When you think about your business, it's easy to fixate on the big numbers. Your revenue, your profit, your churn, your targets. All of these metrics, while undeniably important, share a common thread. Your customers. They are the binding element that connects your successes and failures together — the lifeblood of your business. Finding a new customer can cost 5 times more than retaining an existing one. With this in mind, it's time to take a step back and ask yourself 'how well do I really know my customers, how well do I treat them and how do they respond?'.
These might feel like daunting questions, especially if you have neglected your customers recently or have been overwhelmed with other business priorities. It's not too late to refocus and put your customers first with a clear customer service and customer engagement strategy. Read on to find out what customer service vs customer engagement looks like, and how to use them to enhance your overall customer experience.
What is customer service?
Customer service is essentially every interaction that takes place between your customer service team and a customer which involves the giving of help or advice. This can take place before or after customers engage with your products or services These interactions are usually by telephone, by e-mail, over live chat, by post, on social media, or in person.
Queries are often related to your products or services, but might also be about the processes involved as people become and stay a customer. This could include issues with delivery, problems with your website, customer service waiting times or queries about your Ts and Cs.
As the popularity of mobile devices and the latest 'always on' culture shows no sign of slowing down, it's also important for businesses to understand that the manner in which people want to interact with customer service is changing. People now live their lives with 24/7 access to everything, just at the touch of a button. This means that lengthy service agreements, long waiting times, convoluted processes and poor technology (think when you've been on hold to a company for 45 minutes and then the line drops just as someone answers) are against more scrutiny than ever before. As many as
89% of consumers say they are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience, so it's really important to offer a consistently high level of service to any of your customers who need help. Customer service is often operated as a business department and sometimes takes the shape of a contact centre.
What is customer engagement?
Customer engagement still centres around your customers, but this time focuses on their interactions with your brand (and vice versa) and how you use your touchpoints and channels to build relationships and connections that are relevant and meaningful. Customer engagement doesn't just happen — it requires a well-planned, active campaign of ongoing relationship building, maintenance and nurturing. It can be crucial to creating a loyal customer base who aren't tempted away by competitors. How your customers choose to engage with your business, and the options you give them as a business, will vary from company to company.
Customer engagement evokes emotional responses, while customer service purely exists to help. This engagement can be achieved through personalised communications, highly targeted campaigns and behaviour-triggered content. Fully engaged customers represent a 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth, which makes it clear why customer engagement is so important.
Combining customer service and customer engagement for an amazing customer experience
When you bring customer service and customer engagement together, they contribute to a larger, all-encompassing idea known as ‘customer experience’. Customer experience is the over-arching definition of the relationship between your business and your customers. It's the culmination of your products or services, your customer service support, your multi-channel customer engagements, your values and proposition, your messaging and your marketing.
Together these elements influence how your customers perceive your brand, across physical, emotional and psychological moments throughout the customer journey. As many as 89% of companies now expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, which means that it is very likely your competitors are already ahead of you with their customer experience strategy. Knowing how to harness the insights and data generated through your customer service and customer engagement efforts is key to driving an exceptional customer experience.
First and foremost, speak directly to your customer service colleagues. It is their job, day in and day out, to help your customers, and this means they are the people in the business who know your customers best. Use their anecdotal feedback and experience to better understand the types of questions or complaints your customers have. Ask them for themes or topics that appear regularly, and what processes they have in place to offer support or resolution.
Your customer service department will also have access to reams of historical data, including everything from customer emails and letters to online reviews and complaints. Mine this data, again looking for common threads and consistent themes that can help you to better understand what big problems your customers are facing collectively. You can also analyse your recorded customer service phone calls, face-to-face service logs and live chat transcripts to really unearth key insights into your customers' sentiments.
Do you have a feedback system in place to measure your customer service team's performance, such as NPS scoring or CSAT? NPS stands for Net Promoter Score and is one of the most popular ways for businesses to better understand their customer service effectiveness and how customers are feeling about their brand. High responses indicate higher levels of satisfaction with your company and the customer experience. You can also tailor your NPS forms to collect qualitative feedback, which provides a further point of analysis.
CSAT measures your customers’ feelings immediately following an interaction with a customer service agent. You can send out a one-to-five scale survey question to capture your customer’s satisfaction level.
As you can see, your customer service department holds the key to multitudes of vital customer insights and data. Once you commit time and resources to analyse this data, you can build out a strategy and action plan which is designed to improve your customer service and in turn, improve your customer experience.
The first step in measuring and improving your customer engagement is to better understand who your customers are. Do this by creating insight-led customer personas. Group your customers into key segments based on their shared characteristics. These segments may be based on demographics, behaviour (such as repeat purchase rate or average order value), company size or location. Once you have created your segments — aim for 4 or 5 that truly represent your customers and ideal customers — build out personas for each. By doing this, you are taking a big step towards understanding your customers on an individual level, which in turn can help you to better address their engagement expectations and needs. Your personas should have a name plus a list of their wants and needs, their motivations, how your company can solve their problems, and where they spend their time — online and offline.
