Customer Engagement is a Double Edge “Sword”

Inside the mind of the consumer-funnyEvery week I get at least two invitations for webinars exploring various customer engagement technologies.  Apparently brands are really interested to engage consumers. At least technology vendors think so, and provide them with powerful tools to do just that. The problem is – nobody seems to know whether the consumers want to be engaged with the brands. Neither the technology vendors nor the brands ever bothered to ask the consumers this question. They just charge ahead and expose consumers to practices that often create negative customer experiences.

A recent online purchase from a well known retailer triggered an immediate avalanche of emails begging me to rate their performance well before the item I purchased was delivered. It was mildly irritating at first. It became outright annoying when the merchandise was not delivered on the promised date. When it finally arrived, I had a chance to experience it sufficiently and respond to the rating request. While the rest of my customer journey was quite smooth, the untimely attempts to “engage”  me, resulted in less than a favorable rating.

While shopping for a kitchen appliance in a well established brick and mortar store, my wife and I met a major brand’s ambassador who gave us very informative product demonstration. Upon completion, she asked for our emails to “continue the engagement”. Unfortunately, the brand did not supply her with any meaningful information about why and how this engagement will be conducted. We chose not to provide our email to the brand. I asked the ambassador about her rate of success in getting email addresses, and her answer was 0%.

I am not suggesting that consumers want no engagement with brands, or that a use of technology for engagement is a bad idea. I do suggest that marketers should ponder on the following questions before they attempt to deploy any technology for customer engagement:

  • What is a value of engaging with your brand from a customer’s perspective?
  • Can your brand benefit from attempts to emotionally engage with consumers? Presumably, brands want to engage with customers to foster loyalty, and consequently grow their sales. Consider that customers may buy your products because of their reputation and not because of brand loyalty.
  • If upon considering the above, you decide to deploy a technology, please think of the details – what type of information, when, how, and how frequently you want to attempt engagement. Think about these from the perspective of a recipient, not the perspective of your brand. Small and easily avoidable errors in deployment can completely de-rail customer engagement initiative – even if the value conditions (first two points) are met. For example, the online retailer described above, could easily trigger their request for  a performance review with the shipping company’s delivery notification. That would avoid alienating this customer with a premature request. Instead they multiplied negativity with repeating the error with an unreasonable frequency.

The most important thing to remember before you start planning a customer engagement campaign: we no longer sell products, services or expertise – we sell experiences.

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2 Responses to Customer Engagement is a Double Edge “Sword”

  1. Jeff Toister says:

    It seems like a common definition of customer engagement is lacking.

    In your examples, the companies defined engagement as permission to keep sending you emails. I’d wager that’s not how you, as a consumer, might define it!

  2. Gregory says:

    Jeff, thank you for pointing out my mistake. There are many definitions of the term “Customer Engagement” (CE), but I focused here on the outbound implementations only. I should have been more specific.

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