Customer Experience vs Customer Engagement: Two Sides of a Very Valuable Coin
Some customers just want to be left alone. For them, never having to talk to the company or have any form of interaction with them, is the best possible experience. Forcing these customers to engage, is the very opposite of providing a good experience. Yet, companies have to keep working towards increasing customer engagement.
So how do customer experience and customer engagement fit together? Are they the same thing? Turns out, they aren’t – but they do work together in perfect harmony. In this blog post, we’ll look at both experience and engagement, to see how these two complementary strategies can grow your customer loyalty.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer experience is the overall perception customers have when they interact with your company – from marketing to sales to product to support. Every single interaction that your customer has with your company, irrespective of the department, contributes to his/her experience.
The customer experience is what makes customers decide whether they will come back for more, or whether they will start to look to your competitors. According to PWC, “73% of all people point to customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions.” If you provide a great experience (which 80% of Americans suggest includes speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service), you’ll gain a loyal customer. Miss the mark on any of these factors, and your customers will walk out the door.
What is Customer Engagement?
Customer engagement is driven by the customer. When they comment on a Facebook page, register for a webinar, read a knowledge base article or contact customer support, they are engaging with your brand. Customers must choose to engage with a company – compared to customer experience, which can happen passively.
Why do you want customers to engage? It’s all about creating a connection between your brand and the customer. By contributing to user-created content or offering their insight on a feedback forum, the customer starts to feel a meaningful connection. All of a sudden, the business isn’t just selling them something and asking for money, but the business and the customer are working together to create value. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and a much stronger one because of customer engagement.
Why Do the Two Work Together So Well?
Customer engagement helps improve customer experience over time. More engaged customers contribute with better feedback, purchase more, and use your product on a deeper level. By interacting with tutorials and best practice webinars, they can get more out of your service and have a better overall experience. Once they see more value, they are more likely to come back and engage again.
Together the two aspects create an upward spiral from a positive feedback loop. The better the customer experience, the more engaged customers become. The more engaged your customers are, the better the experience. It’s like the age-old mantra; you receive what you put in. When customers are invested in the relationship, it will become a lot easier to serve them well.
Five Ways to Bring More Customer Engagement to Your Customer Experience Strategy
Customer engagement and customer experience work so well together, that companies include engagement in their CX strategy. While some customers might engage with your company spontaneously, most customers won’t naturally look for opportunities to interact with a business. So getting customers to consistently invest in their own experience, lies in your ability to engage with them and give them a worthwhile experience.
It is critical to offer different ways for customers to engage with the company, appropriate to their existing buy-in. An enthusiastic power user might create a tutorial for other users (this is common for creative companies like WordPress). But ask a new user to spend time creating something, and you’ll probably get a door slammed in your face. Instead, new users might feel more comfortable attending a community webinar, or offering feedback through a widget. Here are five different ways you can offer your customers more ways to engage:
1. Create a Customer Community
Community forums are great for customer engagement, because they allow every customer to interact at a level they are comfortable with. Whether it’s adding a new feature request, upvoting an existing one, or just browsing, a community offers value to every visitor. Communities don’t necessarily need to be hosted on your own community site. They might be a Twitter hashtag, a subreddit, or any space that allows customer interaction.
Communities also offer a better customer experience because customers can often find the answer to their questions without needing to call customer service. Even if the question is obscure, or outside of customer support’s normal purview, there’s almost always an expert willing to jump in and help.
2. Showcase Your Own Personality
Customers are much more likely to engage with a brand when they get to know the people behind it. To bring out that sparkling personality, look for ways that you can humanize your frontline employees and bring them in front of your audience. From encouraging fun, on-brand replies on social media, to hosting webinars, or showcasing them on your website, bring your employees to the forefront, from being behind your brand name.
Creating connections with people and establishing a bond with them is not only easier, but is more personal than trying to force a customer engage with the company.
3. Ask Questions
Rather than waiting for customers to come up with an idea and send it to you, ask questions that spark ideas and pull out feedback. There are so many places where you can ask questions of your customers, and here are just a few ideas.
Use a feedback widget to ask specific questions to your customers. They might not think they have any general feedback, but asking them about something specific might generate some valuable opinions.
Ask questions on social media. What do you want to know about your customers? Twitter offers easy polls for multiple choice questions. Similarly, customers can reply to the tweet with other ideas and thoughts.
Send feedback surveys with questions that are more specific than the traditional customer satisfaction surveys. Think of the questions to be writing prompts for your customers. By pointing them in a specific direction, you’ll get much better engagement than just “yeah, it’s all fine.”
Engagement is a two-way street though. If your customers answer your questions, but you don’t read the answers and respond to them, you can bet they won’t really be encouraged to engage with the next opportunity.
4. Create Valuable Content
Create something that customers actually want to engage with. If you take the time to put together valuable, helpful content, customers will be more likely to read, comment, and share it.
For example, if your customers are often posting and watching how-to videos on YouTube, why not take the opportunity to meet them there? Home Depot did exactly that, and their “how to” DIY” series has over 43 million views. Customers are not only engaging with the brand through watching and commenting, but they are also able to get more value out of their Home Depot purchases.
5. Thank Your Customers
When customers do take the time to engage with your brand, make sure you let them know that you appreciate their time. It might be as simple as saying “Thank you for your insight! We love hearing how we can do better” or it might be sending them a handwritten note to thank them for contributing to the community. Even better, share your customer’s success with your audience. If a customer creates a thorough help guide on their own time, make sure you distribute it as widely as possible to show your appreciation.
Appreciation goes a long way in encouraging customers to continue interacting with your company.
Giving customers the opportunity to interact with your brand on their own terms is a great experience. As customers start to become more engaged, you’ll get valuable feedback from them which will help create an even better customer experience across all touchpoints.
Make customer engagement is a vital part of your customer experience strategy. While they aren’t the same thing, they are two sides of the same coin, and complement each other beautifully, when executed the right way.