Customer Engagement

What is Customer Engagement?

Customer engagement refers to how a company interacts with its customers to build a relationship and foster loyalty. It encompasses a variety of activities and strategies for attracting and retaining customers, improving the customer experience, and encouraging ongoing interaction and communication with the brand.

Key aspects of customer engagement include:

  • Direct communication with customers through various channels like social media, email, customer service, and face-to-face interactions
  • Offering a positive, seamless, and personalized experience across all touchpoints — in-store, online, or through mobile apps
  • Actively seeking customer feedback and adapting products, services, or policies based on that feedback
  • Implementing loyalty programs, which include rewards and incentives for repeat business and referrals
  • Creating a community around the brand through forums, social media groups, or events
  • Encouraging satisfied customers to become brand advocates who share their positive experiences with others
  • Leveraging technology like CRM systems, AI, and data analytics to better understand customer behaviors, preferences, and to personalize interactions

Effective customer engagement improves customer satisfaction and loyalty to your brand. It also drives sales, enhances brand reputation, and creates a competitive advantage. It’s an ongoing process that evolves with changing customer expectations and technological advancements.

Synonyms

  • Customer involvement
  • Customer participation
  • Customer interaction

The Stages of Customer Engagement

The five stages of customer engagement are quite similar to those of the customer journey.

Discovery

In the discovery stage, potential customers learn about your brand, products, and services through various channels like social media, advertising, and word-of-mouth. They don’t know much about your company or what you offer, but they may be looking for a solution to their problem (or you may have caught their attention).

Discovery-stage sales and marketing strategies include:

  • Demand gen activities
  • Building brand awareness through digital ads, influencer marketing, or SEO
  • Optimizing your website for SEO keywords, lead capture, and conversions
  • Creating educational content that addresses customer needs or pain points
  • Creating top-of-funnel content that draws your target audience in

This isn’t necessarily the time to sell. It’s your chance to make a first impression that intrigues them to learn more about your product.

Consideration

During the consideration phase, your prospects are researching your product and competing ones. To engage them in this stage, you need to:

  • Clearly communicate your value proposition (and demonstrate how it relates to them)
  • Differentiate your product from competitors’
  • Give buyers clear and compelling information that addresses pain points or answers the questions they’re asking

For consideration-stage buyers, your content should be more targeted.  The best kinds of content for this stage are middle- and bottom-of-funnel buyer enablement content. Informational content (white papers, product brochures, pricing documents, or case studies) and product demos are perfect examples.

Buying

When your customers are in the buying stage, they’re evaluating just a few options and have narrowed down their choices. To engage them in this stage, you need to:

  • Provide an easy buying experience (no hidden fees or complicated checkout processes)
  • Give buyers the option to connect with a human if they choose
  • Remove any obstacles that prevent people from completing a purchase
  • Recommend complementary or related products

For the buying stage, your sales team will have to answer objections, drive home the benefits of your product, and quote/negotiate prices and terms. Keeping your deals moving requires constant engagement with relevant content and efficient sales and onboarding processes.

Loyalty

Customer retention is all about being there for them whenever they need you. The personalized experiences they got during the buying process should continue throughout their time as a customer.

To create loyal customers, here are a few strategies:

  • Have customer loyalty programs that reward repeat purchases or long-term subscriptions
  • Provide exceptional customer service (quickly addressing complaints, offering refunds/replacements when necessary)
  • Ask for feedback and suggestions to show you value their opinions
  • Keep customers up-to-date on new products, services, and offers through email campaigns
  • Respond to customers on social media and review sites
  • Start a newsletter specifically for new customers

Depending on the type of product you sell, customer engagement will look different. DTC brands need to have a solid social media strategy and be willing to connect with customers through forums and comments. For B2B companies, customer engagement will look more like a partnership that involves quarterly business reviews or occasional check-ins, plus email marketing communication.

Advocacy

When your customers reach the advocacy stage, they don’t just like your brand; they love it! They become brand advocates, meaning that they share their positive experiences with others.

To encourage advocacy:

  • Keep providing excellent customer service and personalized interactions.
  • Leverage user-generated content (UGC) by asking customers to submit testimonials, reviews or share their experiences on social media.
  • Create a referral program where customers can earn rewards for referring new customers to your brand.
  • Be open to customer feedback and make improvements based on their suggestions.
  • Show appreciation for your advocates by acknowledging them on social media or featuring them in your marketing campaigns.

