What if I told you 80 percent of you are not doing your job? I realize that’s a harsh way to open a conversation, but if your job is to drive revenue (and whose isn’t?), then it’s time to look at how you’re engaging your customer base.

 

According to a recent survey featured in The Economist, 90 percent of executives say engaged customers are more loyal and result in greater profits.1 But of those 400 global executives polled, some 80 percent admitted they are not properly engaging customers, and it’s costing them sales. Are you among the 80 percenters?

 

The key word here is “engage.” Some of the most successful brands in the world – Nike, Apple, Disney – are engaging customers at every turn, creating a personal experience both on and offline. Fortunately, social networking applications, online communities, wikis and user-generated content, “Web 2.0” – are making it easier for organizations to engage customers at a personal level, building brand equity and encouraging loyalty.

 

Bells and whistles aside, Web 2.0 is really about a new level of honesty and openness between organizations and individuals. Conversations used to be one-sided – organizations talking at consumers. Today, however, users want to offer their input and can even act as evangelists for your products and services. A great customer experience means listening and providing goods and services the customer wants – not what you think they want.

 

Mission: Connect and Enjoy

 

Take a look at MarthaStewart.com. We all know Martha Stewart has a number of different channels for communicating with her audience – her syndicated TV program, publications like Martha Stewart Living and a host of book titles, and her Sirius satellite radio channel. The Web site ties those properties together and gives the customer even more.

 

Want to whip up a gourmet meal? Click to watch a video of the dish being prepared and follow along with the directions; on the same screen, you can see can see ratings and reviews on the recipe from community members or buy relevant merchandise. These elements are all available from a single page view, meaning customers spend more time participating and less time searching. Isn’t that the definition of an engaged customer?

 

Building a community is one way to connect with customers. International Truck and Engine, however, is more focused on getting to know each of its users on a personal level. For example, a customer seeking a landscaping vehicle has very different wants and needs from a customer looking for an off-lease government fire truck. So, why should they have the same online experience?

 

A combination of content management and analytics allows International Truck and Engine to recognize a customer or prospect once they enter the site and remember their preferences. This data enables the company to anticipate a customer’s needs, often before the customer does. Using behavioral targeting and a sound approach to customer experience management (CEM), International Truck and Engine is able to provide a completely unique online experience from one customer to the next.

 

Personal and Mobile

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the greatest challenges organizations face when connecting with their customers: how to keep them engaged in a mobile environment.

 

Each interaction you have with a customer, no matter the channel, is an opportunity to reshape their perception of your brand. Being consistent with each interaction creates a positive customer experience and can increase acquisition rates.

 

Take British Sky Broadcasting (BSKYB) for example. The UK’s largest provider of satellite TV allows users to access its programming guide from a handheld device. Subscribers can tell their set-top box to record a specific program and watch it, all from their mobile device or computer - a compelling customer experience wherever you are.

 

CEM: the Customer’s Perspective is Paramount

 

CEM is about helping organizations acquire, serve and grow their customer base. It’s about capturing eyeballs, keeping them on your site and converting those page views into sales.

 

The central tenet of CEM is that a company should manage and measure every aspect of a customer interaction over the lifetime of its relationship with that customer. CEM goes beyond CRM. Organizations with a sound CEM strategy should be able to recognize the needs of a customer or prospect, engage them in a dialogue that connects them with a broader community and anticipate challenges that may occur down the road.

 

The CEM result: businesses who know where they stand with customers can increase loyalty and per-customer revenue while cutting customer acquisition costs.

 

Along with its inherently personalized environment, Web 2.0 brings with it higher customer expectations. Personal relationships, not products, are the true market differentiators. Organizations that downplay the impact of the customer experience risk being abandoned by savvy consumers who, consciously or not, seek social connections and brand relationships from literally anywhere.

 

To leave the 80 percenters behind, a customer-focused experience is the way forward. Address customer preferences with personalization, community and mobility, and you’ll start to build long-term loyalty and greater customer experiences.

 

Reference:

 

1.    Economist Intelligence Unit. "Serious Business: Web 2.0 Goes Corporate." Economist, May 2007.

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