11 Rules for Building a Winning Customer Engagement Strategy

If you want your company to succeed, customer engagement is not optional. You need to make sure that you don't just invest in customer engagement but invest smartly to take the right steps at the right time. These 11 rules can become your central framework to build a winning customer engagement strategy, increasing retention and revenue in the process.

Customer Engagement Strategy

If you want your company to succeed, customer engagement is not optional.

According to one study, 86% of customers pay more for a great customer experience. That’s probably why PwC found that the percentage of companies investing in their customer engagement strategy jumped from 20% to 80% in just a few years.

But of course, success doesn’t happen automatically. Nothing in marketing, sales, or customer service ever does.

Instead, you need to be strategic.

You need to make sure that you don’t just invest in customer engagement but invest smartly to take the right steps at the right time.

Allow us to help. These 11 rules can become your central framework to build a winning customer engagement strategy, increasing retention and revenue in the process.

1) Start With Your Customer

Never assume that you know what your customer wants. Chances are you’re wrong.

Instead, the beginning of your engagement strategy has to be your customers. Ask them how they want to engage with you. Draw insights from the channels they use to reach out. Make note of their most frequently asked questions.

The totality of your audience engagements with you makes up their overall experience, and breaking that experience back down into its components can help you build and refine your strategy.

That sounds easy. It’s not. It requires both first-hand and secondary source research into your audience. But it’s well worth your time.

Once you have the right info, every part of your customer engagement strategy can flow from your customers. In other words, this step influences all of the other rules below.

2) Make Yourself Available

It might sound obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less important: the first (okay, second) rule of customer engagement is just being there when they need you.

A large portion of your audience expects a response to a problem or question on social media in 30 minutes or less. But they also expect alternate channels of contact.

According to Microsoft, 74% of Americans have recently used a phone to contact customer service. Digital technology is great, but it cannot replace some of the more traditional means of contacting you.

When that happens, you need to be there. Be prepared for questions with quick and helpful answers. Make sure that an initial engagement doesn’t turn into a nightmare for your audience.

In other words, don’t let them feel like they’re not being heard or left out. The more included you can make your audience feel, the better.

3) Build an Omnichannel Strategy

Speaking of phone and social media: don’t limit yourself to a single channel when it comes to customer engagement.

The ways in which your customers may reach out to you can vary widely:

  • Via phone, through the aforementioned customer service hotline.
  • On social media to your brand or customer service accounts.
  • On your website, through live chat experiences or static knowledge databases.
  • In person at your storefront or other live interactions.

Think about it this way: any time you interact with your audience, that channel may be relevant for customer service as well. That’s why it’s so important to build an omnichannel strategy of customer engagement.

4) Personalize Customer Experiences

Enough with the basics. Let’s get to the fun part.

Engaging your customers is more than basic customer service. Yes, being there to answer questions and solve problems is a core part of building positive customer experience. But it’s far from the only side of it.

The other side is proactive customer engagement. That means making sure you stay top of mind for your audience, even if they don’t reach out to you.

The best way to do that: personalize your customer experiences.

In other words, adjust your communications strategy based on what you know about your individual customers. A one-time buyer who hasn’t interacted much with you in the past should probably not receive the same email as one who comes back every month to purchase more.

Almost all marketers agree that this kind of personalization significantly improves customer engagement rates. And of course, that makes intuitive sense. If the content and service you offer are more relevant to them, they’ll naturally become more likely to engage with you.

Building this type of personalization depends largely on the accuracy of your data. The more you can gather about each customer, and the easier you can store and organize that data, the more customized you can get.

5) Stay Real and Authentic

Closely connected to personalization is the concept of authenticity.

The best brands offer their customers more than just factual information. They make that factual information seem real and credible.

Social media is a great way to humanize your brand. It allows you to engage with your audience directly, and share your unique brand voice when you do. It’s not a surprise that 62% of millennials are more loyal to brands that interact with their customers on social media channels.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that authenticity is limited to social media.

Yes, that’s the most common showcase of your brand voice. That doesn’t mean it has to be the only one.

In fact, the best brands carry their voice, personality, and authenticity through all of their customer engagement channels. That includes live chat, the call center, and even in-person interactions. Here’s why:

6) Ensure Constant Consistency

Consider it one of the core commandments of customer engagements. A single negative experience can prevent up to 86% of customers from ever doing business with you again.

Meanwhile, it takes up to 40 positive reviews to make up for a single negative review.

The lesson is clear: you can’t trip up. Consistency, when it comes to interacting with your audience, is the absolute key. Every single piece of content, every engagement, every question answered needs to be positive.

