Posts

Understanding Customer Engagement: What Does it Mean for You?

When we talk about Kapta, we talk about a tool and a process designed to build customer engagement.

So what do we mean by “customer engagement?” It’s a term that pops up all over the place these days, and it means different things to different people. So let’s take a closer look at how we define, demonstrate, and achieve customer engagement, and how doing so compares to other roles, such as Customer Success or sales.

Defining Customer Engagement

A brief internet search will show you that people define customer engagement all sorts of ways. This is understandable. Customer engagement is hard to define in absolutes, since it deals with the emotional connection between your customer and your company or brand, and looks slightly different in different industries. (For example, a retail brand is not going to define or measure customer engagement the same way a creative services consulting firm might.)

However, if you sift through many definitions out there, you’ll find 3 common, crucial elements:

  1. Customer engagement is rooted in ongoing, 2-way communication between a customer and your company
  2. Customer engagement creates a dynamic relationship that leads to lasting loyalty;
  3. Customer engagement can be measured against stated goals

At Kapta, when we distill and simplify those key elements, we say: Customer engagement is an ongoing, strategic relationship in which both parties succeed.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of that statement—it actually contains quite a bit of information. You can’t have an ongoing relationship without consistent, 2-way communication, in which your customers talk to you as much or more than you talk at them. Your relationship can’t be strategic if you’re more focused on selling what you offer than listening to what they need. And you can’t share success if you’re not dedicated to helping your customers achieve their business goals, and growing alongside them.

At the end of the day, something as nuanced and important as customer engagement is better demonstrated than defined. So let’s step away from theory for a minute, and give you a sense of what customer engagement looks like in practice.

Demonstrating Customer Engagement

One way we help our own customers understand the strength of their customer engagement is by asking a short list of questions, each designed as an indicator of customer engagement.

  • Do your customers reach out to you? Engaged customers will initiate conversations with you, reaching out whenever they face an issue or opportunity, rather than waiting for you to call. If you find you are always the one initiating contact, you may need to work on customer engagement.
  • Do you understand your customer’s big picture business goals? Understanding what your customer is ultimately trying to achieve means you’ve asked the right questions, and earned enough trust to get the right answers. And that means you’re more than just a vendor—you’re a comprehensive strategic partner. If you don’t have a clear idea of what your customer is trying to accomplish—not only as it relates to your products and services, but also beyond—you need to work on customer engagement.
  • Is your customer engaging with vendors who offer similar or complementary products and services? Even if they aren’t actively looking to replace you in your specific capacity, this is a bad sign. It indicates at the very least they aren’t aware of everything you could be doing for them. You’re missing opportunities for organic growth, leaving money on the table, and leaving yourself open to competitive threats.
  • Do your growth goals reflect what’s possible for key accounts? This is an interesting one. In a customer engagement model, your own growth goals should reflect what’s reasonable in the context of your customers, rather than imposing your company’s own goals onto customers who may or may not be able to support them. When you’re truly engaged with your customer, you have a detailed sense of how much room they have to grow with your suite of products and services, and you can ground your growth goals accordingly.
  • Are you experiencing high customer churn? This is a no-brainer. If you’re losing customers left and right, they aren’t engaged with you. Of course, by the time this is happening, it’s pretty late in the game.

In summary, the questions we ask are designed to give you a sense of the strength of your customer engagement. If your client is reaching out to you regularly; if they call you when they’re facing an issue or opportunity; if they share with you the bigger context for what they’re doing; if you are confident in their satisfaction and your future with them, and if you’ve built your own sales goals accordingly, then you are doing customer engagement right.

Achieving Customer Engagement

So how do you get there? At Kapta, we believe customer engagement is the end product of a customer-first culture and process, executed by a dedicated team of account or client service professionals.

Let’s pick that apart for just a second. First, you need a company-wide culture and a set of internal processes that puts customers first. This has to happen at the company level, because it has to be reflected in every function at your organization. It affects who you hire, how you train, how you measure performance, what products and services you offer, how you plan for growth, and more. The companies with the highest level of customer engagement are those that prioritize their customers, full stop.

