CRM Evolution, Day 2: Defining Customer Engagement, and How to Refine It

WASHINGTON — Customer engagement centers on the relationship between company and customer, with the customer deciding the terms. This simple yet powerful idea was explored from a variety of angles by speakers on day two of CRM Evolution 2017, who went through the ways in which CRM technology and techniques can help build positive relationships.

Customer engagement is “the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer,” Paul Greenberg, managing principal at The 56 Group LLC, told the audience during his morning keynote. “Engagement does not mean delighting the customer all the time,” he emphasized. “What we’re really looking to do with engagement is make sure that the interactions with the customers are good enough to make them want to continue to interact with you.”

“Many brands act like loyalty is just a transaction when in fact, loyalty is an emotion,” said Rich Toohey, president at Resolvere Insights, during his session “Using Customer Engagement to Create Loyalty.” He identified three types of loyalty: inertia-based loyalty, where a customer stays with a brand because they would lose benefits by switching to another brand; mercenary-based loyalty, where discounts and rewards keep a customer coming back to a brand; and true loyalty, where a customer has an emotional bond with a brand. He also offered three recommendations for improving engagement: delivering a connected experience across physical and digital channels; empowering employees with appropriate tools, training, and measurements; and using customer information to make interactions more relevant.

Speaking during the solution session for his company Thunderhead, Phil Venville, senior vice president of strategy and research, told the audience that customer engagement is “not just a marketing term or a new spin on customer experience management”; it is a “value-driven relationship” between the business and the customer, and while value can take many different forms, only the customer can decide what is valuable. Engagement is “a psychological or motivational state for how a customer feels about a brand or business,” he said, and “depends on the sum of all the experiences a customer has with a brand.”

In his session “Change Your Approach, Not Your CRM,” Danny Estrada, founder at E Squared, offered advice to companies struggling with the adoption of their CRM initiatives. “CRM is plumbing powered by people and process,” he told the audience, later adding “profitability comes from people, process, and plumbing.” He outlined a five-step approach to CRM adoption: (1) define business objectives; (2) identify business challenges; (3) align implementation with strategy; (4) invite participation from a variety of constituencies; and (5) establish clarity and accountability. “We need to get everybody on the same boat—sales aligned with marketing on board with service and the management team…to reach business objectives,” he added, noting that CRM implementation is never finished, as organizations need to constantly recalibrate their CRM systems to meet ever-changing customer expectations and environments.

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