That consistency needs to carry into all elements of your customer engagement strategy:

  • The time it takes you to respond to customer queries and complaints.
  • The value of the information you provide each time a customer interacts with you.
  • The proactive content and information you push to your customers.
  • The static resources that are available on your website.
  • The brand voice and personality you showcase to customers on all engagement channels.

Neglect even one of these, and you might have trouble on your hands. When it comes to customer engagement, you need to stay on the ball–and slowly drive that ball towards the net.

7) Minimize the Friction

What, exactly, makes up a bad customer experience? We all have that example in our heads:

  • You get the phone with a company.
  • You’re on hold for 40+ minutes.
  • The person you talk to can’t answer your question.
  • You’re on hold again.
  • You talk to a different person.
  • The solution they provide you is bad.
  • You have to call back.
  • You finally (if you’re lucky) solve the problem.

That (admittedly extreme) hypothetical is a perfect example of friction. Friction, in turn, can kill your efforts to generate positive customer engagement.

Your goal, as you build the strategy, should be to minimize that friction.

Build a customer journey map to understand the needs and desires of your core audience every step of the way once they make a purchase. Include both proactive and reactive touchpoints with your brand. Then, find the fastest way to help your customers achieve the goals they might have at this step.

8) Don't Forget About Past Customers

New customers are the shiny new toy. You naturally want to keep them engaged from the moment they transfer revenue your way. But they shouldn’t be the only target of your engagement strategy.

Don’t forget about past or lapsed customers, who haven’t purchased from you in a while. They might just be lying dormant for one of two reasons:

  • They just haven’t had the need to purchase your product in a while.
  • They did not receive the engagement they deserved when they were active customers, falling through the cracks of your engagement strategy.

A comprehensive customer engagement strategy can help mitigate each of these concerns. It puts your company, brand, and product top of mind for them, recognizing and activating their need for both the product and the engagement.

These customers will need a different treatment than your new acquisitions. But as long as you treat them right, they can continue to be part of your revenue-generating audience base.

9) Never Stand Still

You might think that, as long as you follow the above eight rules, you’ve built the perfect customer engagement strategy. Not quite. You’ll still need to pay attention to some other, overarching rules as you begin to execute your strategy.

The first is to adopt a continuous improvement mindset.

Every time you interact with your customers, gather data about that interaction. Then, analyze that data to see what worked, what didn’t, and where you can make improvements.

You can take this exercise into a number of directions:

  • Emphasize metrics like Net Promoter Score to gauge your customers’ satisfaction with your brand.
  • Focus on more in-depth quality metrics about their satisfaction with their interactions and engagements with your brand.
  • Look for call center metrics like average hold time and average time to solution for friction-related insights.
  • Understand channel preferences through qualitative and quantitative metrics related to satisfaction and usage rates.

There is no single best metric to focus on. Instead, the best way to follow this rule is to build a web of key performance indicators across all of your customer engagement channels, then track these metrics as you execute your strategy.

10) Put Engagement at the Center of Your Business Strategy

Engaging your customers is not just about recurring revenue. Done right, it can help inform your entire business strategy.

Your customers are your single most important intelligence input. They can tell you more than you could ever record about the successes and failures of both your product and your business operations.

You just have to listen.

The insights you gain from the continuous improvement mindset mentioned enough should not just inform improvements to your engagement strategy. They could improve, and even transform, your entire business.

Engagement insights can lead to new product ideas. They can lead to significant business growth and adjustments in the way you run the business as a whole.

You do have to give up at least some control to make this happen. Remember that everything in engagement (and in your business) begins and ends with the customer.

Steve Jobs said it best:

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.

In other words, the core of your business strategy should be your target customer, not internal hunches or inside-out driven decisions.

11) Ensure Engagement Scalability

Following all of the above rules can get complex quickly. That, in turn, makes it difficult to scale.

As your business and customer base grows, you might not have the resources to staff all of your phone lines or live chats without building up serious queues and digital waiting lines.

That’s why, as part of your engagement strategy, you need to make sure that the channels and tactics you use can easily scale.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. Simply hiring more customer service and engagement reps is an expensive effort and tends to make your business inflexible.

Fortunately, there are other solutions:

  • Automate at least some of your proactive engagement, including reporting on customer interactions, to avoid manual pulls.
  • Build style guides and other documents that make it easier to stay consistent in your engagement efforts.
  • Outsource time-intensive processes like phone customer service or live chats to a reliable partner you can work with long-term.

With these steps, you can make sure that your engagement strategy doesn’t suffer as your business grows. That way, you can continue to follow all 11 of the above rules as you hope to better serve your audience, build your revenue, and maximize the potential of your customer experience.