It takes a little luck to excel at customer engagement. I’m sure this notion doesn’t sit well with those of you who like to be in control, but America’s national pastime can shed some light on why this random perspective can actually help you improve customer experience and digital engagement.
In my younger days I was a pretty good baseball player. I played center field, and I loved to play really shallow. My signature play was to aggressively charge a sinking liner, make a diving catch, and rob the opposing batter of what should have been a sure hit.
I didn’t make my signature catch in every game. I had the skills to do it, but I couldn’t control where the ball was hit. My signature catch happened only when someone hit a sinking liner within my range. It took a little luck to get the chances I needed.
I wasn’t entirely powerless, though. First of all, I was always on my toes. I took advantage of every opportunity by catching virtually every ball I could reach. Even when I couldn’t quite make the catch, I usually short-hopped the ball and was still able to throw the runner out at first base—from center field.
I also used my skills and position to create opportunities. For example, I learned to excel at running backwards to catch balls hit well over my head. Because I had the skill to go deep, I was able to play very shallow and position myself where those sinking liners were hit most frequently. I created more chances for opportunity to find me.
Customer engagement isn’t about control, it’s about opportunity
The enterprise can’t control customer engagement because the consumer is in control of the buyer journey at virtually every stage of the buying process. And let’s face it, today’s buyer journey looks more like a leadoff hitter’s spray chart than a nice orderly march from awareness to consideration to decision.
Yet I see many enterprises who are trying to drive engagement by invoking a form of control. They focus heavily on interrupting consumers with special offers and discounts hoping to stimulate more purchases. Sure, consumers say they want money-saving deals, (who wouldn’t?) But can you really buy engagement? Maybe you can buy incremental sales, but I’m not so sure that’s engagement. After all, what happens when a competitor buys your customers' attention and offers them a bigger discount?
When you let go of control, you begin to see opportunity
I’m not suggesting that enterprises should stop making special offers to their customers. But if that’s the primary focus of your engagement strategy, consider adding some new approaches that will help you truly get closer to your customers and ultimately to drive more revenue. In my last post, I described why the best time to engage with customers is when they invite you to engage… and the most obvious invitation comes when customers need assistance. If customers know you’ll be there for them when they need you, you will earn their trust and be invited to engage more often. If you let go of being in control and instead let your customers guide you, you will begin to see many opportunities to position yourself to get invited to engage more often. You can create more chances for opportunity to find you.
Opportunities to engage are plentiful at every stage of the customer journey
You can’t control when customers engage with you, but you can make sure you’re in position to be there when they need you. Customers need assistance while shopping and buying, during product or service delivery, and of course in post-sale customer service and support. Create opportunities by being in the right place. To find these opportunities, step through how customers interact with you on the web, on a tablet, and on a smartphone. Don’t wait for them to ask for help on your contact us page, and don't simply direct them there. Look for places where customers might struggle. Look for places where customers might have questions. Then make sure you’re in position to take advantage of those opportunities. Position help so it’s easy to find, and make sure you provide that help in a way that’s consistent with the way digital consumers behave on their customer journey.
It takes a little luck for a customer's journey to intersect with your web site or mobile app in just the right way. But be there when customers need you, and you’ll earn more chances to engage with them when they don’t. Earn a customer’s trust, and they’ll pay more attention to your special offers. Your discounts might not have to be so deep. And maybe, when your competitors try to woo them away from you, a bigger discount won’t be enough to get the job done.