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.

At G Adventures, their philosophy is about making the world a better place by creating genuine travel/tourism experiences for their customers in a responsible and sustainable manner. There is so much appeal in this vision.

Major League Baseball has been around since the late 1800’s and the New York Mets were born in 1962. But that hasn’t guaranteed that the next generation of fans are ready to jump onboard and younger people today are less likely to follow baseball than the generations before them. Enter social media. Teams are using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other online communication channels to engage their fans and promote their players, creating the link between their brand and their customer. Years ago, getting an autograph from your favourite player may have been the ultimate thrill, now it’s getting him to like your tweet.

It is hard to believe that purchasing razor blades would include a little comic relief but that is exactly what you get when you subscribe to the Dollar Shave Club. My husband, a member since 2014 signed up for The Dollar Shave Club (DSC) after seeing a video shared on Facebook. The Los Angeles-based startup launched in 2011 with the goal idea to steal market share from razor powerhouse, Gillette. Founder & CEO Michael Dubin promised a better price point: for $3 a month, no contracts and no hidden fees, DSC sends you a high quality razor. He created a crude and goofy viral video to support the launch. Fast forward to 2018 and that that video has been viewed over 25 million times, and DSC has grown to include 1.1 million subscribers, a whopping $615 million valuation in 2015, and most recently a $1 Billion all-cash acquisition by Unilever. DSC is a young, smart, stylish, yet playful brand. When you join the club, you’re not just signing on for low-cost razors and blades, you’re investing in the monthly “delight” that comes along with it. As a member, you get in on the joke and belong to an exclusive community that no other brand offers. If your brand can give someone an experience unlike any other; something they can share on Instagram, or mention to their coworkers or friends, they will be that much more pleased (and loyal) in the long run.

FirstOntario Credit Union (FCU) is a classic Canadian success story. FCU first began in 1939, they went through a number of name changes from Stelco Credit Union to Avestel and merged with Family Savings (formerly Auto Workers’ Credit Union) to eventually becoming FirstOntario Credit Union. FCU provide all of the services, safety and security of a major financial institution but with one big difference: “FirstOntario operate on a cooperative model so our Members (customers) are always first, and we see you as a person not a credit score”. They provide these services through 32 locations in 14 communities across Ontario, including Hamilton, Halton, Niagara, Norfolk, and Oxford.

When describing FreshBooks, CEO, Mike McDerment, refers to them as the “leader in online invoicing. What we do is help professionals and their contractors save time, look professional and get paid faster when they invoice their clients and each other. “ Not exactly a business model one would normally associate with a fresh (no pun intended) and ingratiating online presence — but the team at FreshBooks have managed to find a way to connect with customers through social media in a deep (and some would say, near-legendary) way.

What do you get when you mix a burger promotion and Valentine’s Day? You get a “Bling Mac”. What are the first two things that come to mind when you think Valentine’s Day? Would it be food and jewellery? Movies and flowers? In most cases, the trend on Valentine’s Day involves food and jewellery. http://bit.ly/2EjKxrw. This year McDonald’s has decided to stay on top of consumers’ minds during Valentine’s Day.

Company Overview The Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo opens its classroom doors beyond lecture halls to elementary and secondary schoolrooms in the community at large. Through contests, face-to-face workshops, nonprofit school visits, and providing online resources, the Faculty of Mathematics extends their educational doors through the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC). The CEMC is a community outreach organization that aims to increase interest, enjoyment, confidence, and proficiency in mathematics and computer science education among students and teachers within Canada and internationally. To obtain more information about their outreach activities, please follow the links provided in each section: Contests Workshops & School Visits Online Resources MMT Program In addition to outreach activities, the CEMC also offers a Master of Mathematics for Teaching (MMT) program. The MMT is designed to provide current grade school teachers of mathematics with an opportunity to expand their knowledge base and to gain a deeper understanding of the mathematics underlying the content that they teach students in the classroom. The program is unique, in that it focuses on the applications of mathematics – not on pedagogy – and is offered part-time, as well as online. The majority of the Centre’s customers are teachers. This program is a way of building new relationships with new teachers, who enroll into the program. It’s a way to tap into new networks and the program even finds that many of the teachers blog or tweet and retweet about the Centre.

The Beatles knew it all along and wrote a song about it: “All you need is love.”  Yes, there can never be enough of it in the world. If only a business could pass that on to their customers. For sure a client whose heart has been touched would remember this treasured moment and will be loyal forever. But wait! There is actually one institution that succeeded in that mission. The Toronto-Dominion Bank, in short TD, North America’s sixth largest bank that serves worldwide more than 25 million customers. You are probably wondering: A bank giving love? How is that even possible? Don’t they normally have calculators instead of hearts, a general lack of compassion and the attitude of a robot? Well, don’t be so quick to judge. TD already knew that great customer service is not fully covered by saying a friendly ‘Hello’ and giving out free coffee, they knew it needs a deeper emotional connection. In 2014 they hired MARU/VCR&C, a research and consulting group, to conduct a survey with nearly 1,100 Canadian adults.  They found out three important facts: Canadians are more likely to say thank you when offered unsolicited help (41%) compared to when they receive a compliment (14%). Canadians appreciate the power of personal (90%) versus digital (49%) when it comes to being thanked. For example, they like to be thanked in person (85%) rather than through text or emoji (22%). Canadians thank friends (60%) more than their partner or spouse (50%). They thank customer service professionals (48%) and colleagues (36%) more than children (30%) and parents (29%). With this information in mind, TD started the #TDThanksYou campaign. Valued customers, that just wanted to do some quick banking at the ATM, were surprised with a personalized greeting and a touching thank-you gift. The video capturing customer reactions went viral (24 million views), and gave TD’s social media profile a huge boost.

The Stratford Festival in Stratford Ontario is the king of customer engagement! When you think of the people that flock to Stratford every year to see the theatre it is amazing.  Stratford Ontario has a population of 32,000 people, but in the summer that number will swell to almost a three quarters of a million people, why you ask?  The Stratford Festival of course! Tom Patterson first built the Stratford Festival in October 31,1952. Mr. Patterson saw a need to revitalize the city of Stratford after acknowledging the loss of the steam powered railway. The city of Stratford was facing a horrible ending unless something happened to keep it alive. Mr. Patterson also was an avid theatre goer who cherished Shakespearean plays. Since Stratford had the name of the birthplace of William Shakespeare, it made sense to open a Stratford Festival Theatre in Stratford Ontario. The first performance of Richard III and All’s Well That Ends Well took place in July 1953 and the Stratford Festival was born!

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.