If you think today’s consumers don’t have high expectations, think again. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, 76 percent of shoppers are willing to switch to a company’s competitor after multiple bad experiences.
To keep buyers happy, brands need a strong customer engagement strategy that prioritizes consumers and their needs. According to Nicole Saunders, director of communities at Zendesk, “Customer engagement should be focused on value for the customer first and the business second. It has to have both sides of that coin.”
What is customer engagement?
Customer engagement is the ability to connect with buyers and win their trust. To achieve this, companies must put the customer at the center of everything they do. When effective customer engagement strategies are in place, businesses see improvements in customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.
5 proven customer engagement strategies
Adopt these customer engagement tactics to build a loyal following and boost your bottom line.
1. Listen to your customers
To connect with your customers, you first need to understand what they think of your brand. When you actively listen to consumers and ask for their input, you can identify what they like or dislike about the brand experience, which enables you to make the necessary changes to meet their expectations. It also helps you build customer trust.
“When you listen to your [customers], they are also more likely to trust you, which is huge,” said Chris Christoff, co-founder of MonsterInsights. “It’s easier to build a consistent audience who wants to engage with your brand if they see you’re keeping their interests, thoughts, and concerns in mind.”
Not sure how to solicit customer feedback? Try these three methods:
Send customer surveys to gauge how consumers feel about your brand experience, products, or services. You’ll gain valuable insights into what motivates, excites, and frustrates your buyers. Vitamin company Ritual regularly sends a survey to buyers to learn what they can do better.
The email gets straight to the point and includes a clear call to action (CTA). To help entice customers to participate, Ritual also mentions that the survey takes only a few minutes to complete.
When creating a customer survey, it’s best to include open-ended questions that allow respondents to provide additional information or details. Use the following questions for inspiration:
- How often do you use our product or service?
- What do you like or dislike the most about our product or service?
- Which product features are the most important, and which can you live without?
- What features would you like us to add in the future?
By including the right questions in your customer survey, you’ll gather valuable feedback on how to improve your customer experience.
Customer interviews allow you to directly ask consumers about their experiences and expectations. You can conduct these interviews face-to-face or remotely.
Similar to customer surveys, use open-ended questions to collect meaningful feedback. Avoid hypothetical questions that force the customer to predict their behavior. According to Julia Austin, lecturer at Harvard Business School, hypothetical questions can lead you to some misleading insights.
“People have the tendency to tell you what you want to hear, or they imagine how they might do something, but rarely do they do what they said they might do,” she says.
As you’re talking to customers about their pain points, always keep an open mind—especially when it comes to negative feedback. After completing the customer interviews, sit down with your team to identify recurring issues and brainstorm solutions.
Social media monitoring
Social media platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, are often goldmines for better understanding the needs and expectations of your buyers.
In this tweet, for example, a Nordstrom customer had a problem with the search function on the website and couldn’t find what they were looking for. Nordstrom addressed the issue on its Twitter page and immediately sent feedback to its UX team to fix the issue.
Hopping from social platform to social platform can be tiresome, though. Instead, use software that allows you to monitor your customers’ opinions across different apps all in one place, such as Hootsuite or Mention.
2. Create a knowledge base
A knowledge base is a self-service resource that contains information about your product or service. It allows customers to quickly find solutions to simple problems on their own, so they don’t need to reach out to your support team each time they have an issue or a question.
According to our CX Trends Report, 70 percent of customers expect to have a self-service portal or content available to them. So, building a knowledge base can boost customer satisfaction and happiness. Knowledge bases also reduce the number of repetitive queries for support agents to handle, giving them more time to focus on urgent, complex requests from other customers.
70% of customers expect to have a self-service portal or content available to them.
Email marketing company Mailchimp has a knowledge base that users can access to learn more about the tool. Whether they want to review pricing plans or read about best practices for email marketing campaigns, customers can get all the information they need in one place.
When creating a knowledge base, follow these best practices:
- Identify who will manage the knowledge base. Choose someone on your team to oversee the knowledge base content and the common issues it will address. This team member will also ensure that your knowledge base materials stay up-to-date and relevant.
- Define a process for flagging issues. You need a system for identifying which topics and questions to cover in your knowledge base. Support agents should keep track of recurring issues and quickly communicate any problem that requires immediate documentation.
- Establish guidelines for knowledge base content. All your content should be straight to the point, easy to read, and actionable for your readers. Make sure you set clear standards for how to write, format, and update knowledge base content.
