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Customer engagement has been a pretty popular topic recently. Everyone is writing about it. Even software companies, ahem, are blogging about it. 54 percent of respondents to our 2017 Global State of Customer Service Report say they have higher expectations of customer service than a year ago. But what does it truly mean for your business?

What is customer engagement?

In today’s constantly-connected world, your customers have many ways to interact with your company. They are not passive recipients of your sales patter any more. And with so much competition out there now, customers no longer base their loyalty on price or product. They stay loyal to companies who provide them with a great all-round experience.

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 a crowdsourcing site, 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. In fact, Walker has predicted that customer experience will overtake price and product as the main differentiator by 2020.

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Measuring customer engagement

There are lots of different ways to measure customer engagement. You don’t need to score top marks on every one, but 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.

The following questions will help you pinpoint the most important factors of customer engagement.

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 as a business? In the Dimension Data 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report, 84 percent of businesses surveyed experienced revenue uplifts when they improved their customer engagement, while 79 percent reported cost savings.
If you value customer engagement to be important within your business, you’re with 81 percent of companies who stated customer engagement as a competitive differentiator, according to the Dimension Data report. But without a commitment from the top, plans are impotent and intentions fall flat – the same report states that 36 percent of organisations surveyed don’t have a customer engagement manager, and of those that do, just 36 percent are at board level.

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. After all, our report says that 68 percent of UK customers expect a representative to know their purchase/service history when they contact an organisation for customer service. How can you address their problems if you don’t know them?
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3. Are you better at offline or online engagement?

We now operate in an omnichannel environment where a retail customer could browse products online, ask questions on social media, 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 & Partners 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.

According to Dimension Data, while omnichannel solutions are one of the biggest changers for customer service, 72 percent of businesses fail to collect data to review and optimise customer engagement. With only 22 percent having most channels connected (and 8 percent having all) this represents a big hole in your customer journey that could retain and attract loyal customers.

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.

In today’s world customers want to receive service in their own terms – no matter when or where they are. 90 percent of respondents to our survey expect an organisation to have a self-service portal. 77 percent have a positive view of brands that listen to feedback, and for all those interested in what millennials think – 74 percent say social media responsiveness improves their brand perception

5. Are you using social media effectively to increase engagement?

Speaking of social media, did you know that there is just a touch over 1.3 billion social media users worldwide? The most important thing is to be responsive on social media, with 48 percent of people expecting a response in less that 24 hours.

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 a customer’s history 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. 30 percent of customers say the most important aspect of good engagement is speaking to knowledgeable and friendly employee. These days, customers have often engaged with your business via other channels and the ability to pick up where they last left off is key to customer engagement.
A frontline retail employee talking to a customer

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 and it’s often hard to figure out where you should focus.  At the end of the day, as long as you keep what’s important at the heart of your business values – the customer – you’ll be heading in the right direction. A big part of this is having accurate data in CRM and ERP systems. Using business intelligence applications to visualise your data can help you convert hindsight to insight.