Recently came across an article from Colloquy library (http://bit.ly/1hZbMlr), which talks about the extraordinary ability of human beings to make the time go fast. Skeptics may say such sort of thing is impossible; but wait, you haven’t read the entire scenario yet. The article talks about the concept of “Flow” which essentially means that when you are doing an extremely interesting activity, it generates an uncommon rhythm which can make time to fly by. Remember a really interesting movie or more pertinently, a captivating video game? You would readily indulge into fond nostalgic memories of your childhood or teenage.
When you are in pure ‘Flow’ the activity occupies your life
So coming back to the Flow, Colloquy article says that if a company or brand is able to generate such Flow for its customers, their brand image & repeat purchases will be immensely uplifted. The area of marketing that encapsulates this subject is that of Customer Engagement. Customer Engagement is a vital part of CRM. Actually, if you take a high-level look, both CRM & CEM (Customer Engagement Management) can appear very similar. This white paper by Experian (http://bit.ly/1mwnbid) accentuates this fact. The same white paper also tries to decode CEM into 4 Is – Involvement, Interaction, Intimacy, Influence. Our view on Customer Engagement is that it’s the art of initiating or furthering active conversations with the customers on continuously or on need-basis, provided this communication adds value to the product or service. Wikipedia defines Customer Engagement as the engagement of customers with one another, with a company or a brand. The initiative for engagement can be either consumer-led or company-led and the medium of engagement can be on or offline.
As we have been introduced to Customer Engagement Management (CEM), let us also explore its need in the business. CEM brings a lot of great benefits to your brand & company. Still, many people dismiss CEM as a marketing gimmick primarily because its benefits are not always linear, tangible or 1:1 traceable with the efforts. Let us explore some of the benefits which can be practically traced to good CEM: First one is Customer Retention. Properly engaged customers will always stick to your brand. (Just think of it along the lines of retention probability of properly attended spouses!) Secondly, engaged customers will automatically generate a buzz for your brand or company. Knowingly or even unknowingly. You’ll never know in which way engaged customers will sing your praises even through casual conversations within their network. Such ‘happily engaged’ customers are largely responsible for bringing in referrals. And it’s not just perceptual value. Did you know there are many operational efficiencies to be gained from customer engagement? In that regard, this study paper by Forrester Research is an interesting read - http://adobe.ly/1dTuCYS. This is only one side. On the other side, your customers are not left behind. They get increased total relationship value & a great customer experience. It could be a Win-Win in the making.
Let us assume you are impressed & want to have a go at CEM. But how will you do it? As I see it, it would be optimal to divide it in 2 parameters – CEM Stages & Channels of CEM. CEM Stages signify the stages in the Engagement lifecycle. I would roughly list them as Enrollment stage, Engagement stage, Gamification stage. All of these stages require feedback loops & instant 2-way communications. Second parameter is CEM Channels. There will always be that good old channel of in-store engagement where your service staff will engage with the customer. Then there come the technological channels – Mobile & Internet. You can engage your customers via SMS-based/USSD-based/IVR-based Mobile solutions or you can design apps for specific mobile platforms (Android, iOS, WindowsPhone). These apps may use SMS services or internet data (GPRS, 3G) for as communication mediums. There have also been significant developments in the web-based customer engagement solutions.
Customers are definitely ready for more engagement from the companies & this article (http://bit.ly/1jXahFB) solidifies the belief. One of the more interesting figures is that as many as 86% customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Judging from the steady rise in consumerism plus steeply rising use of technology by humans to interact, Customer Engagement may be your kingmaker in the market.