The COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses around the world and forced them to adapt to the new situation.
Retail, fashion, and tourism are among the industries that have been hurt the most by the crisis with shop closing and travel bans as devastating measures. All of these industries have one thing in common – they all rely on customer engagement to thrive.
Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to combat the lack of customer engagement brought on by the global pandemic. Through digital channels and other means of non-personal communication, you can easily engage your users in meaningful ways.
In this article, we will be exploring some useful techniques that can help you boost customer engagement during the pandemic.
What is customer engagement and why does it matter?
Before we get into how you can increase customer engagement, let’s take a moment to see how it’s currently defined and why it matters.
We can define customer engagement as meaningful interactions between a brand and its customers. What do we mean by “meaningful” interactions? While attracting people to your website and converting them to customers is certainly a good business goal, those are material interactions that don’t carry too much weight.
When we talk about customer engagement, we’re talking about those personal interactions that help you build relationships with your users. Calling your customer service, sharing your social media posts, and mentioning you in their Tweets – these are some examples of meaningful customer engagement.
You don’t have to be an expert to recognize that these relationships can do wonders for your business. An existing customer is up to 70% more likely to purchase a new one.
1. Upgrade your customer service
In 2020, people have come to expect a certain level of customer service. You need to be available, open for feedback and focused on problem-solving at all times. Your customer service team needs to be quick, organized, and polite.
It’s hard to achieve all of this without tools that can help you streamline the customer service process. Investing in a business phone system can be a good idea, as it provides your agents with important tools that can make their jobs easier.
A business phone system can elevate your customer service team to a professional call center. With it, they can record and forward calls, leave comments on those calls, and easily collaborate. Your users will always get premium treatment, regardless of who handles their call or who takes over in the next shift.
Business phone systems can also improve your brand image with features like virtual receptionists and hold music, both of which were once reserved only for big companies.
2. Get more personal
In the age when everything is getting automated and handled by computer programs, giving your brand a more personal touch can prove crucial to increase customer engagement, loyalty and, in result, revenue. 91% of consumers are more likely to do business with brands that provide them with relevant personalized offers and recommendations.
Personalization can take on many forms but most people consider personalization a deep understanding of your consumers. For example, having access to your users’ interaction histories can give you a better picture of what their previous issues were, what they were promised, and all kinds of other things. Many companies use CRM software to track these interactions and have a better overview of their customer engagement.
Why does personalization matter? Studies show that a third of consumers want their purchasing experience to be more personalized. Users are even willing to give you their data if that means they’ll get personalized offers. That speaks volumes, as personal data is a precious resource in 2020.
Personalizing your users’ shopping experience isn’t the only way to create more personal relationships. You can also implement a more empathetic approach to customer service – research shows that 75% of people would rather interact with a human than a computer, while more than a half of consumers feel that brands have lost touch with the human aspect of user experience.
All these facts tell the same story: your customers require a personal approach and your user experience strategies need a strong human touch.
3. Use automated emails
Now that physical interaction with customers might be impossible for a lot of businesses, it seems as though digital interactions now carry even more weight. Each missed opportunity to convert now costs you even more, so you need to make sure that your website traffic isn’t just people browsing around. You need to convert those people as best as you can.
One way to do this is to set up triggered emails. Many email automation tools give you the option of setting up triggers so you can target people who have put products in the cart and then quit the purchase process. You can also target customers who’ve already purchased a certain product and try to upsell them with a complimentary offer.
This is a part of the personalization process we covered earlier – you have a higher chance to convert if you approach each customer individually and send them tailored offers.
4. Add engagement features to your website
A great way to boost engagement online is to have features on your website that allow direct contact with your brand.
While your customers certainly have the option to visit your social media pages and contact you there, it’s much better if they can get in touch immediately, while browsing your offer. Here are some engagement features that you can easily add to your website.
- A “call us now” button – instead of looking around the website, trying to find your phone number, customers will almost always prefer a “call us now” button. This widget allows your visitors to get in touch with you through one click, straight from their smartphones.
- Live chat – an increasingly popular website feature, live chat gives your visitors the option to talk to your support staff while browsing the website. Unlike chatbots, the live chat is a more personal and direct contact option.
- Newsfeed widget – a good way to reduce your website bounce rate is to have a newsfeed feature. This widget is usually in the sidebar or footer of your website. On e-commerce websites, newsfeed widgets can be used to offer special deals and promote products. On blogs, it’s typically used to promote pieces of content.
5. Use loyalty, reward, and referral programs
When brands have a problem with customer engagement, they often resort to different programs as a way to spark interest. Social media advertisements, using custom QR Codes at offline channels, and email announcements have become common norms among brands looking to promote their loyalty program. The logic behind this is simple: when you offer rewards for engagement, users will be more likely to engage with your brand again.
Depending on your business model, you’ll use different tactics to reward engagement. For example, Airbnb is known for its referral program, which rewards users for each new customer they bring into the platform. Other brands use things like loyalty points, where each purchase gives you points and collecting enough of these points can get you free shipping or significant discounts.
One study showed just how important these programs can be: 73% of users are more likely to recommend your brand if you have implemented a strong loyalty program.
6. Leverage social media
Your social media channels can give you the opportunity for the most direct and honest interactions you can have with your fans online. Posting engaging content regularly is a great way to stay on top of the minds of your users and create meaningful relationships.
Social media also enables you to solve customer issues and settle complaints. Many users view your Facebook page as a good place to leave their constructive criticism, which can be both a good chance to show your customer service and a possible source of a PR crisis. That’s why it’s often advised to move these interactions to your team shared inbox and solve all issues there instead of publicly.
You can also use social media to drive interactions through innovation. You can feature your users in your content, organize giveaways, quizzes, and other types of engaging formats that can help raise your profile and increase user activity.
7. Offer your services online
Finally, whatever your product or service is, chances are you can come up with a creative way to offer it online. If you rely on offline interactions to generate revenue, you may have to think outside the box to figure out how to transition to online.
For example, schools all over the globe have now switched to online classes, which looked nearly impossible a few years ago. Fashion brands are offering online consultation services and large discounts for online shopping.
Analyze your business and try to identify how digital technology can help you bring your products or services to an online audience.
The global pandemic might have eliminated a whole channel of customer interaction but it also presented us with a chance for innovation. Now that they’re forced to think digitally, brands from all over the world are rolling out initiatives that are taking online interactions to the next level.
Ways to engage with audiences online are all around us – all we need to do is look at our businesses and learn more about the technologies available.Once you introduce these innovations, you’ll be more ready and in a better position to build up your brand even further when the pandemic inevitably comes to an end.
Dennis Vu is the CEO and Co-founder of Ringblaze, a virtual business phone system company that helps teams to better serve their customers, anywhere.