What Is Customer Engagement? Key Findings from Global Research To Help Your Business Grow

What are the best customer engagement tools, and how can you keep your customers engaged? Our chief digital evangelist shares what works.

Time to read: 11 minutes

Vala Afshar
Chief Digital Evangelist, Salesforce

Media and content experiences like Hulu and Netflix use behaviour, data, and technology to  tailor content to your interests – and set the standard for personalised customer engagement. And increasingly, consumers expect brands to know them, anticipate their needs and interests, and serve them only the content and products they want. Customer engagement has never been more important.

According to our annual State of the Connected Customer report, 62% of customers say experiences with one industry influence their expectations of others, and 88% expect companies to accelerate their digital initiatives. Standards of customer engagement are changing, and engagement is about creating seamless experiences that build trust. Ninety-five percent of customers say their trust in a company makes them more likely to remain loyal to that brand.

What is customer engagement?

Customer engagement is delivering connected experiences to your customers instead of single, one-off, or fleeting transactions. It means optimising your team structure, operations, and technology to create a connected feedback loop with customers. Businesses need to stay informed about customers’ evolving needs, maintain and build their brand integrity, and make ethical use of customer data to help customers have the best experience.

Personalised customer engagement relies on an integrated tech stack. For example, a connected CRM gives your company a single, 360-degree view of every customer. With this insight, your teams can use data to tailor content and experiences to your customers’ unique needs, and help your brand keep pace with rising customer expectations.

Why is a customer engagement strategy important?

Our research found that 80% of customers say the experiences provided by a company are as important to them as its products and services. In other words, the quality of your customer experience has a direct impact on your potential for business success.

“Most companies must realise that they are no longer competing against the guy down the street or the brand that sells similar products,” said Dan Gingiss, author and customer experience expert. “Instead, they’re competing with every other experience a customer has. This presents an opportunity for forward-thinking brands to create positive experiences that customers want to talk about to others. It also suggests that CX [customer experience] professionals should be monitoring the experience at a wide variety of companies and industries for inspiration.”

“Most companies must realise that they are no longer competing against the guy down the street or the brand that sells similar products. Instead, they’re competing with every other experience a customer has.”
- Dan Gingiss, author and customer experience expert

Additionally, every time a brand raises the bar in its industry, it raises the bar for every other industry as well.

“Customers have so much power now,” said Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, EVP of Industries at Salesforce. “In the consumer world of social platforms, every single person has a voice. The rewards of harnessing your most ardent fans are amazing, but customers will also be very vocal when they are displeased. Knowing your customers and understanding their needs has become critical to success, no matter what industry you’re in.”

“Customers have so much power now. The rewards of harnessing your most ardent fans are amazing, but customers will also be very vocal when they are displeased. Knowing your customers and understanding their needs has become critical to success, no matter what industry you’re in.”
- Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, EVP of Industries at Salesforce

What is included in a customer engagement strategy?

The goal of your customer engagement strategy will utilise a range of tactics and initiatives aimed at creating meaningful interactions and building long-term relationships with your customers. 

While the specific strategies may vary depending on the nature of your business and industry, there are some key elements that are commonly included in a customer engagement strategy. These include:

Clear goals and objectives: You need to define the desired outcomes and goals of your customer engagement efforts. Setting clear goals provide a direction for your team as they carry out the strategy and help measure its effectiveness. This could include increasing customer satisfaction, driving repeat purchases, fostering brand advocacy or improving customer loyalty. 

Customer segmentation: If you want to effectively engage with your customers, you should understand how they tick. Divide your customer base into segments based on shared characteristics, preferences or behaviours. This allows you to tailor your engagement efforts and deliver targeted messages and experiences to different customer groups.

Multi-channel approach: There are many channels in your operations where you engage with customers. This means your strategy must be across multiple channels. This may include online channels such as websites, email, social media, chatbots or mobile apps, as well as offline channels like phone calls or in-person interactions. 

Personalisation and customisation: Customers want to feel like you understand them. Leverage their customer data to provide personalised experiences. This allows you to tailor communications, offers and product recommendations to their individual preferences and behaviours, fostering stronger engagement and loyalty.

Proactive communication: Initiate timely and relevant communication with customers. Proactive communication keeps customers engaged and informed and will make them feel valued as a result.

Social media engagement: Actively engage with customers on social media platforms. Social media engagement helps build brand loyalty, foster customer relationships, and encourage user-generated content and advocacy. Have your team monitor conversations, respond to queries or feedback and share valuable content. 

Customer feedback and listening: Establish mechanisms for gathering customer feedback and actively listen to their opinions, concerns and suggestions. Customer feedback helps identify areas for improvement and demonstrates that you value their input, leading to increased engagement and satisfaction.


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How to measure customer engagement for marketing, sales, and service?

Measuring customer engagement isn’t always easy.

  • Is a customer who visited your website 10 times last week more engaged than one who spent 15 minutes talking to a sales rep on the phone?
  • Is a new customer who made five recent purchases more engaged than a long-time customer who only buys once a year?
  • Do your answers to these questions change if one customer completes an online survey or recommends your brand to others?

