• July 26, 2022

Despite Importance of Customer Engagement, Few Companies Excel at It, HBR Finds

Despite an economic downturn and increasingly competitive landscape, when delivering exceptional experiences is even more critical to retention and revenue, Harvard Business Review Analytic Services found a significant gap in how companies are engaging with their customers.

In a new report, HBR found that while 88 percent of global business leaders recognize that customer engagement has a significant impact on their organizations’ bottom line. and 92 percent view effective customer engagement as very or extremely critical to their organizations’ success, only 9 percent say they have excellent engagement today. What's more, less than half are investing in new or improved customer engagement technologies, and only 40 percent say they are effectively using data to send customers the right message at the right time via the right channel. 

"As customers engage with leading brands that provide exceptional accuracy in their personalization and recommendations, they've come to expect that same level of service from all companies," said Blake Morgan, author of The Customer of The Future: 10 Guiding Principles for Winning Tomorrow's Business. "Accurate engagement today is more than just knowing a customer's name. It requires a deeper understanding of their preferences, values, and demographics to show that an organization cares and can provide relevant engagement."

Organizations are turning to customer engagement efforts primarily for increased customer loyalty and retention (69 percent), increased revenue growth and profitability (59 percent) and improved brand reputation (42 percent). But the main obstacles that prevent businesses from fully realizing these benefits include the following:

  • Poor Cross-Functional Collaboration: Nearly half (44 percent) say a lack of collaboration and siloed efforts are the top impediments to successful customer engagement.
  • Siloed Data: 32 percent say their organizations are failing to properly distribute data-driven customer insights throughout the organization, and another 32 percent say customer data is siloed or hard to use. Sixty percent also don't feel they're doing a good job of tailoring communications to customers with data.
  • Scarcity of Talent: More than half (56 percent) encounter difficulty finding the right personnel to manage customer engagement efforts, and nearly three-quarters (73 percent either strongly or somewhat agree that their organizations need employees with experience and expertise in customer engagement.

"This research shows that while business leaders understand the importance of customer engagement, they are encountering barriers in execution," said Alex Clemente, managing director of analytic services at Harvard Business Review. "Fostering a culture that supports more personalized engagement, eliminating data silos, deploying the right technologies, and recruiting robust talent are all barriers that organizations will need to overcome to achieve effective customer engagement."

"Engaging your customers and delivering deep value for them has always been key to driving retention and repeat customers and fueling a healthy business. During times of economic uncertainty, engagement and retention become more important than ever," said Karen Peacock, CEO of Intercom. "Now is the time to double down on creating an exceptional customer experience – one that's personalized, contextual, and engaging across the customer journey and doing it in a highly efficient way that saves you money. The businesses who do this are the ones who will thrive and emerge as winners."

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