Publication: The Economic Times

How to enhance customer engagement for your business

A successful customer engagement strategy must be based on understanding the entire customer journey and how they connect with the business across multiple interactions, both online and offline. Customer interaction involves multiple information systems, and integrating them makes things more streamlined.

Customer engagement is built by the sum total of all interactions between the business and its current, past, or potential customers. These interactions are directly or indirectly driven by a host of processes, people, and information stores. These involve marketing, product information, production schedules, logistics, billing, customer service, and so on—and thus necessitating data and process integration.

An engaged customer is not just aware of what the business has to offer but actively indulges in the ecosystem of products or services as a consumer, advocate, contributor, etc. A successful customer engagement strategy must be based on understanding the entire customer journey and how they connect with the business across multiple interactions, both online and offline.

This highlights the importance of facilitating a seamless and consistent set of effective interactions, which simplify customer tasks, provide visibility of fulfillment and payment, are consistent, and do not feel redundant. Customers of multi-product businesses, for example, would not want to make multiple registrations or work with different channels for different products. Many banks (and financial services), for instance, have used the opportunity to consolidate their interactions to effectively upsell, cross-sell and build stickiness.

Customer interaction involves multiple information systems, and integrating them makes things more streamlined. Digitizing customer engagement has brought forward a major shift in how businesses interact and keep their customers engaged.

Digitization of customer experience builds on a modern customer interaction cycle. Customer engagement technologies start at brand discovery and connection and extend through service, feedback, and loyalty. Integration can ensure that the customer experience improves and that businesses gain useful insights from it. It should create a fluid and straightforward physical and integrated transaction experience. With digitalization, businesses can also ensure faster delivery, a better after-sales service, and serve their returning customers better, creating brand loyalty and a richer customer base, which in turn lead to business growth.

Integrating digital customer engagement solutions would enable businesses to own customer relationships and work on new ways of engaging with their customers, creating a team of loyal customers. Smart integration would keep the customer first and map business activities and entities accordingly. Thus, the right master data management or unified data schemas would be critical to bringing together information from various systems.

These systems typically include awareness and presence systems (read: web, mobile, and retail). Right persona identification powered by reliable customer data can deliver power personalization leading to faster conversion and engagement. Thus, the underlying data, whether in a customer relationship (CRM), service management, or billing systems, must be integrated to enable a unified experience. Being able to draw relevant insights depends on customer data platforms that integrate customer data from a multitude of sources. Thus, customer engagement requires a smart integration of content management systems, marketing automation, customer relationship management, service and ticketing management, and fulfillment management. Modern technologies like Sitecore for online presence and Microsoft Dynamics 365 (for CRM, service, or operations) allow open enterprise architectures with managed interconnectivity across functions and systems. The following considerations are relevant for a smart integration initiative:

Know your customer and their journey: Customer engagement happens when the customer gets a unified, consistent, and harmonious experience throughout the customer journey stages. A good way to start is to map the customer journey and find all important touchpoints, bottlenecks, and challenges customers may meet. This will help find out more about their needs and behavior as well as identify opportunities for engagement. Using this knowledge, businesses may come up with specific use cases and customer personas and develop ideas to specifically engage each persona.

Personalized services: Personalization is quickly becoming one of the most utilized customer engagement strategies. It makes sense – customers want products or services that are tailored to them and their needs. Utilizing solutions based on creating a tailored solution for individual customer personas is better enabled through the integration of AI and ML solutions. With modern customer engagement tools, businesses are better able to identify what the customer wants and cater to their individual needs.

Fulfillment and service automation: Streamlining order fulfillment and service management has a critical bearing on customer engagement. The integration of data flow from and to internal or external sources about the customer, product, logistics, and support makes it possible.

Analyze data: Analytics is the backbone of customer engagement strategies. Data kept in silos can make it hard to get a bird's-eye view of the customers and create long-lasting relationships. An insight-driven operation not only provides a better experience but also is more efficient, as better logistics, work management, and value chain management.

Embrace an omnichannel mindset: A true omnichannel experience is created when the customer interaction with the business is seamless irrespective of the channel used, be it physical, call center, service agent, app, or social media, unnoticed handoff and continuity. The overall customer experience should be uncompromised and consistent throughout.

Building a community of loyal users and advocates: The customer engagement journey works on building a loyal community of customers that helps generate new business growth. Businesses can leverage automation and integration to enable a great experience with their loyalty programs, online and offline events, active crowdsourcing, and recognition and rewards. These necessitate the orchestration of processes and data flows across systems like the web and mobile presence, social media interactions, product management flows, and product insights from service management.

A successful customer engagement strategy can accelerate business growth and enhance profitability. Integrated digitization with smart solutions and thought-out implementation creates loyal brand advocates and reduce customer acquisition costs. However, based on how developed the customer engagement strategy is, each stage may have different levels of complexity. It can be a series of trial and error, but with the right solutions in place, businesses can improve their customer experience and keep their customers engaged.

(The writer is, Founder & CEO at Advaiya)

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