Advocacy is one of the trickiest to master because it’s mostly out of your control. You can’t force people to be passionate about your brand, but you can create an amazing customer experience that encourages them to promote your brand.

Importance of Customer Engagement in Revenue Growth

Importance in Marketing

Marketers engage their customers by creating targeted campaigns that speak to their needs and preferences. This leads to higher brand awareness, customer satisfaction, and ultimately revenue growth.

This is crucial for a few reasons:

  • Lead nurturing. Throughout the entire buying process, marketing collateral educates and informs prospects. Every article, langing page, whitepaper, email, etc., they receive leads them closer to the ultimate purchase decision.
  • Word-of-mouth marketing. Satisfied customers are more likely to recommend your brand, leading to new customer acquisition. Marketers who highlight testimonials, UGC, and customer success stories in their marketing and on their website convert 29% more (on average).
  • Customer loyalty and retention. Customers read helpful content during onboarding and training processes, which helps them reach value more quickly. Post-purchase, email campaigns with product tips, updates, and personalized messages create all-around engaged customers for the long term.

Importance in Sales

In sales, conversions are 8x higher when responses happen within the first five minutes. But customer responsiveness isn’t the only critical element of customer engagement. Throughout the customer journey (all the way up through onboarding), it’s the sales rep’s duty to give prospects and customers the info they need to make informed buying decisions.

  • In the Awareness stage, sales reps use a qualification framework like SPICED or MEDDIC to gather information about their prospect’s pain points, motivators, deal timeline, and decision-making hierarchy. This is what sets them up for a personalized buying experience down the funnel.
  • In the Consideration stage, they use social proof (e.g., case studies and customer testimonials) to ease any doubts prospects have about the product. They also deliver sales demos, answer questions, and address objections from different members of the decision-making process.
  • In the Decision stage, buyers are ready to get a quote, negotiate terms, and make a final decision. Besides driving home the product’s benefits, customer engagement is all about fast and accurate quoting, fast approval times, and getting contracts signed quickly.
  • In the Post-Purchase stage, sales reps work with customer success teams to ensure proper onboarding and successful product adoption. This sets the foundation for loyal, happy customers who stick with the company, in part because they loved their sales rep.

Importance in Customer Support

Customer support is the team that plays a role in long-term customer retention. If your support team doesn’t solve customer problems and inquiries quickly and effectively, you’re guaranteed to have a high churn rate.

More than half of your customers would leave after one bad support experience, and 73% say they’d do so after multiple. With B2B software, there’s a little leeway here (since switching might be difficult and cost millions). But, it’ll still only make them more open to listening the next time another company’s sales team reaches them.

There are three main attributes everyone on your support team should have:

  • Patience
  • Friendliness
  • Knowledge of the product and its features

In addition to fast response and resolution times, active listening and a solution-oriented approach are absolute necessities when it comes to customer engagement at the support level.

Customer Engagement Strategies

1. Social media engagement

Around the world, there are 4.95 billion social media users. There’s a 100% chance thousands of those are in your target audience (and ICP).

Social media marketing is one of the most effective customer engagement tactics because it…

  • gathers feedback from your current and prospective customers,
  • positively influences your brand perception,
  • and keeps your current users engaged with your product

…all while being an affordable way to expose your brand to new audiences.

To engage with customers on social media, you can:

  • Respond to comments an direct messages
  • Repost and repurpose user-generated content
  • Run polls and surveys to garner feedback
  • Host Q&A sessions or live chats
  • Use PPC ads to target specific demographics with new products, whitepapers, or anything else you can think of

2. Email marketing campaigns

Email marketing is another excellent tool for engaging with customers for the same reason: it’s applicable to just about every stage of the customer journey. Targeted campaigns are useful for customer acquisition, lead nurturing, post-purchase support, and long-term retention.

Email marketing campaigns can include:

  • Product updates and releases
  • Tips and tricks for using your product
  • Educational content related to your industry
  • Personalized offers and discounts

For your prospects, they should also include targeted content based on their browsing and activity history.

3. Loyalty programs

Customer loyalty programs are the best for building long-term customer relationships. They’re a way to turn your customers into advocates while keeping them engaged with your product and reinforcing their belief in it through rewards and recognition.

