Everyone’s talking about customer experience these days. But what does that mean, exactly?
The standard definition would say it’s about ensuring that each customer touch-point, or moment of experience, is consistently and flawlessly executed to deliver maximum customer satisfaction. To that end, companies are investing heavily in digital, multimedia, human resources and training in order to deliver a rich experience at every moment along the customer journey.
Great idea – but also shortsighted.
Customer experience is necessary for success, but it’s no longer sufficient. That’s because great experience alone does not compel action (i.e. sales). Willing participation – or engagement – does.
The key is to transform experience into engagement.
Engagement Means: In-Store, Online, Multi-Touch, Cross-Channel
The customer’s journey is no longer governed by physical store presence or hours. In today’s world, customers are in charge and they’ll engage on their own terms in a fragmented, multi-channel way. But regardless how they choose to interact with your company, they want to be treated “in totality” at every touch-point. As far as customers are concerned, compartmentalization is the enemy.
Engagement means that everyone facing the customer has all the relevant data at their fingertips, at just the right time and place. Successful customer engagement requires it. I view these as foundational capabilities:
- Consolidation of CRM, call center, social media platforms across all channels
- Unification of in-store and online customer data
- Comprehensive, continual scoring and assessment of data
- Real-time routing and delivery of required data to the specific point-of-interaction
Engagement Means: Connecting People
Customers appreciate information, but they engage with people. Data informs, but human touch offers the familiarity and trust that fosters ongoing engagement.
In today’s digital world the human touch is displaced by online transaction. That’s great. But sometimes, willing engagement requires an extra layer of human interaction. Engagement is about making sure human interaction is brought to bear when (and where) it’s needed:
- On-the-fly connection of online customers to specific in-store experts to answer questions
- Continuation of in-person interactions later on, regardless of geographic distance
- Live product overviews (e.g. with in-store personnel) augment static digital content
Engagement Means: Associate Empowerment
There are a lot of technologies to help empower the customer to achieve self-service. But employees and in-store associates are just as important. They’re the front-line to delivering a great customer experience. And, to transcend beyond experience into customer engagement, in-store associates are a crucial resource. In fact, a key to achieving customer engagement is associate engagement.
To unlock the potential of employees and in-store associates, they need the right tools:
- Dynamic scoring and routing of specific time-and-place information enables associates to make compelling offers and suggestions
- Automatic alerts invoke “virtual host teams” to act immediately on requests of high-value customers
- Availability of real-time customer information empowers associates with the ability and desire to serve
Engagement Means: Interaction-Oriented Expertise
A powerful and differentiating aspect of customer experience is to offer “the entire stack” of your company’s collective expertise to the point-of-interaction, regardless where that may be. It’s like having the company’s main visionary and product expert on call at all times, ready to pinch-hit in customer interactions whenever needed.
Imagine the deepest knowledge, and most familiar faces, on call and ready to engage. That’s what interaction-oriented expertise is about. It means:
- Full-service self-service: online transactions augmented with live support and familiar faces from prior touch-points
- Comprehensive knowledgebase and product expertise summoned to the point-of-need in real-time
- “Call center case number” replaced with “help from a real person you know”
Engagement Means: Personalization
The old Burger King advertising slogan “have it your way” is now more powerful than ever.
Some customers want a purely online, hands-off interaction. Some want a high-touch, in-person relationship. The reality is that most customers want elements of both – depending on when they feel they need it or want it. They’ll actively engage with those companies that let them have it their way and on their terms.
Personalization is about two things:
- Availability: relevant resources and information are selectively and dynamically delivered at the moment the customer needs them
- Relevance: responses and service offerings are dynamically formulated based on relevance to the current interaction as well as an overall assessment of prior interaction history
The Bottom Line
There’s no hiding anymore: information is ubiquitous and instantly accessible. Customers have access to all of it anytime, anyplace, right in the palm of their mobile device. The details are out there and savvy customers will look – they find out what you, and your competitor, is offering. But to grant you the sale, they’ll want something more: engagement.
Savvy customers look – but engaged ones buy.
Note: Variations of this post have appeared previously on client blogs focused on customer experience and engagement. Those prior posts, as well as this one, are all 100% originated and authored by me.