Need Connected, Engaged Customers?

Identifying innovative customer engagement solutions is not an easy task. But more often than not, we forget to look into the fundamentals that get engaged customers and them connected with you and your brand. As I was thinking about ways to boost customer engagement, I suddenly realized that I should focus on starting with the basics. And I soon realized true connection and engagement starts with genuine empathy.

Starting with Empathy

Many of you may be rolling your eyes, thinking “ Empathy? Yeah, of Course!”. But you would be surprised to know that this is not a common practice for many businesses and marketers; and that many businesses managers, marketers or writers, are unable to thoroughly understand their audience’s expectations, situation, and problems. When that is the case, businesses end up creating irrelevant content, products and solutions that do not fully address their needs and goals, resulting in disconnect and lack of customer engagement.

I am not suggesting that you suddenly start on a restricted raw food diet to understand your customer’s taste preferences, nor that you pack all your belongings and move to a cabin in the Andaman Islands so you can thoroughly understand what type of gadgets would satisfy your adventurous’ customers needs. What I am proposing is that you observe and listen to what your customers are saying, with an attitude based on benevolence and sincerity. I am proposing you stop the guessing game through meaningless engagement activities, but take the time to listen to and connect with your customers.

Empathy for your customers should be at the core of your marketing campaign and product/ services development practices. Creating products, services, and campaigns with the sole goal to sell, reach new leads, or further a search engine rank is a waste of yours, and your audience’s, time and efforts for a few reasons:

  1. How can you connect and engage with your customer if you cannot empathize with their problems and needs?
  2. How can you expect your customers to connect and engage back with you when you cannot truly understand their needs?
  3. How can you create useful solutions to their real problems when you don’t understand the core of the problems?

Once you start practicing genuine empathy, your customers will infer that you are willing to understand their problems, and they will be more motivated to engage and connect with you as well as share their positive experiences with your brand.

Practicing Empathy: Always Think Long-Term Relationships

Jonathan Colman

Now that you have finally agreed on the importance of empathy, now it is time that you start developing your ability to do so with your customers, and create meanigful customer engagement. My advice is to start by thinking long term. Know that it is not an inherited gift, but a discipline that can be learned with constant dedication and time commitment. Jonathon Colman, a product UX expert from Facebook, has once stated that “You’re not engaging in a one-time action. You’re building a long-term relationship”, and that statement holds very true still.

But how can you do so? Here are a few customer empathy building steps that I’d like to suggest. I personally found these very useful to my own marketing and product development practices, and that I hope will help you too.

  1. Listen to your customers and prospects. Sounds obvious, right? But the number of businesses, marketers and product managers that are not active with this simple practice will amaze you. Do not always rely on your customer service team to get the answers. Reach out directly to your customers, listen to their requests, and watch how they behave.why?
  2. Ask questions. Be a skeptic! The “Whys and Hows” are going to take you a long way. I was recently taken by surprise as I spoke to one of our biggest clients. As I started asking her questions about the usability and features of one of our product lines, she mentioned she had never been approached by a Product Manager with such interest before, and was grateful I took the time to do so. Again, be a curious relentless self, and keep asking questions, regardless of your position or function. At the end of the day you will end up learning more about your customers, winning their trust, and instigating their interest in keeping connected.
  3. Never assume you have all the answers. Because you don’t! And you rarely will. So go beyond FAQ, take your questions a little further, add some power and real meaning to them. Asking questions such as “Why do you use that product this way? Does it improve your experience? Does it make you feel better about the process? What feature would improve your performance with it? Can it solve all the problems you need it to?”, will help you thoroughly understand their needs. But you should also improvise as you get to know your audience a little better.
  4. Remember: empathy is contagious! Share your customer stories, not just the numbers, and that practice will grow organically internally and externally. I used to work in a company that we once decided to make banners with quotes and pictures from current customers, expressing their satisfaction with our products. As we spread the banners across our office, I suddenly started being approached by colleagues that wanted to hear more about our customers’ stories. This practice made me realize that by sharing our customers’ stories our team was developing empathy for those same customers that we were creating the solutions for. As an end result, we were more motivated to engage with them in deeper levels, and to hear more stories along the way, than we were before when we only shared the weekly metric numbers.
  5. Always wear your customers’ shoes.  If you are trying to develop this long-term relationship, always keep in mind their perspectives, perceptions, and experiences. People have a tendency to connect with people who can feel their pain and that can relate to their problems.

I would encourage you to start with these simple empathy practices, and would argue that by developing it towards your customers and prospects, you will be able to thoroughly understand their needs; ask real and meaningful questions as they know you are truly listening; allowing you to provide real solutions to their problems. But more than that, by practicing empathy, you will be developing a stronger and meaningful long-term relationships (which we have also covered in a previous blog), while creating an environment of trust and loyalty, in which they will be motivated to continuously engage and participate in your practices. And once the trust is established, they will be willing to talk about their positive experience to their own network… But that is a topic for another post.

 

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