APU Business

Maintaining Customer Engagement in a Highly Digital World

Start a management degree at American Public University.

By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University

Many corporate news sources spend a lot of time discussing employee engagement in the workforce. But what about the effectiveness of customer engagement with organizations?

As we continue to integrate technology into our businesses, some organizations have installed a voice system to alert customers through a telephone call and serve their needs by telephone. A good deal of effort has gone into making the encounter a pleasant experience.

However, problems arise when the customer wishes to speak to a live representative. Unfortunately, they often get lost in the loop and customer frustration sets in.

What strategies can an organization employ to keep abreast of what its customer base thinks? How can the executive team utilize this information to improve the process and customer experience?

In a three-part blog series, Canadian business analyst Trish Frizzell presents three areas a business can focus when attempting to improve the customer experience. They are:

  1. Providing a single view of the customer
  2. Using social media for customer support
  3. Leveraging customer insights

Providing a Single View of the Customer

Customers manage various tasks throughout the day, and they utilize different technological tools to get those tasks completed. One such tool is the cell phone.

There is an increased reliance on mobile technology to perform daily tasks because individuals can tap into this resource 24/7/365. A cell phone also allows its owner to take care of business while on the road when time permits.

A single customer database can provide actual support versus an answering service. If a business advertises that it has 24-hour help, that business needs to ensure that customer service is available around the clock to resolve customer issues, regardless of the time when those customers call.

To accomplish this goal, it might be advantageous for organizations to consider:

  • Employing individuals around the world to address time zones and cultural differences
  • Implementing a system that will toggle a customer to an appropriate “live” representative when needed, versus scripting a message instructing the customer to call back during regular business hours
  • Considering alternative work arrangements for customer service reps (i.e., flex time, remote working)

Using Social Media for Customer Support

Once a company has dealt with its timing issue discussed above, the next area to focus on is the company’s social media initiatives. Instead of thinking of these media as broadcast channels, these networks should be viewed as an opportunity to interact and engage with customers.

I love an organization that has a Facebook page devoted to keeping customers informed of special events and opportunities to share feedback with the organization and other customers. Those types of interactions make the company seem “alive” and approachable. It also gives the customer a feeling of being a part of the process, which encourages brand buy-in.

An organization’s social media site can serve as an opportunity for informal focus groups to discuss topics related to the company or specific brands within the organization. Also, companies might get a “pulse” on future projects.

Finally, an organization can utilize its social networks to avoid negative comments from being posted on the Internet. Companies must determine which networks their client base tends to access and ensure they have a presence on all of them.

According to Frizzell, “Customers expect to be able to interact with their chosen brands and companies using these [social media] channels. If organizations don’t communicate with customers, they can rest assured that customers will interact with each other and the results of those interactions will seldom be in the company’s favor.”

An example would be the Twitter accounts of various rail companies whenever there are severe train delays. Frizzell notes, “When a customer engages on Twitter, they should not be directed to an email address to continue the dialogue. Companies must be prepared to engage fully with a customer via their channel of choice.

“According to Marketing Charts, not only do consumers expect a response but for Twitter users, ‘53% of consumers who expect brands to respond to their tweets expect that those responses come in less than an hour, a figure which rises 72% when complaints are involved.’

“If customers have issues with companies or their products, they will increasingly turn to social networks to vent their frustration and look for resolutions. A research study conducted in the UK in 2012 found that 36% of consumers, or 18 million people, are using social media to ‘talk’ to companies.

“Organizations must be prepared for this volume by ensuring the team that manages their social network accounts is fully apprised of any known product issues as well as the ins and outs of current campaigns. It’s also important that such contact is acknowledged within an hour of a customer’s comments to meet expectations. Companies who do not engage with their customers via social will find themselves losing money.”

Leveraging Customer Insights

According to Frizzell, technology can also be used for gaining and leveraging customer insights. Some of the questions that Frizzell advises businesses to ask while evaluating customer analytics are:

  1. What is prompting customer engagement? Are they positive (i.e., a good review about a product/service) or negative encounters (i.e., raising complaints)?
  2. Where are the customers when they are attempting to engage with the organization? Are they using a laptop, cell phone, landline or desktop computer? What part of the world are they “calling” from?
  3. When are the customers attempting to engage? What time of day and which day of the week?
  4. Why are customers attempting to engage? Are they new or returning customers? Can you determine what triggered them to reach out?
  5. How are they interacting? Which channels do they prefer to reach out to your organization? Some companies have already started to provide customers with choices on which channel they prefer to interact.

By finding answers to these questions, an organization will have a “big picture” view of what its customers think as well as customer demographics. Having this type of information allows an organization to develop strategies to improve the customer experience, which could turn into additional revenue.

Start a management degree at American Public University.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.

Susan Hoffman is a Managing Editor at Edge, whose articles have appeared in multiple publications. Susan is known for her expertise in blogging, social media, SEO, and content analytics, and she is also a book reviewer for Military History magazine. She has a B.A. cum laude in English from James Madison University and an undergraduate certificate in electronic commerce from American Public University.

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