A brand tells customers what to think about a company’s products and services, but the experience dictates how customers feel when interacting with a company. Today, marketing professionals should focus less on broadcasting to customers about what they should buy—and spend much more time engaging them. Customer engagement happens by listening, interacting, surprising, anticipating needs, earning trust, and making it easy for them to advocate for you.
The biggest challenge marketers’ face today is buyers are forming opinions about the brand well before they choose to engage with your company thanks to ratings, reviews, and social media referrals. Marketers need to get smarter by moving from a ‘market & sell’ mindset to more of a ‘sense & feel’ engagement marketing approach. Most marketers limit their emotional messaging and engagement to the demand generation customer lifecycle stage; however, connecting with buyers on an emotional level throughout their entire journey is absolutely critical.
Customer engagement marketing can help drive emotional connections at each stage of the customer journey. Here’s 6 tips for connecting with customers along the journey to ultimately drive a deeper engagement: know me, engage me, make my life simple, anticipate my needs, feel what I feel, and reward me.
- “Know Me” – Persona Building
Marketers need to ensure they are spending enough time thinking about the emotional drivers behind each stage of the customer journey. The goal is to get a sense of how it feels to be that customer, in this experience, so that we can get a better understanding of what marketing and service messages resonate. The more your communications are aligned with the needs and behaviors of your prospects and customers, the more effective they become.
Better marketing starts with the appropriate insights into the prospect and customer base. Using persona-specific campaigns based on behavior, habits, and preferences, marketers can market using messages, imagery and channelization that speak to the individual consumer, and not to the masses. For example, if a prospect is in the buying decision stage, how can we speak to them to be most effective? To answer this we must look at two important attributes: what persona are they, and what emotions do we anticipate this persona displaying throughout this stage? If this is an anxious, cautious B2B buyer, present them with a case study demonstrating results or testimonials from existing clients of how they have received an increase in ROI. If it’s an excited, early adopter, tell them how smart they are for being on the leading edge of the technology. Ultimately, the goal is to address their emotional needs throughout the journey.
- “Engage Me” – The Art of Story Telling
Human beings are naturally wired to connect with stories. Stories help us relate to each other on an emotional level. Many companies know exactly what they manufacture, build, or provide its customers and can communicate it well, but few marketers go one step further to tell the why. One company that does explain it well is Twitter’s Periscope. On Periscope’s “About Us” section on their website they state, “We believe that people should be able to discover the world through someone else’s eye”. This is where storytelling happens. The why lets companies tap into its product/brand’s emotional benefits such as creativity, excitement, or desire – and start driving customer action. Here are a couple of examples of emotional drivers that help create action:
- Curiosity– helps drive exploration and clicks; something critical for emails, landing pages, banner advertisement
- Challenge – fuels competitive edge, which will trigger actions such as donating money or dumping ice cold water on your head
- Desire and inspiration – suggests ideal self-image; helpful for catalogs, e-stores, and product images
- Anxiety – initiates a feeling of missing out, which can trigger an impulse purchase
- Happiness, Surprise, and laughter – drives sharing, as seen through many successful social media campaigns such as the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl
- Sadness – helps us connect, empathize, and do an act of kindness or donate time
- “Make My Life Simple” – Design an Effortless Experience
Most every consumer has experienced a customer service call where they get transferred two or three times, and each new agent ask for the same basic information. There are now dozens of ways businesses can engage and interact with their customers. The increase in channel options can only increase the potential number of handoffs and ultimately frustration. For example, a customer may initiate contact via a mobile device, and then get a message to “enter the full site”. This basically tells the customer that not everything is included on the optimized mobile site – a huge omnichannel fail. The next step will be to come back later using a desktop to fill in any issue details via an online form. Or even worse, the customer can’t get their answer resolved online and is forced to call a live agent for a one-on-one consultation.
Companies need to make sure the customer experience is integrated and not disjointed. Businesses should start by designing experiences that address customers’ needs, emotions, and goals, then figure out what integrated technologies can deliver that experience. In essence, a business needs to provide one unified customer experience that spans multiple mobile devices and screens. The experience needs to let customers pause any activity, and be able to resume it at another time, from a different device. Lastly, the experience should be personalized and tailored to the customer’s preferences, habits and behaviors regardless of channel or platform used to engage with the brand.
When designing an omni-channel strategy, first start with designing your data management strategy. Make sure 100% of customer interaction and VOC data is captured, along with all customer profile data such as past purchase history, loyalty status, coupon redemption, and website page visits or email opens. The next step is making sure all decision support applications tap into the same data warehouse so real-time engagement can be personalized and predicted messages and offers displayed, no matter what communication channel used. Lastly, analyze your user interface design for each channel and device and make sure it is uniform, consistent, user friendly, and addresses first touch resolution (getting your issue resolved digitally, the first time, in as few touches as possible).
- “Anticipate My Needs” – Predictive Modeling
Historically, customer service has always been viewed as being very reactive to customer needs. For example, if the customer has a problem, they have to call customer service. Rarely is it the other way around where customer service proactively reaches out to the customer. Micah Solomon, the author of High-tech, High touch Customer Service describes the concept of “anticipatory customer service” where companies predict customer needs and proactively address them. Anticipating a customer’s needs gives companies an opportunity to provide a WOW experience or fix problem before it amplifies.
