• June 1, 2014
  • By Paul Greenberg, founder and managing principal, The 56 Group

What's Customer Engagement Again?

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We are part of an industry often driven by buzzwords, overwhelmed with acronyms, and constantly in pursuit of trends. At the same time, there occurs, once in a while, the emergence of a trend with a buzzword that has an acronym attached that is genuinely important, even seminal.

Currently, that trend is customer engagement (with the acronym being CE)—and, frankly, calling it a "trend" is hardly doing it justice. It is becoming a core part of customer strategy—a strategy that is a determining factor when it comes to whether or not you retain your customers in an era where a digital customer can be more demanding than ever, have more choices for purchasing things than ever, and be the subject of more attention than ever.

To emphasize the point, BlueWolf Consulting, a Salesforce.com partner, did a study of Salesforce customers and found some stats that—even if you are a believer in what I'm saying here—are startling. More than 60 percent of the respondents said that customer engagement is their top priority, and 84 percent believed customer engagement would overtake productivity as their company's primary driver of growth. Those are telling numbers.

But, of course, that level of investment and intensity raises the most fundamental questions of all. What is customer engagement and why customer engagement?

I'm glad you asked those questions.

First, to be clear, customer engagement isn't CRM, per se, though CRM is involved. It isn't customer experience, though that, too, is involved.

Let's start from the beginning.

The Need for Consumable Experiences

Digital customers, regardless of generation, know how to communicate via social channels ranging from Twitter and Facebook to communities and user forums. They know how to leverage their power to speak to what could be thousands of their peers. They might even be able to influence those thousands. But they also know that they can communicate in the ways that they have for many years—email, phone, text message, Skype, etc.

Businesses know this. They know that the approach to communications that their customers will take involves multiple channels on any given day and more often than that in a single series of interactions. For example, recently I had a back and forth with my niece concerning a laptop I was going to buy her for her birthday that spanned six different channels in the course of one set of conversations. This is typical and now called omnichannel—a great concept saddled by the worst...word...ever.

This ability to communicate, in combination with the incredible availability of information that can be useful in making decisions and the wide range of choice that customers have in who they buy from, puts companies in the position of having to add something more than just a great product or service. In fact, they need an array of products, services, tools, and what I call consumable experiences for customers to choose from to make sure they are engaging with the company in an ongoing fashion which, if it goes 

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