Here are a few examples of things you could incorporate into a loyalty program:

  • Reward points for purchases or advocacy
  • Exclusive discounts on future purchases
  • Early access to new products or features
  • Customer spotlights and PR
  • Referral bonuses (e.g., a % commission)

To make your customers feel as if they’re part of an exclusive club, you could also run a special email list for loyalty program members, where you can share insider news and exclusive content/offers.

4. Personalized content and recommendations

McKinsey research shows 71% of customers expect personalized experiences. In truth, it’s probably 100%. The easiest way to meet customer expectations is to give them what they’re looking for before they have to ask for it.

Personalization means something different at every stage of customer engagement, though.

  • During Discovery, it’s tailored content based on a prospect’s role, problem, or desire.
  • During Consideration, it’s demoing/informing on specific features that solve a prospect’s pain points.
  • During Decision, it’s quotes or personalized contracts for different stakeholders within a company.
  • During Post-Purchase, it’s personalized onboarding and product usage tips, plus email engagement.
  • During Advocacy, it’s special deals for loyalty program members, referral programs, and rewards for advocacy activities (e.g., testimonials and prospect reference call participation).

5. Customer feedback via surveys, quizzes, and polls

Collecting feedback helps you reduce customer churn and improve sales velocity by continuing to add more value to customers and prospects where it matters most to them. You can also use a customer satisfaction (CSAT) or Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey to gauge overall customer engagement and identify at-risk customers.

Some potential questions or topics to include in customer feedback surveys:

  • Overall satisfaction with the product/service
  • Ease of use and navigation
  • Areas for improvement or features they would like to see added
  • Quality of customer support
  • Likelihood to recommend the product/service to others
  • How they prefer to interact with your company (e.g., email, phone, social media)
  • Demographic information for further segmentation and personalization

6. Live chat support

Live chat support starts on your website with a chatbot. Chatbots can handle simple questions and tasks, which frees up your support team’s time to focus on more complex issues. But chatbots are also great for boosting engagement with personalized conversation triggers and prompts that engage visitors in a conversation (e.g., “Hey there! Are you looking for help with X feature?”).

You should have live chat agents, though. A support team can solve complex issues face-to-face much more quickly than they could over email. Chat agents can also keep track of frequently asked questions or commonly cited issues, which they can relay to product and marketing teams for future improvements.

7. Community building

There are millions of ways to build a community. Ultimately, it’ll come down to your ability to engage with and cater to your customers’ needs and interests. What’s important is that you establish channels for customers to communicate with each other and your company.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a forum or online community platform
  • Host in-person event meetups or webinars
  • Start a customer advisory board
  • Encourage customers to connect on social media and engage with each other’s content
  • Offer a platform for customers to share their experiences and success stories related to your product

Community building not only fosters strong relationships between customers, but it also gives you an opportunity to gather valuable feedback and insights directly from those who use your product/service.

8. In-person events and experiences

On the largest scale, events like Dreamforce and INBOUND attract thousands of customers and prospects each year. But even smaller, local events can be powerful ways to engage with your target audience in person. You could also have a booth at larger events that fit into your industry or niche.

Although they aren’t in person, webinars also fall under this category. They have an impressive conversion rate of 55%, making them one of the best forms of customer engagement for consideration and buying stage customers (though current ones can also benefit).

9. Influencer partnerships

Depending on your industry, influencer partnerships could mean something entirely different.

  • DTC brands normally use a celebrity or micro-influencer to endorse the product.
  • Scaled B2B companies focus more on channel sales — resellers, system integrators, and training partners — than individual influencers.
  • B2B startups often have executive-level partnerships, where one company’s C-suite joins another company’s advisory board (or vice versa).

The most critical aspect of any partnership is reciprocity: both sides benefit from the relationship. For example, an influencer may promote your product to their followers in exchange for free use of your product or a commission on sales they generate (plus the exposure boost).

10. Customer education programs

Educational customer interactions typically occur after the sale (though consultative selling falls into this category). For example, you may offer onboarding tutorials, PDFs, webinars, or virtual trainings to teach customers how to use key features of your product/service. 

This type of engagement not only helps customers get the most out of your product/service but also positions your company as a valuable resource and expert in your industry. It can also lead to upsell opportunities as customers become more familiar and comfortable with your product/service.

Benefits of Successful Customer Engagement Strategies

Successful customer engagement strategies lead to multiple benefits for both the company and its customers.

