steam—sometimes you need to let the steam dissipate before you see what’s happening in the pot).
Armed with this information, you will be able to appropriately and professionally address the specific issue. Be on the lookout for patterns or trends in your customer feedback. Handling complaints can help you learn about systemic barriers to your customer engagement strategy that you might have otherwise overlooked.
2. Relationships Are Built on Reliability
Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Remember to “promise less than you can deliver.” This is, of course, within reason. You don’t need to exaggerate your delivery time to 30 days, but if you can get their item to their door in 4 days, promise 5-7. You want to get close to what you think you can do and then beat it.
When things break, fix them. Whether this is your website, a chair you built or a shirt which has come unstitched, you have an opportunity to prove that you are focused on the satisfaction of your customers above all else, and you jump at the chance to improve situations that don’t go as planned.
Set clear expectations and establish your reliability as soon as possible. One easy way to accomplish both is to create automated email responses for your website. Something as simple as an email alerting a customer that their message has been received and will be replied to within 48 hours can help establish (or begin rebuilding) trust.
3. Improving Customer Engagement Through Gratitude
When you take the time to express your appreciation for anyone in your life, your relationship is strengthened. Customer appreciation is critical, since you are only in business because of your customers. Showing your gratitude can go a long way in creating a positive relationship which leads to more trust and higher sales.
While customer engagement can take a multitude of forms, not all of these approaches will work for every business model. Pick a few to try out and use your results to determine your most effective approach moving forward.
3 Strategies for Building Customer Relationships
1. Delight With Details
Remember a detail about a customer and ask about it when you see them. If someone comes into your shop with an interesting hat or new handbag, engage them by asking where they got it or saying you like their style. If you know someone was going to have a child, complete a degree, or finish painting their bathroom, ask them how it’s going! The feeling that we get when someone remembers a detail about our lives really creates a personal connection.
2. Send a Personal Email
A simple email can make a big impression. Send a quick message letting a customer or client know about a new feature, or ask about their specific needs and preferences, in order to make better suggestions on things they might like. This will make them feel like they are getting a personalized experience.
3. Deliver a Handwritten Note
A handwritten card is a great, unique way to forge a personal connection. It’s a gesture of thoughtfulness that will help bolster your relationship with your customer or client. Don’t have time to write a personal card to each customer? Good news: you can outsource this one to Simply Written. You pick a card, select a handwriting style, and write your message. With digital handwriting, you can scale your efforts to build relationships with your entire customer base—no hand cramps required!
Tailor Made Interactions for Customer Engagement
Impersonal experiences can give consumers a negative impression of a brand. But when you peruse a store and a clerk offers to find you coordinating items for that pair of jeans you’re buying, it makes the sales process about what customer wants to buy, instead of what the business wants to sell. Of course, we all want to sell as much as possible to every customer, but by highlighting a limited amount of related items or services, you actually make people feel understood.
A Primer for Personalization
When you talk to your friends, you tailor your conversation to the things you have in common. You also go out of your way to ask about other aspects of their life because you truly care about them. Looking at your customers as friends in this sense can benefit your marketing strategy by offering in-depth analysis of what these customers like, what their shopping habits are, and what is it that brought them to you.
1. Pay attention to what your customers ignore, look at, and ultimately purchase. Buy something from Amazon.com, and the confirmation page offers several suggestions that could potentially pair with your new purchase. When considering buying my son a guinea pig, I searched for some basic supplies to get an idea of how much it would take to maintain said guinea pig. Amazon persists in using their ad space in all my internet travel to remind me of all the amazing guinea-pig friendly toys, food, and accessories that I could give to my gleeful son to present to his guinea pig. And you know what happened? I bought the guinea pig a new woven ‘den’ to hang out in.
Both of them love it. Which means I am happy watching them enjoy this purchase, they are happy using it, and Amazon is happy having made an extra sale just by following up on something I searched for.
2. Collect and use your sales data to search out buying patterns. Use this information to predict what your customers might want to see next. If your customers come in once a week for a pound of coffee, consider suggesting the fine, locally-made baked goods to enjoy with their morning dose of caffeine. If your online shoppers frequently purchase a dress and pair of boots together, you know what to suggest. And while you’re at it, suggest some boot socks, too!
3. Monitor response rates and engagement in order to ascertain if you are moving in the right direction. Take the temperature so that you know that your campaign dollars are being put to their best use and to ensure you are maximizing customer engagement. Ask how they heard about you and how their experience was.
Always make the ask and response options simple and quick. A pop-up question after a purchase, with one answer to click, or a clerk asking what brought them in today can give you valuable information about where they found you and why they are there. This information is integral to crafting your marketing strategy.
Recommended Read: The World of QR Codes is Changing: Can Your Marketing Keep Up?
4. Conduct more detailed surveys. Longer surveys can be beneficial as well, but customers should have the option to either complete them or not, since they require a time commitment. Keep in mind, since you have customers self-selecting for this activity, your results may reflect specific experiences instead of general ones. Be mindful of this as you incorporate this data into your plan.
5. Move beyond personalization tokens. Addressing an email or direct mail piece using a customer’s first name or business is a great start. However, thanks to advances in variable data printing it’s easy to take personalization to the next level. Deliver different images, messages, offers, or even complete designs to customers based on segmentation you choose. Customers have come to expect a tailored experience, and this is one solid way to continually deliver.
Leverage the Power of Variable Data Printing
Customer Engagement Strategies: Keep the Conversation Going
Getting in touch and staying in touch are keys to a sustained and efficient customer engagement strategy. When it comes to lead nurturing, absence does not make the heart grow fonder. We live in a world of endless possibilities. It takes a lot to get our attention let alone keep it. These strategies can help:
1. Start with a personal hello. Whether that is in-person with a greeter, via social media like Instagram, or with a billboard to direct people to your restaurant, the first step to engaging a customer is letting them know you exist. Stores like Wal-Mart are famous for their cheerful greeters. Baristas that learn a customer’s regular order and can start preparing it when they see their customer walk in the door are anticipating needs and recalling individual details about a person. That individualized attention makes people feel special and will reinforce positive feelings.
2. Surprise with unexpected savings. Deals can be another great way to engage with your customer base. A flash sale is a reason to reach out with an attention-grabbing graphic on social media or by email. When alerting your customers to current savings, you show that you care about their bottom line too.
3. Incentivize engagement with loyalty programs. Accenture found that 77% of consumers participate in a loyalty program. You probably have a few loyalty cards in your wallet right now. These programs are a built-in way to stay in touch with your customer base. Your logo stays in their wallet and the reminds them that they are part of a select club and privy to the goodies of that membership! Create punch cards or allow customers to earn points through a digitally-supported system like Plenti. Regular updates with loyalty cards are a must. Run promotions weekly or monthly, and make sure to alert members. After all, customers can’t catch a bargain if they don’t know it exists.
4. Cater to customers with personalized suggestions. Personal recommendations can deepen a customer relationship. These suggestions are seen as helpful to many. According to statistics compiled by Fresh Relevance, 84% of consumers will take action when they get a personalized recommendation.
Participation: The Key to Customer Engagement Success
When it comes to your bottom line, having a solid customer engagement strategy and marketing plan can help you focus your efforts. Using data and feedback, you can tailor your strategy. Throw out what doesn’t work, and continue to innovate. Have a regular schedule for contact, but don’t overwhelm. Take a look at standards for your industry, compare them to your results, and make adjustments as needed.
There is no one perfect strategy for customer engagement, but there are myriad ways to engage customers and measure customer satisfaction. Want updated strategies delivered straight to your Inbox? Subscribe to the Brand Management Blog.
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