Success looks different for everyone depending on their business goals. Here are some key metrics different departments should monitor.

Measure customer engagement for marketing.

While the “right message, right channel, right time” mantra still applies, it’s a complicated practice to master. The average customer crisscrosses many different channels on different devices.

Engaging in real time is a marketers’ top priority — and top challenge. Many track mobile and social analytics, in addition to general web traffic and digital engagement rates, to better optimise across media. Forty-eight percent of marketers also track lifetime customer value, the ultimate measure of whether they’re effectively engaging customers and providing the experiences they expect.

“Measuring customer lifetime value is a great start, because it will likely convince companies to invest more in existing customers,” said Dan Gingiss. “That’s as opposed to continuing the infinite loop that is spending on acquisition without regard to the ‘leaky bucket’ on the other end.”

Measure customer engagement for sales.

For reps, hitting quotas is still critical, but the metric is changing. Instead of focusing on single transactions and net-new customers, sales teams recognise the value in growing existing customer relationships.

Measure customer engagement for service.

Customer satisfaction remains the ultimate goal and the most-tracked customer service KPI. But in modern service centres, data analytics have brought more granular measures of engagement.

For example, 51% of service teams now track first contact resolution (FCR) rates, and 44% track customer effort scores. Thirty-six percent even track case deflection, a measure of how many customer issues they’re able to prevent in the first place. These trends continue to push companies to rethink how they engage with their customers.

How do you build an effective customer engagement strategy?

Customer success lies in delivering experiences that are personalised and consistently connected in real time. All of these elements are vital to effective customer engagement strategies.

Deliver personalised customer experiences.

Personalisation — recognised by marketers as having a big impact across the customer journey — is a given. Customers want a tailored experience as they progress from brand awareness to buying. They also want concierge-like engagement from customer service.

The bar is rising on what constitutes a personalised experience. Sixty-six percent of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations. 

They want you to be that thoughtful neighbour or co-worker who brings your favourite coffee when you’re having a tough week. However, companies continue to fall short of these expectations. Sixty-six percent of customers feel they’re treated as a number, not a person.

Our research found that 68% of customers expect brands to demonstrate empathy, but only 37% of companies deliver. In addition, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs, but only 34% of them do.

Connect customer experiences across every department

According to the State of the Connected Customer report, engagement is as omni-channel as ever, with customers turning to an average of nine different channels to communicate with companies. 

That means customers’ historical data needs to be accessible to every department. Anyone at your company should be able to quickly access customer information and engage them accordingly – without peppering them with mundane, repetitive questions.

Many companies find it a challenge to live up to these expectations. For companies, ensuring a high level of connectivity across channels and devices feels difficult, if not impossible – unless you have the right tools.

From 2019 to 2020, customers who used multiple channels to start and complete a transaction rose from 71% to 74% as did the number of devices (64% to 66%). Fewer customers – 54% dropped from 59% – felt that they were communicating with separate departments and not one company. Only small changes – 66% to 65% of customers – said they had to repeat information to different representatives.

Create reliable and instant customer response

Instant gratification is also expected in the way customers purchase, too. Our research found that 83% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately when they contact a company.

In short, people are growing impatient with the idea of waiting, and companies are challenged to accelerate engagement and create a two-way dialogue with customers in real time.

Customers expect the right engagement across channels

Personalised engagement is a top priority for customers. According to the State of the Connected Customer report, 89% of business buyers are more likely to buy if companies demonstrate an understanding of their goals

What does this level of customer engagement look like? It might mean serving up a customised marketing offer or proactively reaching out to prevent a potential issue. Customers rely on many tools, products, and services to help them work from anywhere, connect with friends, and manage their lives.

How can AI improve customer engagement?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a tool that is growing in popularity for businesses to improve the experience for their customers. Properly integrating AI into your business can significantly enhance customer engagement in various ways. These include:

Predictive analytics: AI can analyse vast amounts of customer data, including purchase history, browsing behaviour and preferences. This algorithm can analyse customer data to predict the future behaviour and preferences of your customer base which can be used to help create targeted marketing campaigns, resulting in higher customer engagement and conversion rates.

Personalised interactions: As AI can analyse data, it can be used to deliver personalised experiences. By understanding individual customer needs, AI-powered systems can provide tailored recommendations and offers for customers leading to higher engagement and satisfaction.

Chatbots and virtual assistants: AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can engage customers in real-time conversations, addressing their queries and assisting with purchases. Chatbots can offer 24/7 support, ensuring customers receive prompt assistance, which leads to improved engagement.

Proactive customer service: AI can proactively reach out to customers with timely and relevant notifications, reminders or recommendations. For example, an AI-powered system can alert customers about upcoming sales, restock notifications or personalised offers. This will make customers connected with the brand and are more likely to stay loyal.

Get started with Salesforce and customer engagement

Become one of the companies to respect customer data and use it to improve their experience with your brand – building their trust and loyalty along the way. With personalised, consistently connected, real-time communication throughout every customer touchpoint, businesses can use data to find new and compelling ways to engage customers and keep them coming back.

Learn how Salesforce Customer 360, the world’s #1 CRM, helps you engage your customers.


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