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Then and now: Customer engagement for business growth in 2023

By Ross Sibbald, Commercial Director at Tilte

In recent years, the shape of customer engagement has changed dramatically. Given the sheer number of touchpoints available to today’s customers and the rate at which those touchpoints evolve, a customer engagement strategy that would’ve been considered world-class a decade ago might be considered the bare minimum today. 

It’s therefore critical that organisations do everything they can to stay on top of shifts in consumer demands and expectations. Remember, customer engagement informs and feeds into customer experience (CX). And simply viewing customer experience as a differentiator is no longer enough. Today, more than 90% of companies say that they compete on customer experience, meaning that you have to go above and beyond to really stand out. In a world where everyone is chasing loyalty, you have to go that much further to earn it. 

Knowing that, what kind of approach to customer engagement should organisations take if they want to provide the best possible customer experience? More specifically, could such an approach prove to be the kind of silver bullet that takes an organisation’s CX from so-so to world-class? 

The case for holistic customer engagement 

When it comes to finding the right approach, there is a strong case to be made for one, which focuses on holistic customer engagement. But what exactly does holistic customer engagement look like? 

Put simply, it’s an approach that focuses on providing personalised, relevant engagements at every stage of the customer journey, including those that take place after a sale has been made. Beyond that, it also means building out engagements that simplify customers’ lives in ways that are tailored to their history, life stage and journey. That’s because today’s customers feel entitled to anticipatory, seamless service with a preference for being able to handle their problems themselves.

In order to foster that kind of engagement, however, organisations need to know their customers. The more you know about a customer, the more they can help build your business. But in building up that knowledge base, organisations need to involve their customers. Even if you’re in a position to build up a reasonable picture of a customer based on their so-called digital breadcrumbs, doing so could backfire from a CX perspective.

Think about it. If you’re looking to build a real-world relationship with someone, which is the best approach to take? One where you ask that person questions and really listen to their answers or one where you bring up talking points based on their social media history? 

In the customer engagement space, it’s important to go a little beyond that too. Customers expect their engagement history to be fully documented. This not only helps them know that the organisation’s paying attention but also allows them to more easily help themselves.  

It’s also critical that such an approach be multi-dimensional. A one-dimensional approach doesn’t work for clients. Again, it’s important to remember that customer engagement is, fundamentally, the relationship an organisation has with its customers. And what might be an appreciated gesture one day could be totally irrelevant on another. Your spouse, for instance, might appreciate it if you offer to help with the dishes one night. But they’ll probably be less appreciative if you offer to help with the dishes when you can see they’re struggling in the garden.  

No silver bullets 

It should be clear then that, while it can produce the best results, holistic customer engagement shouldn’t be viewed as a CX silver bullet. It takes time, effort and constant refinement to get right. Moreover, organisations need to bring together different tools in order to optimise their engagement outcome. 

Of course, few organisations know off the bat what those tools should be. It’s therefore best if they choose a customer experience partner that knows how to use technology to optimise customer engagement. That partner should also have a strong track record when it comes to helping organisations optimise their digital engagement landscape and ensure that the end customers receive seamless, relevant service.

Beyond that, a good customer engagement partner will help organisations simplify individualisation and maximise engagement across the board, making it easy for companies and their customers to engage meaningfully. 

Ongoing effort 

Ultimately, no matter how much effort an organisation puts into holistic customer engagement in 2023, it’s critical that it keeps putting that kind of effort in through 2024, 2025 and beyond. Customer engagement has always evolved and will continue to do so. Organisations need to understand that and treat it as something that needs ongoing attention. 

Customer loyalty is hard-won and easily lost. As such, the last thing any organisation wants is to look up in a decade’s time, realise how much customer engagement has changed and wonder why all of its competitors have overtaken it. So, rather than searching for a silver bullet, they should put in the necessary work with the help of partners that can set them up for long-term success. 

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