The old school view of marketing and branding was that they are simple activities you do to get better results. Today, we see the same thing happen when the customer is engaged.
Your customers expect more and more from you. There is a constant and accelerating demand for their attention, which, if you do not pay it, will turn into your customer’s criticism.
Hence, it is crucial to be engaged with your customers to know their tastes, preferences and expectations. One of the solutions is developing a customer engagement hub.
What is a customer engagement hub?
A customer engagement hub is a strategy through which a business takes a more holistic approach to address and engaging customers by leveraging available technology and defining or redefining organisational processes.
While large enterprises may have more financial resources for choosing sophisticated software, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have an edge regarding opportunities for collaboration and synchronisation within teams.
With carefully chosen software, SMBs can adapt to the emerging trends without burning a hole in their pocket. We’ll discuss some of the options in detail below.
What are the benefits of creating a customer engagement hub?
Let’s take a look at the ways having a CEH can really impact a business:
Gaining a competitive edge.
As new technology and trends arise, customer expectations also shift. Adapting to new tech trends could mean meeting customer needs better and sooner than your competitors.
For example, online stores are likely already using social media to reach customers. Still, to get a competitive edge, you can go one step further and leverage this technology to create an improved customer experience. This might mean a collaboration between the customer service and marketing teams when devising a social media strategy in order to increase the efficiency of response to customer queries and customer service issues over social media.
More personalised communications at a customer’s potential touchpoints will leave them feeling well taken care of and more engaged. As a result, they’re more likely to become a repeat customer.
For example, that online clothing store held on to me as a customer by truly personalising its efforts to correct its mistake. I was also given a good reason to come back in the form of a coupon for my next buy.
Acquiring new customers.
If your consumers are delighted, they’re more likely to suggest your business. Different departments might analyse consumer information from social media analytics, polls, and more to identify and target probable buyers.
For example, since I am now a happy customer of that online clothing store, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to my friends and share my story. In turn, my friends are more likely to shop there, which means more new customers for the store.
The social media stint also helped the store create a positive brand image as a company that goes the extra mile to make a customer happy.
Identifying opportunities for improvement.
By studying customer feedback through surveys, online forums, customer support interactions (e.g., chats and emails), website analytics and social analytics, a business can identify pain points in the customer journey such as delayed delivery, poor customer service, etc. that ultimately lead to customer dissatisfaction. Using these pain points as opportunities, you can improve the overall service of your business.
For example, the eCommerce clothing store acknowledged my complaint and promised to work on the deficiency in its delivery process. If they do so, they’ll be improving the experience of their business as a whole, which benefits them in the long run, as they will have fewer dissatisfied customers.
Building brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty is a sum total of many factors, such as efforts made by a business to acquire new customers and retain old ones, steps taken to improve business processes and products, active engagement and communication with the customers. By doing so, a business can build a loyal customer base and increase the chances of repeat business from your existing customers.
For example, once all the steps to create a customer engagement hub are taken, over time, as customers are retained, new customers acquired, etc., a brand name is established, along with loyalty from customers.
How can you start building your own customer engagement hub?
Building a customer engagement hub requires a gradual transition in your business practices, including adjusting current workflows and updating or adding software tools.
In “Ten Steps for Planning Your Customer Engagement Hub” (full content available to clients), Gartner recommends ten strategic steps for building a customer engagement hub. We’ll discuss three of those steps that are most suitable for SMBs, along with some of the helpful software tools available.
1. Identify important customer touchpoints and areas for improvement
A customer interacts with a business at various touchpoints, including email, social media, website landing pages, product search results, checkout page, support section, blogs, and more.
What to do
By closely monitoring these interactions, you can identify shortcomings that are causing customer dissatisfaction. From there, you can determine future actions for improvement.
For example, perhaps social analytics or feedback through surveys shows a pattern of customer complaints about delayed delivery. The marketing team is on the front lines of social media and reviews sites, so they should notify the customer service and/or warehouse operations about these concerns.
2. Find opportunities for cross-departmental collaboration
Redesigning the customer journey through collaboration across teams can lead to a more holistic customer experience. This can only be done by closing communication gaps, building cross-functional processes, and ultimately creating a culture of collaboration.
What to do
Different teams such as marketing, customer service, and product should meet regularly to discuss how they’re going to collectively solve issues that are repeatedly causing customer dissatisfaction. Since offline sync is not always feasible, project management tools prove to be very useful in collaborating work processes, ideas, and knowledge about customers and business.
