Need Connected, Engaged Customers?
All businesses should strive for high engagement from their customers. Why? Engaged customers look forward to interacting with your brand. This leads them to purchase more of your products or services.
Engaged customers also give you direct access to the thought process of your target audience.
However, identifying innovative customer engagement solutions often seems like a difficult task. Too often, we forget to look into the fundamentals that get customers engaged and bring them to your brand. As you think about ways to boost your customer engagement, remember to start at the beginning. You can focus on the basics to help increase engagement from the ground up.
A true connection with your customers, which is the foundation for any customer engagement strategy, starts with genuine empathy.
Starting with Empathy
You might be rolling your eyes, thinking, “Empathy? Yeah, of course!”
However, even though empathy for customers is a basic standard for marketing, it’s not a common practice for many businesses. Plenty of business leaders, marketers and managers are unable to thoroughly understand their audiences. This leaves them with lower customer engagement and satisfaction.
With proper empathy, you should be able to easily and accurately identify your target audience’s expectations and problems. Without a good grasp of empathy for your customers, you wind up with irrelevant content, products, and solutions. These unnecessary solutions don’t fully address the needs and concerns of your audience. When they interact with your brand, they’re met with useless information or a solution that only solves part of their problem. More often than not, the customer disconnects with your brand and leaves you behind in search of one that meets their needs.
That’s not to suggest that you should suddenly start on a restricted raw food diet to understand your customer’s taste preferences. Nor should 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 customer’s needs.
Rather, what we propose is that you observe and listen to what your customers are saying. To truly have empathy, you must also listen with an attitude based on benevolence and sincerity. Stop the guessing game of customer needs using meaningless engagement activities. Take the time to listen to and connect with your customers. In return, they’ll likely return to your brand time and again.
Empathy for your customers should be at the core of your marketing campaign, customer engagement strategy, and development practices for products and services. 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:
- How can you connect and engage with your customers if you cannot empathize with their problems and needs?
- How can you expect your customers to connect and engage back with you when you cannot truly understand their needs?
- 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. Their natural motivation will shift to engage and connect with you. They’ll also begin to share their positive experiences with your brand.
Practicing Empathy: Always Think Long-Term Relationships
You decide it’s time for your business to practice customer empathy in order to create real connections and foster customer engagement.
How do you do that?
Always start by thinking long term. The ability to truly connect and engage with customers isn’t some inherited talent. It’s a skill that you can hone with constant dedication and a time commitment to your customer experience.
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.” This statement still holds true. In fact, it continues to hold true as long as customers continue to care about the brands with which they interact.
So, how do you build a long-term relationship with customers?
Check out these empathy-building tips that you can use to create a solid customer engagement strategy.
- Listen to your customers and prospects. Sounds obvious, right? However, the number of businesses, marketers, and product managers that are not actively listening to customers might amaze you. You may be surprised to learn that your business isn’t listening as well as it should.
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.
- Ask questions. Be a skeptic! The “Whys and How’s” are going to take you a long way. The more questions you ask, the more feedback you can receive. Additionally, your customers will begin to take notice of your interest in fulfilling their needs. For example, let members of the product management or production and development teams speak with clients. They can ask questions about product usability and features. Your customers will almost certainly notice the genuine interest a product development member has in the answers. More likely than not, your customers will appreciate your employees taking the time to ask questions and receive feedback.
Again, be curious and relentless in your journey for customer engagement. 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 fueling their interest to stay in touch with your brand.
- Never assume you have all the answers. Because you don’t! Rarely will you be able to answer all of a customer’s questions without the effort of seeking their input directly. Go beyond an FAQ. Take your questions a little further to add some power and real meaning to them.
To thoroughly understand your audience, you need to get to know them better. Consider reaching out and asking questions such as:
- How do you use our products or services?
- Why do you use our products like that?
- How does this product improve the overall experience?
- Do our products help solve your problems?
- Do they create new problems?
- What features would enhance the product?
Remember to engage with customers even if they respond with negative feedback. A negative customer experience with your product or service is a chance to grow and ultimately help more customers in the long run.
