At a recent company event, Adobe Systems CEO Shantanu Narayan made the bold claim that “customer experience is all or nothing.” That’s certainly true, as far as it goes. But I want to suggest something equally bold, which is that this statement overlooks a crucial component of the customer experience equation: engagement.
Customer experience and engagement are the yin and yang of the new Engagement Economy, joined in a symbiotic union. As marketers, we own the relationship that forms the customer experience, which is the destination. But we also own customer engagement, which is the journey. And it is impossible to reach a destination without some kind of journey.
Done correctly, engagement is the glue that holds customers and fosters long-term relationships. Experience without engagement is not “sticky.” It does not create the lasting bonds that keep customers from drifting away. As the marketing landscape shifts towards maximizing lifetime customer value, the ability to personalize every journey and engage meaningfully at every step is paramount to delivering a consistently winning experience that brings buyers back again and again.
Let’s look more closely at how this works.
Engagement is binary: You have it, or you don’t.
There are many ways for a business to engage meaningfully with customers: by knowing all about them, by standing for something personally meaningful to them, by anticipating their needs and making relevant suggestions… the list goes on. Regardless of how a business engages, it’s abundantly evident to customers if the effort is being made to engage meaningfully or not.
There are stores you can walk into, and right out of, without there ever being an attempt to engage you to make a purchase, much less one that is exactly right for you. They don’t know who you are until you swipe your loyalty card, which typically is after you’ve made your buying decisions and filled your shopping cart. There are any number of web businesses that operate the same way, and businesses of all ilks — B2C and B2B — that pepper customers and prospects alike with emails and digital ads that have little or no relevance to who the buyer really is and what they need.
In contrast, you can’t spend more than a few moments in an Apple Store without the opportunity to interact with employees who have the history of your relationship with Apple at their fingertips, just by asking for your Apple ID. Thus armed, they can engage intelligently with you to help you make the optimal purchase.
Ditto with Amazon. They know precisely who you are and, just as important, are poised to engage with you as an individual as soon as you log in, with informed recommendations based on your browsing and buying history, the ability to write reviews on your purchases and so on.
It’s clear who is delivering the better customer experience here — the kind that keeps customers coming back, builds community and inspires people to exclaim to friends and associates, “I love doing business with this company, and you will, too.”
A day without engagement? No way.
As we’ve said before, the foundation for successful engagement is the ability to: Listen. Learn. Inspire. Every day. Everywhere. In every single interaction. This recipe recognizes both the art and the technology behind modern marketing. To drive engagement, today’s marketers need to be able to amplify their art (the ability to “inspire”) through the application of technology to listen, learn and inspire at scale.
Businesses that do not make engagement, at scale, a central and consistent part of their customer journey cannot deliver a consistently winning customer experience. They might make an opportunistic initial sale, and even some repeat sales, based on pricing and convenience. But they will not build the loyalty, and even fervor, that characterize disruptive brands.
They will not establish and nurture a relationship that maximizes customer value across a lifetime. And they will not create that most potent of market forces: a broad base of active customer advocates who shout out their delight in a brand and strengthen its market position.
If I can leave you with just one thought: Without meaningful engagement, even a highly positive initial customer experience can prove as ephemeral as snow in spring. It simply doesn’t stick.
This post originally appeared on MarTech Today on July 13, 2017.