We're still very much living in the age of the customer. So what can businesses do to increase engagement between employees and customers? Here are some suggestions from Gartner.

Engaged customers are generally better brand advocates. They are more loyal and spend more on that brand. In a report titled "The Four Attributes of Customer Engagement," Gartner researchers stress that it is important to understand the foundation of customer engagement. It defines that as "attracting and influencing of customers" to hold their attention and induce them to participate in a long-term relationship.

Engagement Pays Big Dividends

It seems pretty simple. But Gartner’s Michael Moaz noted that many organizations struggle. "They are not actually engaging with the customer, and instead they have been disengaging for a decade in order to lower costs. Furthermore, relatively few have an enterprise-wide approach to engaging with customers.” 

Relatively few have an enterprise-wide approach to engaging with customers and only 15 percent of global organizations placing these strategies in the hand of senior leaders such as the chief innovation officer, CEO, CIO or head of digital marketing.

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4 Customer Engagement Attributes

At the core of those strategies are four attributes enterprises need to adopt to get the best out of their customer engagement strategies. The strategy itself needs to be rooted in a wider consideration of engagement and how each of the different elements in the enterprise should approach it. 

1. Social, Mobile and Traditional Channel Alignment

Despite the fact that engagement with customers requires a considerable amount of work and activity, in recent years, largely because of economic issues, many organizations have been attempting to cut back on customer engagement to lower their costs.

However, when there is active engagement, organizations will find that their customers are more willing to interact though a whole range of channels ranging from self-service tools to mobile applications and community and group involvement. They are also prepared to offer feedback when asked and are the biggest and most informed product users — often providing invaluable insights on how to use and improve them.

From the organization's perspective, active engagement requires changes to people, processes and technology. Processes can be modified to make them more flexible, timely, reliable, thorough, accessible and personal, while technology can be introduced to encourage participation in such forums as ideation platforms, peer-to-peer support communities and better user experiences.

Learning Opportunities

2. Transparency and Trust

Gartner notes that there is an emotional component to engagement. In fact,the report suggests that emotional engagement is often more powerful than rational engagement. While it can be hard for companies to measure or identify changes in emotional customer sentiment, it cannot be ignored. Customers that are emotionally engaged are less likely to complain, compliment more, buy more and contribute more overall than those who are not engaged.

Another factor is how organizations use or misuse customer data.If organizations respect customer privacy rather than bombarding them with semi-personalized campaigns, they — obviously — generate higher levels of trust and, consequently, more engagement. In addition, if organizations allow customers to access the personal data held by an organization and set controls on what data can be used, it enhances the relationship.

3. Customer Participation and Knowledge Availability

Rational customer engagement results from knowledge about a product or service and research into the organization and its products.  Their level of engagement is linked to such things as value, quality, detail and innovation. This can result in an elevated levels of knowledge and additional engagement.

4. Demonstrated Commitment to Fairness

This kind of engagement works off the fundamental values by which people live and goes beyond a materialistic view of the world. In the past, ethical engagement has been somewhat optional. However, with social networks and access to those networks on billions of mobile devices globally, organizations can no longer hide their social responsibility actions or lack of them.

The report notes that over the past decade, organizations have disengaged with customers by moving to lower-cost channels so that over 80 percent of customer service interactions now no longer involve talking to an employee. And that is a problem, because even in this digital age, the most frequently used and most effective customer touch point is personal contact by phone.

Title image by syamsul bahri muhammad / Shutterstock.