- Remember: empathy is contagious! Share your customer stories, not just the numbers. Actual customer stories with positive feedback regarding your products and services lead to a stronger culture of empathy both internally and externally. For example, you could make banners with quotes and pictures from current customers. These banners serve as testimonials as your customers express their satisfaction with your products. Your employees will begin to notice these banners and want to hear more about those customers.
The ability to see the faces of real people who are using your products or services and having success helps to motivate your team to further help them. A name and picture breaks down the barrier of seeing them as a “customer” and instead creates a human being in the minds of your employees. This leads to deeper customer engagement from your side of the relationship. Employees want to help more customers and hear more stories about how their products helped them. It certainly encourages more employees to seek the feedback of customers than a weekly report on sales figures.
- 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 relate to their problems.
Start with these simple empathy practices and customer engagement tips. Develop your company culture to focus on your customers and prospects first. This allows you to thoroughly understand their needs.
Ask real and meaningful questions. This shows customers that you’re not just seeking positive feedback, but are truly listening. Your customers are more likely to provide insightful answers to the questions you’re asking if they believe you’re genuinely interested in their responses. Remember, customers can usually spot an insincere marketing or product development tactic. If they feel you’re actively listening to their input, you may be surprised by the quality of responses you receive.
In turn, you can respond to your customer’s feedback with solutions based on their exact needs. Providing real solutions to your customers’ problems is the goal of empathy.
Long-Term Customer Relationships Encourage New Customer Engagement
By practicing empathy, you develop a stronger and more meaningful long-term relationship. A stronger relationship encourages an environment of trust and loyalty. Customers who trust your business and products are motivated to continuously engage and connect with your business.
Once trust is established, customers are more willing to talk to their friends, family, and colleagues about the positive aspects of your brand. This often leads to new customers who seek your brand when they need your products or services.
Customers who do business with you because of a recommendation from a friend or peer are a unique benefit of using empathy with your customers. A customer who finds your business through advertisements or other channels likely has a neutral feeling toward your business. You’ll need to work hard to gain their trust and provide the solutions they need.
On the other hand, a customer with a recommendation already sees your business in a positive manner. Your business is automatically set up for success with this customer, as they’re ready to dive in and connect with your business based on the good things they’ve heard.
Keeping Customers Through Disappointing Experiences
Recommendations, however, can prove to be a double-edged sword. Your business must continue to practice genuine empathy for all customers in order to meet their expectations. One of the worst things to happen when a customer comes from a recommendation is to provide them with a less than stellar experience.
Whether your product doesn’t work as expected or your customer service is lacking, you now need to work twice as hard to retain this customer. Luckily, you can use customer engagement tips to help reconnect with this customer, or any unsatisfied customers you may have.
Try this customer engagement strategy if you experience negative reviews or feedback from customers:
- Respond to negative feedback quickly. When a customer leaves a bad review or sends an email stating their displeasure, they want an answer to their problems right away. If you wait too long to respond, it looks like you’re ignoring the issue or don’t care enough about the customer to resolve the problem. Even a short, professional response to acknowledge the customer and let them know you’re working on a solution can make a big difference. Be sure to give any explanation you can for issues outside of your control, such as slow shipping due to storms affecting dispatch times.
- Use empathy in your response. An apology helps ease an upset customer, but only if it’s genuine. When you respond to negative feedback, always practice empathy. Show the upset customer you are truly sorry and understand the problem they are facing.
- Make it up to the customer. This might look like a free product or service. Or, you could consider giving the customer a chance to speak directly with the decision-makers at the business. Not only does this show you’re willing to do what you need to do to make things right, but it also shows that you want to hear more about why things went wrong in the first place.
Every business faces negative feedback at some point. The best thing you can do is use it as a learning experience. If handled properly, with empathy and professionalism, you may even gain new customers because of your thoughtful response to negative feedback.
Use Empathy to Create Customer Engagement Within Communities
Communities allow you to interact directly with your target audience, all within the QuesitonPro Communities platform. We make it easy to start discussions or send surveys to your most loyal customers.
Communities are most successful with high customer engagement. You can apply the principles of empathy to your community management.
For example, empathy gives you the ability to understand what excites your customer base. You can use that knowledge to create a community discussion about a topic in which customers are interested. When community members see your discussion, they’ll be more likely to engage with other users and your brand.
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