happy customer engagement

Revealed: The four key attributes of customer engagement

1st Apr 2014

Customer engagement. Two words we are told should be forming the basis of a successful CRM strategy, but rarely do they come with a disclaimer to explain how to put the concept of better engagement into practice.

Late last year Katherine Hull outlined the need for a three point plan to turn an “unknown browser into a purchaser”, and Thunderhead.com recently published research on the need for co-created value in businesses in order to drive customer interaction.

However, Gartner’s latest report The Four Attributes of Customer Engagement is perhaps the clearest outlining of how an organisation can become more engaged with its audience, basing itself on the fundamental active, emotional, rational and ethical qualities that determine an organisation's brand values and how these factors can drive deeper engagement.

"All organisations in the private and public sector connect with customers, most often through the work of the marketing, sales and customer service departments," said Michael Maoz, vice president and key analyst at Gartner.

"However, in most cases, these organisations are not actually engaging with the customer, and instead they have been disengaging for a decade in order to lower costs. Furthermore, relatively few have an enterprise-wide approach to engaging with customers."

In order to combat this, Gartner argues that engagement needs to be readdressed in organisations to have a greater understanding that involves interactions across employees, partners and customers. Their four point plan is based around this ideal:

Active customer engagement 

The first attribute is pretty self-explanatory; that being active requires activity. While Gartner suggests many organisations have reduced the activity required to engage with customers in order to cut costs, it states that its research shows that actively engaged customers are far more willing to participate with an organisation through multiple different channels, ranging from online self-service tools or a mobile application to community participation or user group involvement. This in turn leads to a customer more likely to purchase; and one that’s more likely to stay loyal afterwards, as a result:

“[Customers] are more willing to provide feedback when asked, make best use of the products or services on offer, and make suggestions on how to improve them. From the organisation's perspective, active engagement requires changes to people, process and technology.

“Processes can be modified to make them more flexible, timely, reliable, thorough, accessible and personal, while technology can be introduced to encourage participation in such forums as ideation platforms, peer-to-peer support communities and better user experiences. Each is important to improve active customer engagement.”

Emotional customer engagement

Apple are the brand attributed with the clearest understanding of the emotional connections associated with owning a certain product or using a certain service, and Gartner argues that sharing this principle knowledge is now critical to forging stronger customer interactions and building trust:  

“Customer satisfaction surveys have been used for decades in an attempt to detect and quantify emotions related to happiness and unhappiness. It is clear that those customers who are emotionally engaged are more likely to complain less, compliment more, buy more and contribute more than those who are not.

“A key factor is how organisations use, or more likely misuse, customer data. By respecting customers' privacy rather than bombarding them with semi-personalised campaigns, organisations can elevate trust and engagement. Allowing customers to access the personal data held and giving them the ability to set controls on what data can be used puts them in a position of control and makes them more at ease with their provider.”

Rational customer engagement

Rational customer engagement involves customers accumulating knowledge on a product or service and conducting comprehensive fact-finding and research before deciding how much involvement and investment to provide.  

Gartner suggests organisations could do better at providing more information about their products and services, and crucially, using a combination of data and marketing channels to point potential customers in the right direction:

“[A potential customer’s] level of engagement will be linked to rational elements associated with the product or service such as value, quality, detail and innovation. This elevated level of knowledge may then manifest itself in additional activities such as participation in a self-service community or engaging in co-creation or a customer panel.”

Ethical customer engagement

Horror stories continue to emerge, and consumers are becoming more selective of brands based on their perceived ethical stance as a result.  

Gartner argues that it is therefore of importance, in terms of customer engagement, for organisations to publish a framework that discusses how it views its responsibilities to employees, partners, customers, suppliers, the community and the world. This form of interaction is viewed as vital in terms of retaining loyal and emotionally connected customers.

“The problem now is that with two billion Facebook users and seven billion mobile phone users across the world, organisations can no longer hide their ethical misdemeanours. In tandem, society as a whole is becoming more ethically aware and supportive of ethical principles and standards. Ethical engagement is, therefore, a growing consideration within many industries.”

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