Article | 10 min read

Customer engagement guide: Definition, strategies, and tips

Craft an effective customer engagement strategy to improve CX and build lasting relationships with your audience.

By Court Bishop, Contributing Writer

Published March 31, 2020
Last updated June 13, 2022

You there, the perfectionist entrepreneur. You’ve been doing years of research and finally created a product that includes all the right features for your target audience. So your business is now set to succeed, right?

Think again.

Even if your product or service is technically the best option on the market in your industry, that’s not enough to guarantee customers, let alone return customers. To foster customer loyalty, you’ll need to invest time and energy into building strong customer relationships. And the durability of those relationships depends on how well you engage with potential and current buyers during their customer journey.

Develop a solid customer engagement strategy, and you’ll be well on your way to creating—and sustaining—lasting relationships with your audience. Not sure where to begin? We’ve got you covered with our definitive guide to customer engagement.

What is customer engagement?

customer engagement

Customer engagement is the ongoing interactions between a brand and a buyer across various communication channels, such as social media, email, community forums, and webinars. It’s a two-way street—it doesn’t take place unless your buyers either respond or reach out to you.

Customer engagement should be focused on value for the customer first and the business second.Nicole Saunders, director of community at Zendesk

Your customer engagement strategy must place your audience and their needs above everything else. “Customer engagement should be focused on value for the customer first and the business second,” says Nicole Saunders, director of community at Zendesk. “Your customers should always be at the center of all your engagement efforts.”

Customer engagement vs. customer experience vs. customer satisfaction

Customer engagement should not be mistaken for customer experience or customer satisfaction. Although they’re related ideas and influence one another, there’s a difference between each concept.

  • Customer experience is a consumer’s perception of every interaction they have with a brand, whether it’s paying a bill online or viewing an ad on Instagram.
  • Customer satisfaction is a measure of how well a company’s product or service meets buyers’ expectations. It’s typically assessed via a survey and numerical ranking to generate a customer satisfaction score (CSAT).
  • Customer engagement is the process of forming long-term relationships with your audience. In customer engagement, the buyer is an active participant rather than a recipient of an experience.

Why is customer engagement important?

Did you know that more than 60 percent of customers now have higher customer service standards than they did a year ago? To boot, 61 percent of customers now say they would switch to a competitor after just one bad experience with a company, according to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022.

60% of business leaders said their customer service directly improves customer retention.

When a brand consistently interacts with its customers—and those interactions are meaningful and provide value—buyers are more likely to stick around and continue making purchases. Our CX Trends Report revealed that customer engagement is up 14 percent compared to last year. Though this means more work for your agents, it also presents more opportunities to better serve customers. Here are three benefits of customer engagement:

  • Increase customer loyalty and retention

    In our CX Trends Report, 60 percent of business leaders said their customer service directly improves customer retention. That’s a big number with a big impact on a company’s bottom line.

    Leveraging data and personalization throughout the customer lifecycle can help your team’s workflow by providing better interactions. For instance, you might send a customer an email to tell them that an item they liked on social media is now on sale or that a piece of clothing they previously purchased is now available in a new color. Customers who are looking for a great deal or who appreciate personalized experiences will probably want to buy from your brand again after this outreach, increasing your customer retention rate.

  • Collect feedback

    Customer engagement offers a unique chance for you to tailor your products or services to meet consumer wants and needs. You can gather important information from your communication channels by asking your audience for their input.

    Whether you use a survey, social media post, or questionnaire to capture feedback, the insights you gain can help you enhance your offerings and earn customer trust—especially if you act on the responses you receive. In our Trends Report, we define “high performers” as businesses that have received top ratings for several key CX characteristics. The most important of those characteristics is the ability to act on customer feedback to improve products and services.

  • Boost sales

    When you regularly interact with customers and learn about their pain points, you’ll also see opportunities for upsells and cross-sells. In our CX Trends Report, almost half of business leaders report an increase in their ability to cross-sell when customer service experiences are positive.

    Engaged customers don’t just bolster your business with their purchases. They’re also more likely to share their love of your brand with family and friends, which will bring in new customers.

5 customer engagement strategies

A customer engagement strategy is a plan of action marketers use to improve the ways that a brand interacts with customers. While every company’s engagement strategy will look and feel a little different, there are several key tactics all businesses should consider.

1. Develop a brand voice

Corporate speak is a surefire way to turn off customers. Talk to them in a way that sounds natural. Develop a style and tone for sales, marketing, social media, and support.

A great example of a company with a clear brand voice is Mailchimp. The brand’s style guide ensures its voice stays consistent across all external communications, creating a distinct personality that customers can identify.

Having a good brand voice is a powerful way to humanize a brand and help foster more emotional connections with customers.

2. Be where your customers are

customer engagement

We live in an omnichannel world. Companies that want to engage with customers need to offer different communication touchpoints—such as social media, phone, live chat, and messaging apps—and provide connected interactions across those channels.

