The Digital Age is resulting in the area of Customer Experience becoming more important than ever before. For example, in a recent Digital Trends report published by Econsultancy.com, a large majority (44%) of research respondents indicated that the primary way their organization will seek to differentiate itself from competitors is through Customer Service and Customer Experience and only 5% of respondents indicated they would seek to differentiate on price. This is not too surprising since the digital age has resulted in a larger number of touch points between customers and brands, across multiple channels. Every touch point across every channel influences the customer experience in a positive or negative way and the sum total of those experiences is what determines the customer sentiment about the brand.
The business imperative for most brands today therefore is to focus on the customer experience journey across various touch points and across multiple channels. For example, we’ve been involved in some interesting discussions with a leading Cinema Brand. For such a brand, a customer might buy tickets online, watch a trailer on a mobile phone, arrive at the cinema and purchase snacks at a kiosk, post reviews and opinions after watching the movie, and share the cinema experience on social media channels with his or her network. Each of these represents an opportunity for the cinema brand to influence the customer experience – and the primary way to achieve this is through Customer Engagement.
We define Customer Engagement as sustained bi-directional interactions between a brand and its customers. This involves going beyond the “push” strategies of traditional Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing techniques to an approach that is much more focused on the Consumer to Business or C2B channel. The aim is RKYC or “Really Know Your Customer” to the extent of developing deep insights through sustained, bi-directional engagement. Customer engagement techniques can be applied across various touch points and channels. Examples of engagement include getting customers involved in games, contests, events, quizzes and all sorts of interactions that are fun and rewarding.
For brands who are interested in engaging with their customers, I would recommend keeping two things in mind. One is convenience – the ability to engage with customers across multiple channels and ‘be where the customers are’. The other is incentive – the ability to reward customers who choose to participate in engagements, for example through a gamification and points based engine. If brands can implement solutions addressing both of these, there is every likelihood of their customer engagement initiatives succeeding.
Going forward, I see a deep interconnect between customer engagement and customer experience. Increased engagement results in the ability for brands to derive deep insights about customers. In turn, this helps brands to tailor their offerings, personalize where possible, and transform the overall customer experience. Therefore, my recommendation for the large majority of brands who are seeking to differentiate themselves based on Customer Experience is: focus on your Customer Engagement initiatives and get them off the ground!
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