As a growth agency, we work with small businesses every day.  As a means for growth, one of our key insights is in helping these businesses engage with their customers and leads effectively. 

We’ve all got our own examples of cringe-worthy customer engagement. Recently, our Account Coordinator was searching on Facebook for local craft stores. She came across a profile that seemed interesting and selected the option to send the site administrators a direct message. The Facebook Message extension used by this company had a pre-set list of commonly asked questions visitors could click on to receive direct answers. One of the pre-set questions was, “How much do your products cost?” After clicking on this question, Hannah recieved a message back from the company stating,  “It depends on what you are looking for. The best thing to do is go to our website at: (url).”

This was so cringe worthy. The company missed a perfect opportunity to engage with a potential customer. The company could have asked probing questions to find out what Hannah’s needs were and which of their products would work best for her needs. It is missed opportunities like this that lead to mis-informed opinions about your company or brand image, and drive away customers.

So, what is customer engagement?

By definition, it is “…any channel of correspondence used to communicate with your customers or potential customers.” That tells us, well… absolutely nothing. The definition offered in this Hubspot Article may put it into better terms: 

This definition hits on a key point that we try to  make at Focused Engagement every day, the fact that communication is,  “offered by the company, but CHOSEN by the customer.”  We emphasize to our clients, it is important that you engage with your customers and leads When Where and How THEY want to engage with you.  It’s not about you.  It’s about them. 

In the example regarding the local craft store above, the business had the opportunity to engage with Hannah on  Messenger.  Because that was how she chose to communicate with them, it should have been obvious to them that Messenger was her preferred channel of communication.  Instead of sending her to their website, they should have nurtured that engagement, collected, and shared information on Messenger until she was ready to purchase.  

If we accept the quote by Paul Greenberg as the best definition of Customer Engagement, then we have to conclude that it is important to have multiple channels (or omni-channel marketing, as discusses in another blog post) available for customers to engage with. 

Different Customer Engagement Methods

Most business utilize the obvious Customer Engagement methods like phone calls, emails and Facebook Messenger.  However, if we are really going to take Paul Greenberg’s definition to heart, and accept that we need to engage “When Where and How THEY want to engage”, then we need to expand our Customer Engagement opportunities.  A few customer engagement methods that we use for our clients are:

  • Message Bots.  More than 1 billion people use Messenger every month.  While live chats on messenger are very effective, having a Bot allows you to engage with your customers 24/7
  • Website Bots.  Like Message Bots, a bot on your Website gives you the opportunity for 24/7 engagement.
  • Website Live Chat.  Live chat is a very effective Customer Engagement method during business hours.  Make sure you monitor the chat channel and respond as soon as possible.  
  • SMS.  SMS messaging may seem old school, but it is still a very popular engagement method.  In fact, 6 billion SMS messages are sent each day.  Don’t miss out on this Customer Engagement opportunity.

So, Why does this matter?

While consumer spending at local brick and mortar stores is still rising, there is no denying the market power of online shoppers.  Even with consumers shopping at local stores, with Mega Marts popping up in every community, it is getting harder for the so-called “Mom and Pop Shop” to compete.  The exception to that, is the personalized interaction that they get.  These personalized interactions drive the customer experience. They can take someone from the buyer’s product awareness phase into the repeat purchase phase. 

As we see it, as a small business, you’ll never beat a Mega Mart or a Mega online store at their own game. So, change the game on them!  You probably won’t beat them at price or convenience – 2 of the main reasons why customers shop online and in Mega Marts.  But, you CAN crush them on the personalized experience – customer engagement.

So embrace customer engagement opportunities.  Don’t try to force customers taking the time to engage with you into a particular method of communication because it is more convenient for you.  Experiment with new ways to engage.  Use automation platforms like SharpSpring, Salesforce, or Hubspot to make it easier for you to keep track of you different interactions.  By embracing different methods of customer engagement, you will set yourself apart from the competition, build value to your brand and ensure that customers will purchase from you when they are ready.