Most customers now ignore targeted marketing campaigns, avoid responding to offers, and provide minimal feedback when asked. Instead, potential customers interact with each other, bypassing sanitized corporate messages devoid of meaning or value.
Meanwhile, employees increasingly look beyond compensation to non-monetary factors such as advancement, recognition, and corporate social responsibility in choosing where to work. And with the retirement of the Baby Boomers looming, attracting, retaining, and growing the next generation of leaders is an essential task for any organization.
As a result, organizations around the world are rushing to engage with their customers and employees. It's easy to see why. Without engagement, the influence of brands will continue to decline and big organizations will lose out on the best workers. Our studies at Constellation Research have found that engaged workers — those who participated in a forum, helped out a colleague in a chat, or provided feedback on an enterprise initiative — are 37% more likely to stay with their employers. Meanwhile, engaged customers are three times more likely to recommend or advocate a product or service to a friend. Improved engagement creates business value and strategic differentiation, and technology is enabling a shift from transactions to engagement.
Haphazard approaches to engagement negate good intentions
Unfortunately in the rush to engage, many organizations have taken a haphazard and siloed approach. Based on hundreds of conversations, a common theme emerges of failing to learn from the last Web and ecommerce boom. For example, many organizations have created separate social divisions in the same manner that ecommerce divisions were established a decade back. The result — haphazardly designed customer engagement paradigms doomed to fail. Why? These design points optimize for the company and not for a frictionless and seamless customer experience.
Meanwhile other organizations have built their social strategy using Facebook as the keystone in the same way AOL and Yahoo! central to many companies' plans last century. The result is overdependence on (and enrichment of) Facebook at the expense of driving traffic and activity onto one's own platforms. When customers wake up and decide they are the product, they will stop trading privacy for convenience. The result — brands built on Facebook will face a backlash.
On an internal basis, the rush to deploy social business tools matches the hype of the past decade in installing collaboration tools and assuming one's employees would easily adapt if only the right tool was deployed. The recurring problem — culture always trumps technology in adoption of new tools.
Successful engagement requires nine key components
How do we ensure engagement and avoid the fatal fatigue engendered by every wave of new media adoption? How can an organization and their leaders make the shift? The first step is to think systematically about it, and understand that engagement requires a set of building blocks. I divide them into three categories: people-centric values, delivery and communication styles, and the right time drivers.
People-centric values are the starting point. An organization needs to genuinely understand and relate to its customers and its employees before it can engage them. The key elements here are culture, community and credibility. Culture is about societal norms, communication preferences, and global outlook. At the organizational level, this includes which leadership styles are most effective, and how workers interact with each other. In dealing with customers, it's about understanding customer segmentation, digital readiness, and inclination to participate. Community focuses on internal and external stakeholders. Each stakeholder may have different needs. For example how you share information with a supplier may be different than what you can tell an internal employee. The last component, credibility, involves earning trust through actions. Credibility is built through influence, reputation, track records, and accumulated expertise.
Values alone are not enough. To engage successfully, organizations also need an understanding of delivery and communication styles. These styles incorporate channel, content, and cadence. Channel refers to the means of engagement: face-to-face, retail, mobile, social, web, kiosk, virtual, and video. Content can be internal, user-generated, re-purposed, paid, news-driven, or analytic. Finally, cadence describes the frequency of engagement — whether it's ad hoc, scheduled, or continuous.
The last piece is choosing the right time drivers to provide a why, when, and where in engagement. The goal is to inspire action through context, catalysts, and currencies. Context means location, business process, role, relationships, and sentiment, all of which need to be considered to deliver the right offer to the right person at the right time. Catalysts are what inspire action and response: campaigns, offers, advertisements, direct rewards, indirect rewards, and loyalty programs. Finally, currencies influence behavior through an exchange of value. Monetary models include traditional cash, bonuses, rewards, and rebates, but non-monetary currencies such as virtual goods, recognition, access, and influence can often be more powerful.
New models of engagement herald the death of B2B and B2C
The emergence of extremely viral people-to-people (P2P) networks has changed the notion of the customer and employee forever. Social media, social networks, and mobility also herald the death of B2B and B2C as we know them. A bad experience at work with a particular brand of laptop bleeds over into consumer choices. Great experiences with consumer products have driven the rise of bring-your-own-device-to-work — a key to Apple's new success in the enterprise.
As organizations master engagement, early adopters will shift to building experiences by filtering massive streams of information through context. Context — in the form of roles, relationships, location, business process, time, and other factors — will transform engagement to experience. Early adopters of augmented reality and gamification already apply these nine Cs of engagement to craft intuitive and natural customer experiences. The drive towards engagement will impact both the future of work and next generation customer experiences. The move to engagement lays out the first step to a P2P world.