Second, you need a team of professionals dedicated to building and strengthening client relationships. Traditionally, this has been called account management, key account management, or client services. There are different titles here, and different potential department names, one thing is key: This is distinct from the sales team, or at least a distinct group within the sales team. Because yes, client services professionals drive revenue, but their focus isn’t generating new leads or chasing quotas—it’s partnering with high-value customers to foster lasting, loyal relationships that can’t help but drive revenue over the long term.

And finally, you need a purpose-driven process and tools to support customer engagement. CRM and sales tools cannot do this for you. Neither can customer success tools. And neither can an ad-hoc collection of various communication, presentation, project management, and billing tools. To understand which tools you need, let’s look at some key differences between customer engagement, customer success, and sales.

Customer Engagement vs Customer Success

Let’s start with some areas of overlap between customer engagement, as we define and use the term, and customer success. In both instances, customers need to feel successful with your products/services/company. They need to use your products and services to their full (or close to full) capacity, and they need to see real value from the time they invest in you.

Now, let’s talk about some of the differences:

  • Scale: Customer Success tends to apply to companies who are largely product focused, and who rely on a large number of low touch customers. Customer engagement is about developing strong relationships with a smaller number of high-value accounts.
  • Measurement: Customer Success is measured largely by recurring subscriptions, whereas Customer Engagement is more nuanced—in addition to renewing contracts and increasing SOW, customer engagement takes into consideration the overall strength of the relationship.
  • Tools: Customer Success is heavily data-driven, mining customer’s data to measure their use of any given product, particularly SaaS products. Customer Engagement, though it certainly involves strategic use of metrics and data, requires tools that provide a comprehensive view of customer relationships beyond what numbers alone can provide.

Customer Engagement vs Sales

Again, let’s start with similarities. Customer Engagement and Sales are both about driving revenue through the products and services your company offers. The main difference here is how, and where the team’s focus lies.

In sales, the goal is to generate new leads, driving revenue by increasing the customer base. The goal may also be to upsell or cross-sell a large number of existing customers. In contrast, Customer Engagement drives revenue through organic growth, gradually increasing the scope and longevity of existing, strategic, high-value clients. We’ve written in detail before about how sales differs from Key Account Management, and why you need purpose-built tools for each. We’ll simply recap here that CRM tools are excellent for generating new leads or managing a high volume of low-touch customers, but they don’t provide the framework and visibility you need to build an ongoing, highly strategic relationship with any given, high-value client.

Conclusion: Benefits of Customer Engagement

Hopefully by now the benefits of Customer Engagement are pretty clear. Customer Engagement creates lasting, loyal, strategic partnerships that not only help secure your existing revenue from a key account, but also provide a platform for growth. Engaged, satisfied customers are more likely to invest in premium products and services, and more likely to continue to work with you when things go wrong (as they sometimes will).

Customer Engagement also helps reduce the risk and cost of customer churn. Customers today are easier to lose than ever before, and companies who win will be the ones who make customer engagement a priority.

To learn more about how Kapta can help you build real customer engagement, schedule a demo today. And if you have thoughts on what customer engagement means to you, get in touch and let us know.

The Software is Just the Start: How to Kick your B2B Customer Engagement into High Gear

B2B customer engagement is complex. Unlike in B2C industries, B2B customer engagement involves more people representing each company. You and your team are likely to interact with multiple people or teams rather than just one person. This means you’ll want a solid, well-rounded strategy to help you make consistent progress.

 

Software Isn’t Enough

You can’t rely on any one tool or action to make customer engagement happen. Excellent customer engagement comes from a combination of different inputs. Many excellent tools exist to help you, including software like Kapta, but they only work as part of a complete plan. Software alone cannot make customer engagement happen.

