Customer Engagement

For most businesses today, creating an ongoing relationship, in which multiple sales are made, is part of their business strategy. Customer engagement is based on the idea that simply focusing efforts with customers on the immediate sale that you are trying to make may not always be the best way to create an ongoing sales relationship with the buyer. Rather, engagement over time may create a stronger relationship with greater organizational benefits.

Customer engagement is seen as being a critical element in their marketing activity by many organizations today. This is because customer behaviour has changed significantly over the past decade, and because more opportunities now exist to create positive engagement activities using social media than in the past.

Chevrolet is one of the world’s largest automotive brands, doing business in more than 140 countries. In the Middle East (ME), Chevrolet has a strong heritage that has come to represent a trusted automotive brand that fulfills transportation needs and aspirations of customers. In 2015 – Chevrolet approached Traffic Digital, and their event partners Blink Experience, with an admirable corporate social responsibility (CSR) idea. This encouraged people to give back during the Holy Month of Ramadan. The idea involved a widespread on social media, posting about the campaign meant truly contributing to it. For every post, Chevrolet would donate Iftar meals to workers residing in labor camps across 6 selected cities (Jeddah, Riyadh, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Doha). Social Media Marketing is an ideal way reach an audience. Real time sharing and the ability to ride your consumers’ emotional waves provides a top notch marketing opportunity. “Having been in the Middle East for nearly 100 years, Chevrolet understands the importance of Ramadan as a special time to reflect and give. And we want to give: to our customers and to the community in general,” said Markus Leith, Managing Director (ME) Commercial Operations. An analysis of the IPAdataBANK has shown, campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well as those with purely rational content.  

Social media (as its name suggests) seems to function best for customer engagement when companies bypass the impersonal and take the customer firmly by the (digital) hand. This courting is difficult to do, yet Lay’s Canada (a PepsiCo company), a brand which largely relies on *actual* consumer consumption of their products, recognized that giving the customer agency, or the feeling of ‘a say’ in the design or production of a product is a highly effective, person-to-person way of engaging consumers, relying on them to buy Lay’s products with the subtle feeling that they have had a personal investment or stake in the brand. As a marketing tool, this kind of consumer-business enmeshment is prime territory for social media, which functions largely (and hopefully successfully) as a means of engagement. By researching a consumer’s stake in the product offering, companies like Lay’s assess which viral topics or trends are meaningful to their customers, and follow suit with an effectively-designed interactive digital campaign to increase daily or ongoing engagement with the public. And the outcome of this kind of campaign can be unprecedented.

Competition and teamwork is at the core of human motivation. What many of us struggle to achieve on our own, without supervision and benchmarks, can often be achieved when we are pushed beyond our comfort zone and joined by others with a common goal. Nike has repeatedly leveraged this fundamental element of human nature, and has successfully gamified the typical shopping experience through their online community: NikePlus.  

Were you aware that a small staff of six are working to save the lives of LGBTQI people all over the world? As the name Rainbow Railroad implies they work to discreetly move people out of dangerous circumstances into safe houses, and often on to a safe haven in a new country. Their name is intended to pay homage to the Underground Railroad that began in the 1780s. In April of this year, the abduction, detentions, torture and deaths of 200 plus LGBTQI Chechens were documented by the media. What you may not realize is that this is a global problem. Homosexuality is illegal in over 70 countries, several of which impose a death sentence. Living in a country where homosexuality has been decriminalized does not guarantee one’s safety. Rainbow Railroad has grown to a team of six employees (five in Canada, and one in the United States) and obtained charitable status in 2013. The inspiration to begin Rainbow Railroad came from a homeless Palestinian youth during World Pride in  Tel Aviv in 2006. Supported by an active board of directors and countless volunteers, this organization has assisted more than 300 individuals to date.

Financial services is well known to be a conservative industry, as well it should be. It is an industry that is highly regulated, as well as having privacy restrictions that limit how they can use social media. (Wilson, 2017) It is also an industry where trust is an integral part of growing and maintaining their customer base. Sun Life Financial has been providing insurance and financial services to Canadians for generations. These services today are often provided by advisors who have a degree of independence, however, they still represent Sun Life, which is why it is important for advisors to follow the social media guidelines set out by the main corporate body of the company. Having a consistent message across the company is an important aspect of maintaining customer trust.

