Increase customer engagement through better digital listening

We spend a lot of time designing customer engagements; tailoring messaging and presentation based on dimensional data that we collect about customer persona, user journey stage and other attributes. But, how well are we listening to the customer? What tells/learns from the customer are we picking up on? 

Many of us that start down the path of customer experience management don't have a true sense of where we stand in the eyes of our customers. How many are raving fans? How many are satisfied, but don't have enough loyalty to skip an offer from a competitor? How many are tolerating our product or service and would/will move as soon as an option presents itself? 

I was thinking the other day about customer engagement segmentation and how to listen for that. My customer engagement prism in this conversation is tied to customer satisfaction.  Before we start exploring how to listen for customer engagement let's think about engagement segments. This is a continuum, and our goal is to coax our customers as far to the right side of that continuum as possible. I suspect that for most, the continuum is going to look a bit like a bell curve.  Hopefully, it's a bell curve that's skewed towards the right side of the spectrum.  

Fuming: We've lost this customer, and their mission is to let everyone in their network know the reason why. No fun. 

Tolerating: These customers are gone as soon as an alternative presents itself. If the cost of switching is too high, they may stay for a while, but won't like it. They won't preach to the masses about their disappointment, but won't be shy about sharing their experience with people that ask. That includes piling onto to the fumers' posts on social media. 

Accepting: These customers are neutral; neither satisfied or dissatisfied. Don't look for recommendations or complaints from this group. They'll stay as long as they aren't presented with a better offer. They aren't a great cross-sell / up-sell target. 

Enjoying: We've done something right with these customers. We've solved a problem, eased a pain, made their day better. They appreciate it and we've earned the right to try to expand the relationship

Evangelizing: These customers are worth their weight in gold. They'll sing our praises to anyone that will listen and likely drive more referral customers than we realize today. 

The swing customer

If we look at the bell curve, we've likely already made our bed with customers at both ends of the spectrum. We'll likely have to work exceptionally hard (in over or under performing) to change their perspective. It's with the customers in the middle that we have the greatest opportunity to influence. They're analogous to the swing voters in an election. They may have a slight bias one way or the other, but we don't have to move mountains to move the engagement needle. 

Within these engagement segments lies opportunity to improve customer experience and advance the customer to the next level. 

What's the value of 'leveling up' our customers?

More engaged customers spend more. They buy more product & services. This increases the customer lifetime value.

More engaged customers stay longer. This increases the customer lifetime value. And, considering the cost of new customer acquisition, replacing customers is typically more expensive than taking care of existing customers. 

More engaged customers refer more new customers. What's the value of a positive word-of-mouth referral? We'll, we can calculate that for each organization. Inputs to that include the new customer acquisition cost and the lift in conversion rate of a word-of-mouth referral over other lead sources.

Now that we know the impact, what should we listen for?

There are a lot of indicators that we can look & listen for. Here are just a few

Response rate to satisfaction inquiries. An excessively engaged (happy) or disengaged (unhappy) respond more than those in the middle. So, 'how'd we do' questions, reviews & social shares tend to be indicators of customers at the extreme ends of the spectrum. 

Referrals. Referrals are one of the strongest indicators of an evangelist. A well designed referral program can actually help coax a customer from enjoying into evangelizing, especially for those on the bubble.  

Frequency. Customers that interact more frequently show evidence of higher engagement. If we're successfully getting a bit more mindshare of our customer we'll enjoy more frequent interactions. 

Level-up conversions.  Cross-sell and up-sell conversions are indicators that the customer sees some value in our recommendations. It says that they're happy with their experience with us thus far, and that our recommendations are resonating.

As you think about events, goals and outcomes within your customer journey, you may want to think about how they relate to your customer engagement stages.  A follow-on topic is quantifying the lift, in terms of lifetime value, of leveling-up a customer.  Articulating the financial value of increasing customer engagement rolls right up to the CFO and is an important conversation.   That's something I need to write about, soon.