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“Customer Engagement”, we all hear and use the term, but what is it, really, and how can it be improved to drive business growth and market leadership? In this post we will cover the fundamentals of Customer Engagement. We will also discuss a few of the typical barriers to customer interaction as well as strategies to overcome those barriers.
Customer Engagement – What is it?
Simply put, Customer Engagement is the ability of the enterprise to maintain a seamless, efficient, engaging, connection to its customers. Customer Engagement occurs across a broad spectrum of communication media—traditional and online—and can encompass virtually every touch point within the enterprise. These would include: Sales (inside and outside), Customer Service, Operations, Quality, Delivery, and Post Sales Support.
An enterprise’s ability to construct a Customer Engagement ecosystem that delivers maximum value is an essential element in building brand awareness and customer loyalty. Failure to do so can inhibit the ability to attract and retain customers. Ineffective or inconsistent customer interactions also make it difficult to stay current with customer trends and to predict future behaviors.
Barriers to Customer Engagement
Barriers to Customer Engagement can vary depending on specific conditions within the enterprise; however, there are a few common problems.
Weak Organizational Commitment
A lack of organizational commitment can create a barrier that is virtually impossible to overcome. For some enterprises, any commitment to active customer interaction quickly dissipates once an order has been received. This short-sighted approach ignores the fact that the majority of customer interactions occur after an order has been taken.
This lack of commitment to development of a full-scale Customer Engagement program usually serves to sacrifice the long-term in favor of the immediate. This is not a strategy that creates lasting success.
Outdated and Siloed Processes
Organizations operating with customer-facing processes that are outdated, siloed, inefficient and non-transparent will not be able to deliver the quality of engagement that customers now demand. Customer interactions that are driven by legacy processes will not provide the levels of automation and control required to deliver outstanding customer support.
Organizations that fail to invest in process improvement will continue to lag behind in market growth. The resulting loss of market share and revenue can be debilitating.
Lack of Technology-Enabled Applications
Enterprises that lag behind in adoption of new business-supportive technologies will struggle to keep up, much less to excel. Customers increasingly demand that suppliers deliver front-to-back engagement and support that is optimized to the full extent provided by ongoing advancements in technology-fueled applications.
The hard reality is that if an enterprise does not provide its customers with these technological advantages, the customer will find someone that will.
Overcoming the Barriers
So, how can those barriers be overcome? What can the enterprise do to re-invigorate an under-performing Customer Engagement process?
Culture-Shift , A Top-Down Organizational Commitment
Most attempts at organizational culture shifts originate from the top. Virtually all successful shifts are fully supported at the top. Customer Engagement improvement initiatives that are not adequately supported will die on the vine.
Improving the breadth, depth, and quality of customer interactions will require an all-out organizational effort. Management commitment to applicable investments in training, processes, and technology is essential. That commitment must be filtered throughout the entire organization. Full organizational buy-in is crucial.
Investments in process revitalization can pay significant dividends for any business enterprise. The conversion of processes that are manual, disconnected, sluggish, and opaque into processes that are automated, connected, agile, and transparent can completely transform a Customer Engagement ecosystem. This process revitalization can consist of several, or all, of the following:
- Workflow-based process automation. Automation of customer-facing processes through development and implementation of intelligent process workflows.
- Investment in custom CRM solutions. Custom CRM solutions that deliver enhanced capabilities in the areas of: customer communication and support, opportunity tracking and response, predictive analytics (customer behaviors and market trends), resource allocation, etc.
- Customer Digital Experience initiatives. Creation of engaging digital experiences that satisfy the increasing expectations of the customer and that can drive market recognition.
- Cloud migration initiatives. Migration of legacy applications to cloud environments that will improve application performance and provide your customers with application access from anywhere, at any time.
Put Technology to Work
Technology is revolutionizing Customer Engagement. New technologies and applications are enabling business enterprises to not only engage with their customers in new ways, but to also enhance the mutual benefit of those engagements. Your business now has access to a variety of technology-fueled tools that can be utilized to improve your performance in the area that matters most—-your engagement with your customers. A sampling of those technologies would include:
- Intelligent Workflows. Enables development of dynamic, code-free, workflows that can convert customer-facing processes that are manual and static into processes that are automated and agile.
- Big Data & Analytics. These technologies, and their corresponding solutions, provide the enterprise with the tools needed to collect and analyze the vast amounts of data generated throughout a typical Customer Engagement ecosystem.
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML). AI/ML-enabled applications provide the means by which the enterprise can “learn” from its customer interactions; learning that drives the ability to predict, and proactively plan for, future customer behaviors and expectations.
Developing Customer Engagement strategies that address culture, process and technology will help ensure that your enterprise is able to deliver exceptional value to your customers; value that is clearly recognizable by your customers; value that is repeatable and reliable; value that creates sustainable customer loyalty and brand recognition.