What else do you need to think about to improve engagement? A complete B2B customer engagement plan includes at least 4 other inputs:

1) Actions

The right software and tools will help you know when to act and what actions to take, but you still have to make it happen yourself. Customer engagement is easier when you’re actively involved with the account instead of operating with as few touches as possible.

Make your actions count. Don’t do busywork with your customers. Each touch should be effective and should have a distinct impact on the client. Too many actions without much to show for it means you’re operating very inefficiently, which could damage your relationship with the customer down the road. Use software to guide your actions and add more value to the customer.

2) Behaviors

Customer behaviors are changing. If you don’t keep up, you might be replaced by a company that will accurately meet the needs of the new customer. Your organization’s behaviors need to easily accommodate your customers and make it incredibly simple to engage with you.

Your customer-facing teams need to prioritize value. It’s not enough to just provide the product or service the customer is buying from you. Fantastic customer engagement happens when you habitually focus on going the extra mile for them. Create organizational behaviors that naturally add value to your customers.

3) Change Management

Change management isn’t just an internal practice. Any time you make changes, you will have to lead your customers through those changes as well. Some changes don’t result in a dramatic shift for the customer, while others do. Your customer engagement plan must include procedures on how to lead your customers through any organizational changes that come up.

Learn about the challenges they see from their perspective and respond accordingly. Analyze your customer interactions to understand every point at which they connect to your system, and how that’s likely to be affected by the change.

This part of your customer engagement plan can really benefit from complementary software. You can keep updated metrics, collect usage data, and get a clearer picture of how, when, and why your customers interact with your business.

4) Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool to promote customer engagement. Having an immediate benefit for customers who are actively engaging with you can keep them coming back and encourage other customers to improve their engagement. The type of reinforcement you provide depends on your industry and business environment.

 

All of these pieces work together to make a more complete customer engagement plan. You need a strategy in place that considers actions, behaviors, change management, reinforcement, and software together. Focusing too much on one component, especially the software, will leave you with an incomplete plan.

 

Define Your Business Transformation

To make the step from where you are now to better customer engagement, you need to define what that looks like in your context. What are you hoping to achieve by transforming your business?

Know what you’re looking to achieve before you make any changes to your customer engagement plan. You need to be able to measure your progress in order to know if you’re making the right changes or not. Without defining what you want first, you’re gambling that you’ll be able to reach a goal you can’t clearly identify.

As a B2B company, your success is directly tied to the success of your customers. How you engage with customers and how you encourage customer engagement should tie into mutual success for both of you.

 

 

How to Reach Your Goal

Whatever you want to accomplish through improved customer engagement, the goal is to first kick that into high gear. There’s a balance that you need to get within your own team to make it happen. You need to have the right people with the right skills exhibiting the right set of behaviors.

Sounds vague, but you’ll fill in the blanks when you know what you’re trying to accomplish. The right team of people will look different in your organization than it would in another. But, picking the right people is an essential part of getting everything else right. If you don’t have a good team working with you, your efforts to refine your process will be fruitless.

Choosing your team takes time and decisive action on your part as the team leader. Prioritize the skills you need, remembering that your team will be directly customer-facing.

Crafting behaviors in your organization requires you to know what you want to accomplish and how you want to get there. Behaviors are made by reducing your goals and the paths to those goals down into actionable steps that you do all the time. The behaviors your team exhibits should be pushing towards greater customer engagement at all times.

Once you’ve got the basics build-blocking, you can add in software to give your performance and all your efforts a boost. It’s vital to build on a pre-existing foundation instead of counting on the software to do the heavy lifting for you. Create something scalable, then scale it exponentially with software that can help you improve customer engagement.

 

Conclusion

Kapta has helped B2B companies around the world to improve customer engagement and create lasting partnerships. But, no software can solve all your problems on its own. Without your efforts to put together all the other pieces of the puzzle, it can easily fall flat.

We recommend a more thorough approach to improve customer engagement. Take time to focus on improving each part of your customer engagement plan before introducing software that will elevate your entire effort.