This is where predictive analytics comes in. Predictive analytics is technology that uses predictive modeling to find the probability or likelihood that a future event will take place such as placing an order or recommending a friend. In order to predict consumer behavior, one must have lots of historical customer data such as spending patterns, product use, and service interaction history are all important data points to analyze.
Using predictive analytics, marketers and customer service professionals can predict which customers need attention and why. For example, which customers are going to churn? Which customers are likely to renew their subscription? Which customers are extremely happy and loyal and have a high probability of accepting a cross-sell offer if presented? To do this, marketing and service must come together, and tap into the goldmine of data stored in our CRM systems. One example is those customers who haven’t logged into your online store in a while, or even submit a “forgot password” request. This group of customers need to be put on a nurturing campaign and showed some proactive, one-on-one personal attention. Another example is a customer who puts an item in their cart, and then deletes the item. This could trigger a video chat to pop open, so a customer care advocate can help the customer find something better suited for their needs. In addition, by using data from customer interactions, businesses can predict and deliver increasingly relevant communications, content, and offers. For example, a customer who puts a sweater into their shopping cart would be presented with banner ads and offers that display the matching hat and mittens. Marketers also can dive deeper into customer behavior by examining how often a consumer returns to a website and tracking the page that prompted him or her to pick up the phone. The following includes a list of behaviors that could be used in predictive modeling:
- What’s in the cart
- Where they clicked
- Previous service interactions
- Loyalty Status
- Emails they clicked on
- Videos they watched
- Whitepapers downloaded
Other opportunities to use predictive modeling to enhance the customer experience include providing more personalized scripts, customer health scoring, cross-selling and up-selling offers, and proactive service alert.
- “Feel What I Feel” – Empathy, Messaging & Rapport Building
Bruce Temkin stated, “It is not the total experience that ultimately matters, but rather what people remember about their experience that counts.” Employees play a fundamental role in advocating the brand and delivering an exceptional customer experience. The ability to deliver a differentiated experience is contingent on the company’s culture that empowers it. Internal communication with employees is just as important as external communications to customers. It’s not enough to determine customers’ NPS score—ask employees as well. This will serve as an indicator of the health of employee engagement and the foundation for delivering remarkable customer experiences. Creating an emotional connection with employees will teach them to deliver that same kind of connection to customers.
Once marketers and service professionals have a feel for employee engagement within an organization, they will be better able to train front line employees on how to show empathy, and understand exactly how the customer feels. Tracking the customer’s current emotion inside the CRM system is a great data point to build into predictive modeling. For example, if the employee recognizes the customer is upset about a previous purchase and notes that in the system, it will prevent future offers for that product from appearing on that customer’s user interface. In addition, it allows marketers the ability to better track customer pain points and points of delight along the journey. Knowing exactly how customers are feeling, marketers can come up with content and messaging that could help amplify feelings of happiness, or empathize with feelings of pain.
Now more than ever, brands need to be able to connect a phone inquiry to a customer’s online journey. These days it is not uncommon for a consumer to visit a site numerous times, clicking on a variety of product pages and banner ads. With today’s advanced technology, nearly every move a consumer makes online can be carefully tracked, logged, and leveraged to create targeted offers or personalized messages. Each interaction data point can be used to build a more comprehensive customer profile, which can be extremely valuable to both the customer care team and marketers. Front line employees can use these insights to deepen relationships with customers by personalizing the conversation to address needs before the customer even asks. For example, take a customer who researched a product online, and picks up the phone to speak with an agent. Instead they are sent through the phone IVR system and spend 10 minutes navigating it. Now, what if that same customer were to be greeted by an agent capable of continuing the conversation precisely where the customer left off in his or her online journey? Agents who know what customers are interested in from their online searches, browsing behavior; product preferences, current location, and visitor history are able to answer questions in a targeted fashion and immediately building rapport with the customer. The result is a considerably more memorable experience.
- “Reward Me” – Brand Connection, Loyalty & Evangelism
In today’s reputation economy, marketers need to focus on becoming a loyalty brand, and not just a brand with a loyalty program. Companies like Apple, Nike, Southwest, and Zappos have mastered the art of making customers feel connected to their brands. These well-loved brands have structure their experiences around meaningful, emotion-driven marketing triggers that build trust, loyalty, and advocacy. They have created a value proposition that is not solely reliant on a discount, but rather on one that fulfills customer needs, makes customers feel recognized and valued, and engages them through relevant and personalized experiences. For example, take the Nike+ online community which is made up of loyal Nike running shoe customers. This community makes consumers feel a sense of belonging as well as friendly competition (which all athletes love), ultimately driving them to run farther and more often. This is an action that puts some wear and tear into those Nike sneakers causing them to get replaced more often. When the consumer goes to purchase his or her next pair, you bet it will be a Nike purchase. Why? Because the consumer can’t live without his or her Nike+ community which tracks his or her runs, calories burned, goals achieved on a daily basis – an experience that is hard to replicate.
In conclusion, great marketers create a loyal customer base by focusing on the experience, and the emotional connection at each stage of the journey. When designing your next engagement marketing strategy, remember the 6 tips for connecting with customers to drive deeper engagement: know me, engage me, make my life simple, anticipate my needs, feel what I feel, and reward me.