Higher Logic Blog

The Problem With Customer Engagement Software Platforms

Written by Joshua Paul | July 2, 2015 at 12:00 PM

Step aside social crm and content management, there is a new buzzword in the world of business and marketing customer engagement. As the term grows in popularity, the definition of customer engagement is still evolving. 

At Higher Logic, we're heavily involved in what works and what doesn't in customer engagement strategies. We specialize in the areas of keeping people engaged in customer communities, user communities, and user groups.

However, community building strategies and other customer engagement approaches are still emerging as core business strategies, there are important customer relationship trends that business leaders need to pay attention to.

The Rise of Customer Engagement Software

Customer engagement technology platforms are running with the loose definition of customer engagement —encompassing everything from the automated car wash teller asking you to select your wax options to the digital kiosk at your grocery store where you can rate your experience all the way to B2B solutions, like Socious and Marketo.

Given the wide definition of customer engagement technology, let's narrow the focus of this discussion to business-to-business customer engagement strategies.

I have a Google Alert set for "customer engagement software." In the past year, the number of customer engagement software options has ballooned. Businesses seeking to build stronger relationships with customers have an array of options, including:

  • Personalization (MindTouch, Gainsight)
  • In-App & Email (Intercom.io, WebEngage)
  • CRM (SalesForce, SAP, SugarCRM)
  • Marketing (HubSpot, Marketo, InfusionSoft)
  • Support (Verint, Eptica)
  • Chat (LivePerson, BoldChat, MyLiveChat)
  • Social (SproutSocial, Engagor, Lithium)
  • Self-Service (ZenDesk, Moxie,FreshDesk )
  • Omni-Channel (eGain, Kana, RightNow)

While this is a small sample, all of these solutions rely heavily on data and many provide a multi-channel experience for customers.

What Customer Engagement Software Platforms Get Right

Across this spectrum of what customer engagement really means, these new platforms have been built around two elements.

  • Triggers: This means that your customers perform an action and that "triggers" some form of communication (email, call, content, etc.) based on their specific behavior.
  • Communication: Communication is the automated response dictated by the trigger, this could be an email or phone call. The more specific the follow-up communication the heightened chance of the recipient opening, clicking, or responding to the message.

Getting the Right Message to the Right People at the Right Time.

Customers get certain communication when they perform certain actions. The engagement that occurs is tied very closely into their behavior, so the right message is coming to the right person at the right time. That is the essence of keeping customers and prospective customers engaged and the part of customer engagement that many technology platforms get right.

For example, if a customer visits your support portal and submits three tickets within a month. This action triggers your customer engagement software platform to automatically send them an email from the vice president of customer support asking about their experience with your support team. This is a simple trigger system at work.

What's Missing from Many Customer Engagement Platforms?

If triggers combined with communication make an effective customer engagement experience, where's the problem?

Customers Don't Have a Reason to Engage

In the customer engagement model outlined above, a customer does something, the system recognizes it, and the customer receives a message (usually in the form of an email).

That works well for one-time communication. However, the many customer engagement software solutions that are built around this model don't give customers a reason to stay engaged. They read the message and maybe take an action, then fall back into being less-than-engagement.

There Isn't Something in It for Your Customer

The messages are usually about a product feature, support opportunity, or upcoming company announcement. These approaches to increasing engagement don't give customers a reason to stay engaged, since there is nothing in the message or call to action for them.

How do you do this? Make it about your customer. Limit the communication that doesn't have anything in it for the customer.

Ways to Stay Engaged

The emerging customer engagement platforms in the market are sleek, exciting, and full of value. However, one-off actions, either done manually or through an automated trigger-based system, do not result in sustainable customer engagement.

Give your customers ways to stay engaged. Rather than getting them to take a one-time action, offer customers opportunities to get involve and jump into ongoing discussions with other customers, partners, and people from your company.

If you get this right, they will not only see value in the initial interactions but continue to stay engaged without constant prompting.

Opportunities for Businesses to Truly Increasing Customer Engagement

Customer Engagement Is Only Going To Become More Vital

The importance of customer engagement will only grow over time. When a customer is highly engaged, businesses can:

  • Leverage that engagement to bring in more revenue per customer,
  • Identify new sales opportunities for that customer
  • Lower support costs
  • Better identify brand advocates in the market

The Basics Aren't Enough Anymore

The basic principle of keeping customers engaged has always been getting relevant messages in front of the right people at the right time. However, simply matching the value to the people who want that value isn't enough anymore.

Value Has Evolved. The value that customers want from your business has evolved over the years.

  • Customer to Company: Back in the day, one-on-one engagement with your company was only expected in a specific moment (ex: a click to contact support).
  • Customer to Content: Engagement expectations evolved so that customers began to expect engagement from content and a more informed consumer experience.
  • Customer to Community: Now, as your customer are more comfortable participating in social networks and looking to their peers online for answers, customers want the value from being able to connect to your entire ecosystem of other customers, partners, and employees.

The value that they'll get from those relationships, conversations, and access will keep them interested and give them a reason to stay engaged past the initial experience.

Go Beyond Relevance

As we mentioned above, getting the right message in front of the right people at the right time is the cornerstone of customer engagement. While triggering customers to take an action works well to generate a single conversion, it rarely produces ongoing sustainable customer engagement.

Provide interactive engagement opportunities that encourage your customers to stay informed and participate in the conversation.

What do we mean by conversation? Conversation create participation and investment in continuing to stay engaged and informed.

Help customers take that initial action, then another action, then another action. Conversations or discussions are one of the best was to get customers to not just open your emails and click, but participate in your engagement opportunities.

Over time, customers become ingrained in your community of fellow customers or users. Their investment in the relationship they have drives continued engagement.

A Conversation Has a Much Different Impact on Customer Engagement Than a Single Action

Giving your customers a place to continuously give and receive value turns your customer engagement plan from a series of one-time linear communications to a customer engagement engine that continues and scales.

Evolve your customer engagement beyond company or product-focused calls-to-action and into providing value through continued conversation and connection.  

Finally, put processes in place to help customers continue to come back and get that value. Your customers are very busy, just like you are. Leverage what you know about each customer to highlight relevant content, experts, and discussions. This is when you can leverage email and those trigger-based engagement platforms.

Now that you have set up sustainable engagement opportunities, when you drive customers to take an action based on their behavior, they can do more than a single action. They can build relationships and get a sense that they are part of something bigger than themselves. This is often called a sense of community.

Customer Engagement Software Platforms Takeaway

The definition of customer engagement may still be under construction. As software platforms adapt a broad definition of engagement to serve their specific purposes, true engagement goes beyond the basic "right person, right message, and right time" formula.

Today's engagement is about forging a genuine connection between the customer and your business's community. Meaningful customer engagement comes down to building ongoing relationships and enabling the sharing of ideas with other customers and members of your business ecosystem.

Once you set up your engagement opportunities in a way that creates conversations for customers to join, put processes in place to bring them back to the community on a regular basis.