Tools you can use
Following are some examples of tools that let you collaborate with your teams:
Glasscubes is collaboration software that lets your teams manage tasks and projects. You can share, review, and approve work-related documents together, encouraging improved communication as a team.
Users can tag documents and notify teammates in real-time. With Glasscubes, teammates can also send instant messages to co-workers. You can schedule, plan, and track multiple projects simultaneously as well.
Glasscubes offers a free trial and free demo.
- Team: $30 (includes 5 users, 1 GB storage per user, 6 workspaces)
- Workgroup: $60 (includes 5 users, 1 GB storage per user, unlimited workspaces)
- Enterprise: From $125 (user fees and storage as per plan, unlimited workspaces)
Notification feed-in Glasscubes (Source: www.glasscubes.com)
Onehub is another tool that makes it easier for your teams to work together. You can drag and drop files (Word documents, PDFs, etc.) to centralise information. You can also grant access and modify roles at any time for better management. Post comments and messages within the shared workspace to coordinate within the team and offer feedback to one another.
Onehub offers a free trial.
- Team: $29.95 (3 users, 1 TB of storage, unlimited workspaces)
- Business: $99.95 (5 users, unlimited storage, unlimited workspaces)
- Enterprise: Pricing on request (unlimited users, unlimited storage, unlimited workspaces)
Files uploaded to centralise data in Onehub (Source: itunes.apple.com)
3. Choose software that offers multiple integrations for future scalability
A customer engagement hub, as we said above, is a system made up of systems. One of the most valuable things you can do now to be prepared to adapt to the changing technical landscape is to choose solutions that will help you scale through integrations.
What to do
Customer relationship management (CRM) software will likely be central to your customer engagement hub, as it allows you to store and view customer data in one place. You can also use it strategically to gain insights into customer behaviour.
Choose a CRM that offers integration with marketing automation tools, customer service tools, social media channels, analytics software, etc. to help you communicate and better understand your customer across channels.
Tools you can use
Here, we’ll discuss some CRM options that offer a wide variety of integrations.
Zoho CRM aims to help you save time by automating daily tasks and activities. You can extend the software’s functionality by integrating it with popular applications, including Zoho productivity apps such as Zoho Survey, customer service software such as HelpOnClick Live Chat, email marketing software such as ConstantConnect, and more.
Zoho CRM offers a free trial, as well as a free version for up to ten users.
- Standard: $12 (per user)
- Professional: $20 (per user)
- Enterprise: $35 (per user)
- Ultimate: $100 (per user)
Integrations in Zoho CRM (Source: zoho.com)
Additional advice for creating a customer engagement hub
In addition to the steps above, you should also consider the following:
Any change is gradual. Gartner recommends taking a two-tiered approach to minimise risk as you try to bring about change. On one hand, you can focus on ways to improve current processes. Simultaneously, you can focus on driving your ongoing projects. This means gradually preparing your teams and clients for the changes through meetings, white papers, and discussions about the impact of the change, while also focusing on the completion of the ongoing projects.
Appoint a project manager to oversee changes. Having a central point of contact gives you a better chance of staying on time and within budget. Without a centralised plan of action and complete accountability for the changes, the implementation of a customer engagement hub, like any other project that lacks oversight, has a better risk of failure.
Have metrics and benchmarks. Monitor and review the overall impact on productivity and the customer experience. For instance, getting X% or X number of users engaged on a social media platform in X number of weeks.
Summary and key takeaways
Here’s a quick summary of what to do next:
1. Review your company’s current customer engagement strategy
2. Identify communication gaps and evaluate opportunities to work across various departments
3. Implement a strategy to connect and integrate various departments strategically
4. Look for possible software integrations with your current tools
Let’s go back to the example of the clothing store that I discussed in the beginning and take a look at how it used these strategies to create a better customer experience for me:
The situation: The online clothing store made a mistake that could have caused it to lose a customer.
How it was fixed:
- The company identified a crucial hole in its delivery system and worked to close that gap and retain a customer.
- The product and customer service teams collaborated to deliver a better customer experience. The marketing team highlighted the corrective measure on social media. As a result, it was able to build a positive image as a brand that cares about the customer experience and is willing to go the extra mile.
- The next step for that company might involve finding software integrations that map its customer journeys well and help it measure its customer experience and engagement for continued improvements.