Being on the channels customers use to communicate with their friends and family creates a sense of familiarity. And being able to move interactions seamlessly from one channel to another makes for better customer support and brand experiences.

Stanley Black and Decker implemented an omnichannel approach to customer service and reaped the benefits. The company was able to centralize its customer data and provide quick, harmonious responses across all channels, increasing interactions by over 1,000 percent.

3. Create a content marketing strategy

People who are new to your brand need a reason to engage with your company. Immediately deliver value by creating helpful content—like blog posts, knowledge base videos, and reports—and placing it throughout your site. These resources will help existing customers, too.

Form a content marketing strategy that leverages compelling content to attract and engage your target customer. Build clear buyer personas that outline your audience’s pain points. Then, brainstorm content that helps high-value leads resolve these problems. You may also want to consider tactics for inspiring user-generated content (UGC) that drives potential customers to explore your brand further.

4. Use data to proactively engage customers

customer engagement

Anticipate customer behavior and needs by using a variety of automation tools, such as chatbots and CRMs, to collect and analyze engagement data. Customer data doesn’t just help you put out fires—it can also alert you to something consumers might like. Based on purchase history, for example, you might text or email a buyer about a new product they end up loving.

More often than not, using customer engagement analytics to please customers leads to brand loyalty.

5. Leverage personalization

Personalized communication can be as simple as sending a customer a special offer on their birthday. Or, it can be a complex recommendation algorithm that provides customers with smart, thoughtful suggestions for products and services they may enjoy.

Free customer experience guide

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

Customer engagement management examples

Customer engagement doesn’t begin and end with phone calls and help desk tickets. Companies are putting their money where their mouths (typing fingers?) are and creating inclusive, interactive experiences for their customers.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams tells creative social stories

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams wins on social because it prioritizes community. Instead of advertising content, the company tells stories through visuals, customer feedback, UGC, and relevant reposts. And rather than talking at its customers, Jeni’s brings customers into its overall brand story.

Thanks to its conversational customer engagement strategy on social, Jeni’s makes its customers feel just as crucial to its success as the unique flavors it churns out regularly. (The business also boasts an excellent average response time.) As a result, Jeni’s grew its Instagram audience by 108 percent from 2019 to 2021.

Nike fosters customer loyalty

Nike’s customer engagement strategy shines because its membership clubs—Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club—focus on helping users reach their goals. The company also has an exclusive Nike Membership program that provides members-only styles, free product shipping, special offers and promos, and more. Nike maintains a consistent brand voice and offers high-quality resources on every one of its channels, too.

By continuing to deliver value and reward repeat buyers, Nike is actively building brand loyalty. Matt Friend, executive vice president and CFO of Nike, recently said, “Nike’s digital growth is outperforming comparisons and being fueled by our member-centric focus. Nike digital is now 25 percent of total Nike brand revenue.”

Starbucks puts people first

Starbucks is committed to being “People Positive,” which means it aims to “enhance the well-being of all who connect with the company.” This mentality is rooted in inclusion, community, and opportunity, and it is at the heart of everything the coffee giant does.

For example, Starbucks has stated that by 2025, it plans to build and operate 100 stores in underrepresented neighborhoods across the country. To accomplish this “Community Store” initiative, the company is working with nonprofits and community leaders to support the program’s economic growth. Starbucks says the stores will “focus on hiring locally, creating dedicated space for communities to come together for events, and working with diverse contractors for store construction and remodels.”

Starbucks also recognizes that one in four American adults has a disability. Because of this, Starbucks is making accessibility a priority in the coming years. The company is committed to designing, testing, and scaling more inclusive physical and digital experiences—including more visual and audible communication methods, tools to help navigate in-store environments, and “Signing Stores” for the hard-of-hearing community.

These initiatives don’t just boost engagement with those they’re designed to serve, but also with all customers who value inclusion.

4 customer engagement metrics to measure success

Here are the key engagement metrics that can gauge how well you’re connecting with your audience.

1. Conversion rates

Conversion rates help you determine the effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts. Are customers buying your products? Do they interact with your ads? Are they signing up for a demo?

2. Pages per session

Pages per session indicates how helpful or captivating your website content is to users. Are they clicking through to different pages? Or are they leaving immediately after looking at the first page they land on?

3. Net Promoter Score®

Net Promoter Score® measures customer loyalty and how likely your customers are to recommend your product or service to someone else. What do they love or hate about their experience with your brand?

4. Session duration

Session duration shows how long customers stay on a specific web page in a single visit. Are they reading your latest guide to the end? Or are they yawning at the first sentence and leaving your site?

Customer engagement is good for business

There have never been more ways for companies to engage with their customer base than right now. Businesses with consumer engagement strategies are better equipped to leverage those opportunities to create profitable, long-term relationships with their audience.

When your customers are with you for the long haul, you can work with them to discover what increases their satisfaction and what efforts come up short. And with a little foresight and the right tools—like a customer engagement platform—successful client engagement is possible for companies of all shapes and sizes.

Free customer experience guide

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

Free customer experience guide

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

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