Netflix is one of the most successful subscription services in the world, 5.2 million customers in Canada.  Netflix not only is winning with customer engagement through its content on its services but their “Suggestions for you” their strategy of how they have engaged their customers at a level never-before-seen.The U.S. Facebook Page is a mix of videos, gifs and occasionally images, all related to the currently streaming episodes and movies.

LiveCA LLP is a virtual CPA firm. Founded in 2012 when Josh Zweig CPA, CA, LPA and Chad Davis CPA, CMA joined forces and created an online accounting firm out of a love of technology and desire to work from anywhere with an internet connection. As Canada’s first online only accounting firm they provide the same professional services as a traditional brick and mortar firm such as tax, accounting, bookkeeping, payroll and technology services however with an emphasis and focus on systems. “Being a virtual practice in itself is not anything special,” says Chad. “But what makes it game-changing is how we have also focussed on building a practice driven by customer needs, not pricing based on a menu and not being closed minded on the services we’ll offer. Through this we spent a lot of time on processes, documenting as much as we can, systematically learning from every failure, and involving everybody in the firm in constantly improving every single aspect of what we do. Because of that we are able to attract the very best people, wherever they are located in the country. It’s really rewarding working next to people who believe the same things you believe and work tirelessly every day to make the lives of our customers better.” Chad Davis, CPA, CMA, Partner at LiveCA LLP, quoted in “LiveCA – how a practice became totally digital” How does LiveCA LLP engage with clients and build strong client relationships?

While Wendy’s might normally be known for their famous sides – fries, chilli, baked potato, salad and the original frosty – their side of sassy social media responses brought them into 2017 as one of the hottest brands on Twitter. Earlier in the year, the fast food chain responded to media requests affirming that their social media accounts had not, in fact, been hacked. This after a series of responses coming from the official Wendy’s Twitter account to followers who engaged with the company on social media.

As one of the biggest international beauty stores, Sephora has managed to surpass retailers by increasing the number of engaged online and instore customers. After winning the 2017 The World Retail Congress’s International Retailer of the Year, the company has been able to enhance the in-store retail experience by letting customers take the in-store experience home with them. “Sephora has more than 20 million customers that shop and interact with the brand with thousands of products and 100 brand partners who bring these products to life (Forte, D. (2017)”. Now all of these customers have the ultimate online shopping experience.

It’s a warm and bright Sunday afternoon. You’re carelessly strolling through the narrow cobblestone streets of a small village tucked into the Tuscan countryside. As you pass by the rows of homes, an inviting aroma of freshly cooked pasta, rich tomato sauce and hearty Parmesan cheese floats through the air. You peer into an open kitchen window and notice a man adding a sprig of basil on a heaping platter of pasta he’s about to serve his family. He notices you, he smiles  … and he waves you in! You go in, sit down and enjoy the best plate of pasta of your life. That’s exactly the experience global pasta maker Barilla is hoping to emulate here in Canada – whether you’re creating  your own Tuscan food fantasy at home or just trying to feed a hungry family on a Sunday afternoon – through a new social media campaign designed to engage customers in a memorable and lasting way.

Showing off your bare feet might not be the most glamorous trend on Instagram, but you might be able to argue it’s the most impactful. (Couch, 2017) One company that is performing digital engagement exceptionally well is TOMS. TOMS is based in Playa Del Rey, California. The company was founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie, an entrepreneur from Arlington, Texas. The company designs and sells shoes based on the Argentine alpargata design they also manufacture eyewear, coffee, apparel, and handbags. TOMS thrives on the philosophy that if they sell a pair of shoes, a new pair of shoes is given to an impoverished child. As well, when TOMS sells eyewear, part of the profit is used to save or restore eyesight for people in developing countries. The company launched TOMS Roasting Co. in 2014, and with each purchase of TOMS Roasting Co. coffee, the company works with other organizations that they refer to as “giving partners” to provide 140 liters of safe water, equal to a one week supply, to a person in need. In addition in 2015, TOMS Bag Collection was launched to help contribute to advancements in maternal health. Purchases of TOMS Bags help provide training for skilled birth attendants and distribute birth kits containing items that help women practice safe childbirth. (Wikipedia, 2017)

As more and more people tune out from traditional advertising, businesses find themselves striving to reach customers in new ways. A logical place to start is on social media, where many of us spend a significant part of our day. Enter content marketing:  a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.  Stantec, an international professional services company in the design and consulting industry, is one example of a company that’s using content marketing, in the form of blogs, to reach its target markets effectively.  The company has a well-developed editorial process that leverages employee experience for its blogs. Together, technical experts and marketing professionals create and disseminate powerful (and useful) stories that attract potential clients and win new business.