  • Higher customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Lower churn rates and higher expansion revenue
  • Improved brand reputation and recognition
  • Higher likelihood of meeting customer expectations
  • More effective communication and understanding between the company and its customers
  • Increased customer advocacy and word-of-mouth recommendations
  • Valuable customer feedback for product development and improvement
  • Better product differentiation
  • Higher valuations from investors

How to Measure Customer Engagement

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

The customer satisfaction (CSAT) score is a popular metric for measuring customer satisfaction and is typically measured through surveys or feedback forms. It asks customers to rate their overall satisfaction with the product/service through a series of 5 choices, from most satisfied to least.

Your CSAT score is the sum of all your positive responses divided by the total number of responses, giving you a percentage out of 100. You can use this score to evaluate the current state of your customer base and begin asking for further feedback for improvement.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The NPS measures the likelihood of customers recommending the product/service to others. This is also measured through a survey asking customers to rate on a scale of 0-10 how likely they are to recommend the product/service.

Customers who give a rating of 9 or 10 are considered promoters, while those with ratings of 0-6 are considered detractors. You can calculate your NPS by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.

Behavior Across Customer Lifecycle

There are multiple ways to track customer behavior throughout their lifespan:

  • Email opens
  • Website behavior (time spent on site, pages visited, etc.)
  • Purchase history
  • Feedback
  • Product usage (e.g., clickstream data for SaaS companies)

By tracking these metrics and comparing them to benchmarks or industry standards, you can get a better understanding of how engaged your customers are at different stages of their journey. You can also find those who are at risk of churning and proactively engage them to prevent it.

Churn Rate

Your churn rate is a telltale sign of customer engagement (or lack thereof). Some churn is okay, especially if you’ve just repositioned yourself in the market. But, over a long period, excess churn could mean your customers aren’t engaged with your product/service and may be looking for alternatives.

Remember to track both gross and net churn rates (the latter considers upsells, cross-sells, and downgrades). You’ll also want to track revenue and customer churn. While customer churn may be low, if it’s your highest paying customers leaving, it can still have a dramatic bottom-line impact.

Retention Rate

Retention is the inverse of churn, but you can take it a step further by tracking net revenue retention — a measure of how much revenue you retain from existing customers over time. If a significant number of your customers expand their usage or purchase additional products/services, your revenue retention should exceed 100% (the true sign of a healthy customer base).

Although retention is the inverse of churn, you’d actually use these customer engagement metrics for different things. While churn may indicate a problem with engagement, retention will give you a more direct read on the effectiveness of your customer engagement strategies.

Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is qualitative, but it gives you a window into how customers feel about your product/service and their level of engagement with it.

Feedback could be:

  • Direct feedback through surveys or feedback forms
  • Reviews on public sites like G2Crowd, TrustRadius, and Capterra
  • Social media posts and mentions 

The quality of the feedback is just as important as the quantity, so consider survey design and follow-up questions carefully to get useful insights. In addition, make sure you have a process in place for analyzing and addressing feedback to show customers that their opinions are valued.

Implementing Customer Engagement Tools

Customer engagement tools include customer data platforms (CDPs), CRM, surveying software, and customer success management tools. These tools help companies track and analyze customer data, gather feedback, and engage with customers through various touchpoints.

Some popular customer engagement tools are:

  • Salesforce Customer 360
  • HubSpot CRM
  • SurveyMonkey
  • Gainsight
  • Totango
  • DealRoom

Of course, there are others — like CPQ software and sales enablement tools — that play a role in customer engagement as well. But, the key is to find the right combination of tools that align with your company’s goals and meet your customers’ needs.

The most important best practice to live by when it comes to implementing these tools is seamless integration with the rest of your marketing and sales stack. You cannot build an effective tech stack if each piece of it doesn’t share data with the others. Ideally, look for native integrations to save time and effort (and avoid potential data conflicts or errors).

You should also consider each tool’s analytics capabilities. Does it provide the metrics you need to measure and improve customer engagement? Can all members of your company easily access and interpret the data?

People Also Ask

Is customer engagement part of CRM?

Customer engagement is a core component of CRM tools, which help companies manage and analyze customer data to improve the overall customer experience. By using CRM software, businesses can engage with customers more effectively and enhance their relationships, which ultimately leads to increased loyalty and retention.

Is customer engagement the same as customer experience?

Customer engagement is just one part of the customer experience (albeit a huge one). Customer experience encompasses every interaction a customer has with your company, from browsing and purchasing to customer service and beyond.