These days, brand marketing leaders are directed to focus on customer experience (CX). Customer experience is moving from an idealized strategy to a tactical, operational mandate, centering as it does on how a customer experiences a brand at all touch points, from awareness to post-purchase loyalty.
Improving customer experience is no small undertaking. It requires an operational perspective — with an inspection of all the places that a customer experiences a company’s products and services — and a focus on putting that customer at the center of everything.
And why should companies care? Because customer experience measures something extremely important — how customers perceive and value a brand. Indeed, improved CX can directly impact corporate revenue, according to Forrester.
So how can customer engagement help improve customer experience?
While customer experience focuses on the emotional connection a customer has with a brand whenever, and wherever, they encounter that brand’s products and services, customer engagement involves a focus on the actions that customer takes with that brand.
What kinds of actions? Everything from a customer actively providing feedback to their digital network, through browsing and reviewing new products and services, participating in promotions and campaigns, sharing product-related photos, videos, and stories, to tweeting, liking, and sharing across social channels.
Those engagement actions are a very important piece in the customer experience puzzle. Today’s customers are socially trained. They are empowered. They influence the fate of a company’s success. They expect, indeed demand, the chance to participate with a brand actively and positively. Customer engagement actions, done right, generate positive feelings that impact the overall customer experience.
Luckily, there are many digital options to trigger valuable “that’s great!” engagement moments, not only through social newsfeeds, but also on social pages, websites, and across mobile devices. Here are six of our favorites:
Personalize the Matching of Customers With Products and Services
Pose questions proactively to customers that get them to reveal interests, preferences, and needs, and then show them products and services that “match” their personality; these personality/preference quizzes not only give a company marketing insight into audiences, but they can be fun and quick to deliver, with an actionable result. Educational institutions, such as the University of Oxford, Said School of Business in the U.K., The Open University in the U.K., and The University of Manchester in the U.K. are doing this, both by posing questions about what a potential customer is looking for in a higher education offering, and connecting potential customers with existing customers to provide authentic references.
Help Customers to Learn Something About Themselves
When making an “emotional” connection to a brand’s products or services, it is possible to ask customers to reveal something of themselves that may not be directly related to a product, but that offers something shareable at the end. Reebok asks audiences what it means to them to “be more human” with a series of informative, interactive experiences.
Challenge Customer Knowledge
Challenge customers to share their knowledge of a brand’s products and services, potentially in exchange for promotional favors; customers will take pride in knowing answers, and sharing that knowledge, and are always motivated by rewards. Campbell’s Soup found this a great way to engage its own employees, while National Geographic challenges readers’ knowledge of energy issues.
Invite the Best Customers to the Inside Track
Include some customers in special pilot programs that allow them to vote on future products, or product ideas; or, for a lighter touch experience, allow all customers to vote up and down products, to deliver “customer powered” product and service catalogs. SmartWool does this with its Fan Field Tester program, giving those customer special access to new products they can test in the outdoors.
Ask Customers for Testimonials
Invite customers to provide testimonials on how they use products and services; of course, on the high end, customer testimonial systems can be integrated into an entire e-commerce workflow, but on the lighter touch end, a simple application experience can encourage the submission of testimonials, with photos, for the chance to get featured or for a specific monetary reward. The clothing company Urban Hilton Weiner, for example, allows fans to “pay” for a product with a selfie @UrbanSelfie.
Ask Customers for Content
Ask for stories — something beyond just a testimonial — with photos and/or videos that show how customers use or interact with a product or service. Particularly with specialized products, such as outdoor goods, ask customers to offer up social stories, videos, and photos that describe ways they interact with products and services. GoPro does this better than almost any brand, with their GoPro channel of user content. The performance running shoe company Hoka OneOne does this well — its customers are passionate about really serious running. A passion they love to share with other marathoners and ultra-marathoners. Those customers’ stories and photos in a website gallery give credence to the brand, and show customers that Hoka OneOne connects with their passion. The ski resort destination Mt. Bachelor asked fans to share what makes them “stoked” about the upcoming ski season last year, displayed a beautiful gallery of photos. Results can be browsed long after ski season ends.
In all these examples, brands are asking for proactive involvement from their customers — resulting in the customer spending more time with the brand, and potentially learning something in the process.
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