Ontario Soccer is one of the oldest sports organizations in Canada founded in 1901 with over 500,000 registered participants. Ontario Soccer provides leadership, advancement and development opportunities for players, coaches, and other stakeholders. Ontario Soccer is a member of Canada Soccer and is a member of FIFA the world governing body of soccer. Ontario Soccer has 21 district offices and several associate members within regional and provincial leagues. The Ontario Soccer headquarters is located in Vaughan Ontario, with indoor and outdoor soccer facilities. From my experience many years ago customer engagement with soccer associations including Ontario Soccer was done mainly through face to face encounters, with prospect members/customers this included players, coaches, match officials, and soccer clubs. Customer Engagement was done primarily through meetings, distribution of flyers, and events such as soccer tournaments. Presently customer engagement has changed drastically with the use of Social Media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Additionally the Manager of Communications at Ontario Soccer reported they also use Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Meltwater.

Ruff Ruff. Did you know, almost 89.7 million dogs live in households in the United States as pets? That’s a lot of dogs. It should come as no surprise, then, that when Henrik Werdelin decided he wanted to take a bite out of the US’s $60.59 billion pet industry by introducing Bark & Co. in 2011, the company took off. From there, Werdelin started BarkBox, a monthly subscription program, and BarkBuddy, a dog adoption app. But Werdelin and the team at Bark & Co. knew that in order to create a brand with longevity, it needed to ensure customer loyalty and continuous engagement. Werdelin spoke back in 2016 on the importance of customer engagement and of letting customers do the “marketing” for you: “Brands are what other people say when they hear the name of your company,” he said. No amount of money spent on display ads, web analytics or website traffic can produce the same results as positive customer feedback and reviews. And what’s the best way to engage customers and ensure you’re reaching those positive advocates? The answer’s easy: social media. Think about it like this: the day before the Super Bowl, BarkBox posted a video of two dogs, rolling on the ground in pure bliss. The video had absolutely nothing to do with football. In the week that followed, however, the video was shared more than 27,905 times on Facebook, putting it up there with companies like Budweiser and Mr. Clean.

What is Customer Engagement? Clarabridge defines customer engagement as “the emotional connection between a customer and a brand. Highly engaged customers buy more, promote more, and demonstrate more loyalty. Providing a high-quality customer experience is an important component in your customer engagement strategy.” Customer engagement is continuously evolving. Once upon a time, building relationships with customers happened in person and through simple word of mouth. The following video from eLoyalty demonstrates the history of customer engagement and how it has changed.

Beep. Ding. Swoosh. Those are the sounds that fill our office spaces, coffee shops…or any place that has people for that matter. There is no denying we live in a world where most of us have our eyes buried in our phones, are constantly on the go and can admit that taking our phone to the bathroom has become normal practice – we don’t want to miss a thing! Because of this need to always be connected and have information right at our fingertips, customers have, now more than ever, a stronger, louder voice – and depending on who they are – a big influence. In an effort to keep customers happy or informed, quick response rates have skyrocketed and started to become a vital practice in social media management and an integral part of an overall social media customer service strategy. “In fact, 90% of people surveyed have used social in some way to communicate directly with a brand. What’s more, social surpasses phone and email as the first place most people turn when they have a problem or issue with a product or service.” – Sprout’s consumer survey, 2016.   It may sound like a time-consuming task, but it shows customers that their inquiries are important and a company cares about what they have to say or share. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Next, according to freelance writer and Business News Daily Contributor, Danielle Corcione, building real customer relationships, using a hashtag, focus on creating a customer advocate base, and creating an opportunity for referrals are four ways a business can use social media for customer service success. Obviously, the goal of a company should be to increase the bottom line, but it should not be the focus. Building a solid, loyal customer base that will continually come back (maybe even for generations), who will advocate for your product or service, and make them feel like they are part of a ‘brand family’ should be a close second goal. In my own experience, when I shared a post or tweet about my favourite product and tagged the company, and the company interacted with me, I was positively impacted and now inclined to go back or share their information on my social media channels. I felt heard and like I had some influence.

