Customer Engagement

Customer engagement involves the ongoing interactive relationship between a customer and a particular business or brand. Instead of thinking exclusively about silo-ed touch points, businesses work to maintain an continuous dialogue with customers through all available channels. According to Inc. Magazine, customer engagement should resemble a well-developed friendship based on concepts like mutual respect and interdependent needs. Seventy percent of Americans are willing to spend 13 percent more on purchases from a company that provides what they perceive as excellent customer service.

Improved customer service tops many CEOs' lists of goals for their companies. According to a 2012 KPMG survey, 67 percent of CEOs stated that improving customer service was their top strategic goal, and 82 percent said that improving customer service was their top priority for the year. Most retailers prioritize the development of a multi-channel customer engagement strategy that includes the point-of-sale (POS), mobile and e-commerce, social media and multi-channel contact centers. The key is to integrate these touch points with customer relationship management (CRM) software as well as with marketing, inventory and merchandising data to provide a 360-degree view of the customer and assure a unique customer experience with each interaction.

Customer Engagement at the POS

POS interactions with customers are evolving to become less transactional and more engagement-oriented. To improve the customer experience, many stores are focusing on shortening transaction time with strategies that include self-service ordering and order payment stations. Also, many stores are untethering their POS systems from the traditional cash register and taking payment at a variety of points on the sales floor. In addition, stores are streamlining the returns process, taking the transaction to the customer thanks to mobile checkout options. In fact, 60 percent of retailers plan to implement self-service payment apps for mobile devices that will allow customers to check themselves out in-store as well as continue the multi-channel experience.

An integrated POS also delivers a better customer experience by offering personalized promotions. More sophisticated POS systems allow employees to educate customers and to help them make purchases by providing visibility on inventory and order placement. Connecting POS to inventory allows the store to promote "last chance" deals when customers enter the store or when they are close to the store. Also, CRM integration means that cashiers can offer individualized coupons and other promotions to shoppers based on their past shopping behavior and preferences. The technology can also integrate with loyalty programs, allowing customers to track points, dollars saved or other loyalty benefits on their mobile devices or on the Web. Additionally, companies can incorporate feedback solutions including survey opportunities on printed receipts or survey kiosks in the store.

Customer Engagement through Social Media

Social media is a major driver of customer engagement for today's business. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare allow for both delivery of promotions and direct interactions with customers. When customers "check in" to a location via Foursquare, the business can immediately provide the customer with a promotional coupon while at the same time collecting vital data about its brick-and-mortar locations. For example, companies can target poor store placement, and they can consolidate venues where one store functions as well or better than multiple stores.

Social analytics programs allow businesses to track social media conversations about their companies. Customer complaints on social media are highly scalable, meaning that a poor experience can easily become viral with major branding and revenue consequences for the business. Many businesses are hiring dedicated social media teams not only to deliver social media content and promotions but also to directly engage their companies' most influential and vocal customers. Social media engagement will only grow. According to 3CSI, 96 percent of Gen Y consumers use social media.

The Multi-Channel Contact Center

According to statistics, 95 percent of customers who have a negative experience will return to a brand when problems are quickly resolved. Companies that develop contact centers allowing customers to engage by phone, Web form, e-mail, live chat and social media can quickly resolve problems in the venue of the customer's choosing. Integrating contact centers with CRM solutions give agents a full picture of the customer and assure personalized service. The customer has the ability to self-select his or her venue for assistance, which empowers the customer to make decisions about his or her level of engagement.