Creating an Engaging Customer Experience In A Socially Connected Marketplace

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What is an Engaging Customer Experience?

Engaging has a nice ring to it. Marketers love to use the term frequently, and why not? It’s a noble aspiration, but what does it really mean? Is it Facebook likes? Twitter followers?

In my experience, we use the term carelessly. Recently I came across an interesting statistic; 80% of companies believe they deliver superior customer service but only 8% of customers think these same companies deliver superior customer service.

I am not suggesting that customer service and customer experience are the same thing. However, I am calling attention to the gap in expectations. Defining terms is important; even more important is perspective. Customer engagement is a broad topic. In this post I’m going to focus on defining the term within the socially connected landscape.

If customer experience must be defined from the customer’s perspective, it’s even more important to define an engaging social experience from their viewpoint.

While there are different levels of engagement, there are some common attributes of customers who are engaged with a brand. First, and most important, they find the product or service has utility – it meets specific needs. In addition, there is an emotional connection. They are loyal, open to receiving relevant communications, willing to share with their networks, and offer feedback.

The Customer Experience Ecosystem

Many marketers and business owners bring a  mindset into the social landscape, often creating gaps instead of engagement. Creating an engaging experience in the new socially connected landscape requires a whole new way of thinking.

Understanding a customer’s path to purchase is a helpful way to understand the choices and interests of your target audience. Asking questions, observing behaviors and inviting feedback from internal stakeholders (who regularly deal with customers) are all necessary components for creating an engaging customer experience blueprint.

Sometimes the experience may be centered on an event, like the recent World Cup or, perhaps there is a cause that creates the connection, like providing water for everyone on the planet. Improving a location atmosphere or using technology to more easily purchase a product or service will create a more engaging experience.

Engaging Experiences Are Not Created Equally

Just like one size doesn’t fit all, neither does an experience. Typically there is a wide range of consumption and product offering behavior among a brand’s customer base.

Most brands have segmented customers by some sort of criteria; often the criteria are based on a combination of how much and how often the customer buys. Sometimes it’s possible to identify interest in activities or causes.

While there may be an all encompassing experience, often the key to creating lasting engagement is tailoring the experience to specific interests or needs.

As I point out in this post “How Lowe’s is Creating an Engaging Customer Experience”, thinking about the entire experience, across all platforms is critical.

Creating Socially Engaging Experiences

Marketers have an increasing number of options available for creating more engaging customer experiences. Neal Shaffer’s Maximize Your Social is an excellent overview and it will serve as a handy guide.

Appropriate events are an excellent way to generate interest.

nike_riskeverything

Nike’s #riskeverything World Cup campaign is an example of a brand leveraging an event to create exposure and an engaging experience. There are plenty of other examples where brands make gratuitous reference to the same event simply to try and gain attention.

Here is how Nike creates engagement when they are not creating a special event.

Starbucks has created engaging experiences through development of sophisticated mobile technology, allowing customers to quickly and conveniently make purchases.

The mobile developers thought about the various activities from the customer’s perspective by integrating features that support reloading dollar amounts, giving gift cards, and redeeming rewards are all designed into the experience.

Klatch_coffee

Klatch coffee demonstrates how small businesses are equally capable of leveraging social. The family run business clearly shows a passion for their business and customers. They are active are several social media platforms and have sponsored campaigns as a way of engaging their customers.

The in-store barista training for customers is a powerful example of creating a better experience. In fact, the brand has created an additional revenue stream. This offering illustrates a very targeted offering to customers with a deep affinity for the product.

Charity Water

Engaging experiences lend themselves to causes. Charity Water is one of the best examples of marketing with a purpose. They encourage their members to create their own content!

5 Essential Customer Engaging Ingredients

Utility – The product or service offering must be center stage. No marketing campaign or contest will overcome deficiencies in the product or service. Most successful brands are continually looking for ways to improve their offering to ensure they will remain relevant; customer needs are constantly evolving.

Convenience ~ Wherever possible remove friction from the buying process. Find ways to make doing business with your brand simple and easy. Amazon 1-click buying is an example of removing friction. Think of ways to do more so your customers are able to do less.

Choice – The proliferation of technology and the Internet has created a landscape of many new options for consumers. Make sure you cover the basics like a helpful web site and mobile access, then, identify other platforms your customers use. The key to choice is creating a seamless experience for your customers, this will allow them to choose when and how they want to engage.

Connection – An always-on culture creates an expectation that challenges and problems can be resolved anytime. I think of connection as access. Are customers able to find what they need when they need it; even better, anticipate their needs and address them in advance.

Community – Engaged consumers interact with each other, often with little brand intervention. Nike campaigns often create competition between consumers who like to run for example. Engaged communities help each other, they have fun and even create new innovative ideas.

What’s Next?

Can you think of brands that engage consumers well?

What are other some other suggestions for creating an engaging experience?

Next month I’ll feature some more best practices.

About the Author:

Joe Ruiz

This monthly Social Customer Experience Marketing column is contributed by Joseph Ruiz. Joseph is President of Strategic Marketing Solutions, a full-service marketing and consulting firm specializing in web-based integrated Relationship Marketing. Joseph thrives on the ever-changing nature of marketing in the digital age, embracing interactive opportunities, while applying three decades of hands-on expertise in online and traditional marketing. When he’s not helping business-makers navigate through complex marketing challenges, Joseph enjoys reading, working out and traveling just about anywhere…anywhere you can get a digital signal, that is. +Joseph Ruiz

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