“Customer engagement is the emotional connection between a customer and a brand. Highly engaged customers buy more, promote more, and demonstrate more loyalty. Providing a high-quality customer experience is an important component in your customer engagement strategy.” – Clarabridge. Customer engagement has always been at the core of any successful business.   Making sure that the people your organization is trying to reach feel cared for and connected to your brand keeps you at the forefront of their mind whenever they are in need of a particular good or service.  And nowhere is an engaged customer base more important than in the case of a natural disaster.   However when you think of emergency services, you may not immediately think of the people they serve as “customers.”   After all, we typically refer to “customers” as “a person or organization that buys goods or services from a store or business.”  But, without spending money, people rely on the Red Cross, and the Red Cross relies on people for a very vital and essential service.

Lululemon Athletica is definition of a Canadian grassroots retail success story. From humble beginnings in 1998 starting in Vancouver, British Columbia, they went public in 2007 on the NASDAQ and for a period on the TSE, and now in 2017 they have over 10,000 employees and stores in 12 countries (plus lululemon.com) (Crunchbase, 2017; Reuters, 2017). Lululemon has won a tremendous following of loyal customers and employees. The culture of the company is contagious; the people that work there live and breath it. In turn, this creates an incredibly authentic dialogue between the company and its customer base. Recognizing that lululemon ran for the first 10-12 years on grassroots marketing (and two in-publication ads), the success the company is experiencing is a huge testament to who the brand is – product-wise and culture-wise (Carter, 2013).

In the midst of this Social/Mobile Marketing Era, business has changed its focus from being all about maximising a company’s financial return, to real-time connections, and social exchanged based on relationships driven by the consumers. An industry that understands and uses customer engagement as a tool is the beauty industry.

Social media has evolved into the new marketing and advertising platforms for business’s in the last few years. Top brands are using unique ways on reaching out to their consumers, they are also getting very creative by using special tactics. In the beauty industry, cosmetic companies use many strategies on reaching out to their audiences by educating them on cosmetics through different channels and platforms. Other companies tend to give PR packages and samples of their product in order to draw in customers. Even though in this day in age social media marketing and digital marketing is the new way to reach out to consumers for the best results, nothing beats the most valuable and effective form of marketing which is WOMM (word of mouth marketing). Tarte cosmetics has recognized that and has appreciated the individuals such as bloggers and vloggers that pass the message across to their following, therefore creating customers for Tarte.

In last weeks post, I discussed the benefits of social media being used at FlashStock to engage employees through the use of a social tool/central communications hub for driving improved business performance. This week, I will continue to focus on engagement, however, one form that businesses are consistently familiar with: customer engagement. I question and explore how FlashStock uses social media as a channel to help with brand awareness, creating thought leadership and market penetration to increase business performance. I think it is important to quickly give you a bit of background to FlashStock. Flashstock Inc. is a Toronto-based B2B tech start-up. We are part of a growing sector called CaaS (Content as a Service). FlashStock is a technology platform used by Fortune 1000 global brands to help accelerate the creation of custom images and videos, connecting a global network of creative contributors. We are partners with Instagram and Facebook, helping businesses generate higher engagement through social and digital channels. Since we are B2B, we use the likes or @mentions as ways to learn about what our clients like and understand their buying process better. Data that helps form what compelled a client to engage with us, helps us understand more about our target audience. As we understand more, we can continue to measure valuable and consumable data in the form of knowledge. As a growing B2B organization, our salespeople sell to business executives who are working over and above and often, over communicated to. FlashStock’s use of social media has been to help create brand awareness, position FlashStock as a leader, and operate as a trusted source. Companies seek assistance through Flashstock to rapidly measure their content needs and keep their clients engaged with relevant content. At FlashStock, we have a well-supported and staffed sales organization which is the main driver of revenue for the business today. As we continue to evolve and have more data to analyze, our marketing team is going to be able to understand what our clients and prospects are interested in. They want to learn about and serve up relevant content in the form of future webinars or whitepapers, which our founding leader, Grant Munroe, is a contributor.