Once you have your personas defined, it's time to enable one of the most effective customer engagement strategy's available: personalisation. Research shows that 80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand that provides personalised experiences. What this means in practical terms is that instead of providing a generic experience to everyone who visits your website or engages with your brand — as you are probably doing at the moment — personalisation allows you to tailor your engagement experiences to the needs and expectations of your personas. You can do this by focusing on location, existing customer status, browsing behaviour or acquisition channel. Personalisation helps you to make your customers feel appreciated at an individual level, which in turn will make them more likely to engage with your brand.
The next step to improve your customer engagement is to fully understand how customers find and move through the sales and marketing funnel, from their point of discovery through to becoming loyal customers. These are the most common touchpoints for companies:
- Offline and digital advertising
- Paid and organic social media
- Website or app
- Email marketing
- Physical stores and POS
- Customer service
- Product reviews
- Influencer recommendations
- Peer reviews
- Physical and digital events
The objective here is for you to understand how each channel functions, how each channel complements or supports the next, and whether there is room for improvement in terms of how they impact your customer engagement. Reach out to your marketing team for more in-depth metrics and insights.
Businesses often overlook their own website as an important source of customer engagement data. Your contact form or chat box, downloadable content, newsletter subscription box, on-page surveys, most visited web pages and most clicked call-to-actions are all engagement points that can provide valuable insights into improving how your customers engage with you online. If you’re not using engagement prompts like these on your website yet, speak to your marketing and development teams about introducing them to your website.
Customer engagement ideas
Once you've assessed and analysed your existing customer service and customer engagement data, and you've worked out a plan to improve any areas that are weak or need attention, it's time to plan for new initiatives to drive engagement.
Create a community
Your community might be a Twitter hashtag, a Facebook page, a subreddit, a LinkedIn group, a Treehouse room or any space that allows customer interaction. They're useful because they give every customer the chance to interact with your brand at a level they are comfortable with. Communities can also help customer service teams out because they call on the collective to answer questions, share ideas and answer problems.
Opening up a dialogue between your customers and your business is a great way to encourage engagement. Ask questions about your brand, your products and services, your website — anything that matters to your business can be positioned as a question to your customers. You can ask for their input on social media, by email or even using an on-page survey form on your website. Many social media platforms offer a poll feature, making it easier than ever to quickly collect a lot of customer feedback. Engagement is all about a two-way conversation, so share your findings and insights with your customers. Let them know how you plan to use their feedback to make your company and their experience better, and keep them in the loop as your plans progress. Show that you are committed to continuous improvement and that you value their input into shaping your business's future.
Create content your audience will love
Now you have your well-crafted personas to hand, start to create unique and valuable content designed specifically to help with their problems and needs. Make your content matter — look at your competitors and spot gaps that you can fill. Use keyword search data to uncover exactly what your audience is searching for, and create content tailored to meet their searches. Show that you can help your customers and be useful at every stage of the sales and marketing funnel, as they get to know your brand and become more and more engaged.
The types of content your customers will respond to will depend entirely on your industry and products, but ideas include:
- Calculators or comparison tools
- Virtual or AR experiences
- Digital games
Measuring customer service, customer engagement and customer experience
Once you've fully interrogated your customer service and customer engagement data, and you have created a strategic plan to improve both elements of your business with a view to delivering an exceptional customer experience, it's time to start measuring your success. There are a few ways to do this.
Monitor your review website, your social media channels, your customer service inbox and any other spaces online where customer conversations might be taking place. The more positive reviews you're getting, the better the overall experience you're offering!
Use website analytics software such as Google Analytics to measure how many people are visiting your website and how they are engaging with it. If you're improving your customer service, customer engagement and customer experience, you should find that more people are actively seeking out your website. Not only this, but you should also find that more visitors are returning, your conversion rates are going up, more people interact with your engagement touchpoints, and people spend more time on your website overall.
Keep an eye on the search volume around your brand. You can reach out to your marketing team for this information. If you're doing a good job of keeping your customers happy and engaged through a great experience, word will spread and you will see more and more people searching for your brand online.
There's no forgetting the big metrics either. As your overall customer experience improves, you should be seeing revenue and sales go up and churn rate drops down. Make sure that you don't miss out on any data by creating a dashboard that clearly tracks your performance over time.
In this article, we have explained what customer engagement is compared with customer service, and how the two can be used together to feed the all-encompassing, holy grail for businesses: customer experience. Customer service is all about helping customers, solving problems and managing complaints. It usually involves a dedicated team who are on hand across multiple channels to be there when a customer needs help. These channels include email, telephone, SMS, live chat, social media, review websites and postal mail. Customer service provides a direct route straight to the hearts and minds of your customers, where frustration or confusion is felt with your products, services, processes and touchpoints.
Customer engagement is a business-wide initiative that touches every function and department. Every time you, as a company, interact with a customer and they interact back, can be thought of as engagement. It covers all of the touchpoints a customer faces in their journey with your brand, from discovery through to loyal custom. This can include your presence in search engines, your sales team, your digital communication, your products, your packaging, the content on your website — the list goes on and on.
Together, customer service and customer engagement hold crucial insights and data that, when mined and analysed effectively, will help your business to shine. They hold the key to better understanding why your customers need your help, and what resonates with them enough to inspire an engagement. Harness this knowledge, commit to improving areas that are weak or flawed, and communicate your plans to your customers. By doing so, you'll be moving the needle on your customer experience in a positive direction. Yes, customer service and customer engagement might be different by definition, but they are equally important when it comes to driving loyalty, revenue and a great customer experience.