Customer Experience News & Trends

4 unique ways to engage customers

Many companies turn to innovation and automation to improve the customer experience. But there’s a better route to take.

Engage customers and you’ll create a better experience every time.

Case in point: I just got off the phone, making a reservation at a small New England coastal hotel. I couldn’t make the reservation online because the hotel’s website — although full of beautiful photos — didn’t have the capability. After talking to an employee who had fast answers and a great personality, I was happy I had to call. I would’ve never heard about local restaurants, where to rent beach chairs and that everything my family will need is within walking distance. The employee engaged me and told me that they’ll have everything ready for us. Now I can’t wait to get there!

While front-line employees don’t have time or means to connect and engage on that level with all customers all the time, your company can do some things that will build engagement.

Here are four ideas to try:

1. Make an emotional connection

Making an emotional connection is more valuable than raising customer satisfaction, a Harvard Business School study found. Customers who feel connected to a company and/or its employees will buy more, follow its advice, be less sensitive to price changes, pay more attention to the communication and recommend the company.

Employees can make emotional connections much like my new friend at the Rhode Island hotel. Show interest in what customers are doing with your service or product and offer suggestions on what’s best. Tell them that you’re ready and waiting to help, deliver, answer and solve. Offer something they aren’t expecting (I was told I didn’t have to bring beach towels. They’d have them for me).

2. Build a community

Online communities and forums have been popular for some time.

Invite customers to join an online community that employees manage by starting discussions that are relevant to your industry and the products or services customers use. Keep customers updated on your company, products and employees. Answer questions and encourage customers to answer each other’s, too.

Try to build personal communities by inviting customers to gather for coffee, for tours or social events annually. For something really different, try a road trip with visits to communities your company serves, and set up customer socials like Sage did.

3. Make customers part of your team

Your customers have businesses and lives that are worth recognizing and celebrating. Imagine how much they’d appreciate it if you noticed what they do.

Promote their accomplishments — such as a new business launch, 10k finish, philanthropic award — on your social media accounts. Or, highlight a customer each month on those channels.

On the flip side, let customers in on your celebrations. When you plan events for business anniversaries, invite them or send them thank-you cards with discounts. Ask them to be part of a group that helps create and test new products.

4. Keep it going

Engaging customers isn’t a one-time incident. It must be an ongoing effort. For every conversation, event and meeting, you want to walk away planning the next one.

For some companies, that’s a regular email update on how to increase the use of their products or to share relevant industry research. Add alerts to customer accounts so if there’s no action from them within a certain number of days (weeks or months — whatever is natural for your sales cycle), a customer experience professional personally reaches out.

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