Direct Sales has never been a business for the faint of heart or weak-kneed. Stella & Dot creator Jessica Herrin succinctly expressed this sentiment in a 2016 Forbes interview where she noted the huge ‘ick’ factor associated with the industry. Direct Sales may get a bad rap because of its potential for people to feel locked-in by high quotas, awkward customer engagement strategies and defined territorial boundaries. However, by adopting a social selling approach that’s creatively coupled with the most visually engaging social media tools, Stella & Dot  has positively re-shaped the image of direct sales in the jewelry and accessories realm. Under Herrin’s leadership, Stella & Dot is an indisputably profitable enterprise with $300 million in revenues. The company has also paid some $300 million in commissions to more than 50,000 stylists, who keep up to 35% of the value of sales they make. Herrin’s successful approach is an example of how to lead with product, be customer-obsessed and leverage technology.  How has Stella & Dot managed to bring these three elements together so masterfully, and which technologies are incorporated into its social selling approach?

“Engaging customers through social media is an important tool for R3. Our Facebook live feeds allows us to build TRUST with our clients and enables them to know who we are” – Coach Crystal Mallari – Owner of R3VOLVELIFE fitness studio and online services. Opening its doors in 2013, R3VOLVELIFE Studio (aka R3) is a Coaching and Weight Loss Studio located in Mississauga.  R3 is not a commercial or “big-box” gym. It is a unique boutique fitness studio with a tight knit community of members.  At R3 you will experience the benefits of one and one personal training in a class environment, hands on instruction, and encouragement from all their coaches.  In the last 2 years, after feedback and comments from its members, Coach Crystal decided to expand its brick and mortar business to an online enterprise by offering a digital library of workout videos and online weight loss challenges.  These online services are facilitated through social media platforms in order to engage its customers.

Emco is a wholesale and retail plumbing supplier with highly sophisticated B2B clients doing multi-million dollar projects, and also has many ordinary B2C folk who just need a new faucet for their bathroom reno. How does a conglomerate like Emco engage their diverse customer base through social media, and, how effective is Emco’s social media customer engagement? There are two types of B2B Emco customers. Let’s consider the “3 bids and a buy” customer who calls late Friday afternoon for a price comparison. Sure, the customer is just price shopping, but Emco’s local branch will gladly fill out the RFP (Request for Proposal) and email it back promptly. They’ll follow-up conscientiously, but they know only the lowest price wins with this particular client, and this time, it may not be in Emco’s best interests to match the competitor’s lowest price as margins, ROI, and the intrinsic cost of time necessary to get this sale may not fall within their sales formula. Emco’s sales professionals know that selling on lowest price isn’t going to create an ongoing sales relationship. Emco wants all their customer’s business, and they are highly motivated to take a lot of time to cultivate multiple personal contacts to develop deep customer engagement, often requiring complicated engineering solutions to alleviate their customer’s pain points along the way. Emco’s mantra is “Get your customer out of pain”, and much like the intimate relationship between a doctor and his patient, Emco works fiercely to foster strong customer relationships based on person-to-person meetings, expertise, collaboration, and transparency formulated on correct customer problem diagnosis and resolution. Emco’s core belief: develop mutual respect and confidence based on providing solutions, and the customer–corporate relationship will have deep roots, based on mutual trust, and will have long-lasting mutual value. Sometimes, that makes their products more expensive than their competitors’, but for a large B2B customer working on a multi-million dollar project, it’s getting the job done on time, and within budget that matters most. Is it even significant then, if the customer pays a few dollars more for Emco’s product if that special valve to finish this vital stage can arrive on-site tomorrow? Suppose there’s a crew of engineers stuck out in the field, ground to a halt in BC’s interior, because they can’t move on without that specialty item. The clock is ticking and time is money – big money. Often, taking the time… Read more »

Budget Marine is the Caribbean’s leading marine chandlery with retail locations throughout the Caribbean.  Budget Marine’s customers range from live-aboard cruisers, to power boaters, to megayacht captains & crew.  Generally, their customers fall into two categories: boaters who are there for high season, and resident “yachties” who live in the Caribbean and migrate up and down the island chain to avoid hurricane season.