3. Start a loyalty rewards program
Even if your company is doing everything right, you can further increase customer engagement and retention by providing an incentive for your buyers to stay with your brand: a customer loyalty program.
File-storage platform Dropbox has a loyalty program that rewards users with additional storage each time they refer others to the company. This program had a significant impact on Dropbox’s growth during its first years after launch. Between 2008 and 2010, its referral program campaign doubled its user base every three months. The company gained 2.8 million users by April 2010.
The ecommerce brand Shine On also launched a rewards program where customers earned redeemable points every time they made a purchase. After implementing the program, Shine On saw a 35-percent increase in customer engagement. Over 40,000 shoppers joined the loyalty program, with a redemption rate of 48 percent.
“Our customer service team is amazed at how much people care about their points,” says Cliff Hopkins, general manager at Shine On. “There’s a lot of pride amongst our members when they reach the highest tier, and the fact that people are visiting our physical stores and asking if they can add points to their online account is amazing.”
While you can build a loyalty program on your own, it’s a complex process. You’re responsible for setting up the rules, finding enticing rewards, and tracking the results. To make things easier, use a loyalty program software, such as Smile.io for ecommerce or GrowSurf for SaaS. These tools provide flexibility and help you build a professional-looking referral program.
4. Personalize the customer experience
Personalization is an important aspect of the brand experience for customers. According to our CX Trends Report, 68 percent of consumers expect all their experiences to be personalized, and 87 percent are willing to spend more for a personalized experience.
68% of consumers expect all their experiences to be personalized.
Jason Maloney, a customer success executive at Zendesk, says personalization increases customer engagement because it adds a sense of familiarity.
“As humans, we are drawn to the familiar,” he says. “We are drawn to our comfort zone. So, whenever a person is interacting with a company, they want that sensation of, ‘Oh, I feel like they know me, and they understand my wants and needs.’”
Online training platform Skillshare often uses personalization to provide its customers with more relevant offers. In its emails, for instance, the brand recommends certain courses that could interest the customer based on a previous training they completed.
Personalization becomes easier when you invest in a quality CRM. This tool centralizes all your customer data—like details about past support conversations and their purchased products—so your agents can reference it at a glance and bring up relevant information during interactions. When agents can deliver personalized support experiences, customers are more likely to feel connected to the brand.
5. Leverage artificial intelligence (AI)
With AI-based technology, your support team can better understand your customers' needs and predict their behavior. These tools also save your agents valuable time, allowing them to focus on urgent issues or those that require a human touch. AI tools enable companies to increase customer engagement, too.
Provide 24/7 support
Your support agents are human and may not always be available to answer customer questions. When agents aren’t on the clock, an AI-powered chatbot like Zendesk’s Answer Bot can handle basic inquiries and suggest content (such as knowledge base articles or instructional guides) to customers. If a bot can’t resolve an issue, it can escalate the ticket to an agent, who can address it when they’re back at their desk.
Chatbots keep your ticket backlog manageable, and they help customers get answers quickly—at any time of day. It’s also worth noting that many consumers are open to AI-based support. Our CX Trends Report revealed that over 69 percent of customers are willing to interact with a bot on simple issues. So, it’s a win-win.
Automate support ticket review
Support agents can spend a lot of time reviewing and categorizing tickets. AI-based ticketing tools can automate the whole process so your agents can do what they do best: help customers.
Zendesk’s Content Cues feature, for example, uses AI technology to review support tickets, group tickets together, and identify the most common issues.
Predict customer behavior
With AI-powered tools such as SupportLogic, you can use data to predict buyer behavior. This enables your support agents to personalize the customer’s experience and provide better service.
“AI can be used to learn patterns of customer behavior [...] and then to forecast behavior accordingly,” says Janine Bensouda, founder of Bensouda Consulting. “When the customer then contacts the organization, these patterns can be used to intelligently offer the most likely service options or information based on the time and date of previous activities.”
With SupportLogic, for instance, you can identify which customers are at high risk of churning. Based on that data, you can determine which customers need the most attention.
When Fivetran partnered with SupportLogic, the platform helped reduce customer churn by 25 percent. Using SupportLogic, Fivetran assigned a health score to each of its customers and identified the blockers they were experiencing. Based on the data, the company implemented strategies to better engage those at-risk customers.
Brand loyalty starts with high customer engagement
Brand loyalty doesn’t appear out of the blue. More often than not, it’s the result of consistent, meaningful connections with customers. To increase customer engagement, stay focused on the strategies above, and you’ll likely see more brand advocates over time.