When you think of companies getting customer engagement right, you probably think of those rare moments where a company gets a headline grabbing story that shows their service teams going above and beyond. While big gestures are impactful —and may provide fame on YouTube — what these acts do is make customers wonder “Why can’t every interaction be this wonderful?” Enter the new era of customer experience. A best-in-class customer engagement strategy goes beyond these one-off scenarios and makes each stage of the customer journey a priority.
While that may feel like a tall order, technology — like artificial intelligence, data analytics and chatbots — can help retailers of all sizes meet customers wherever they are in the journey and provide groundbreaking experiences at each stage.
Stage One: Research – Making An Educated Decision
With the sheer amount of information that can be accessed with a quick Google search, consumers are more likely do to research before making any purchase. Everything from price, quality, feature/functionality and even a company ethos can play into the decision-making process. In fact, customers that do their homework before clicking ‘buy’ is the norm, not the exception. According to eCommerce Foundation’s United States Ecommerce Country Report, 88% of consumers conduct research online before making a purchase.
Knowing this is part of our new reality, retailers need to make it easy for shoppers to get answers to their questions 24/7 while they are in “shopping mode” and weighing their options. After all, that is one of the primary benefits of online shopping right? But of course, staffing an around the clock contact center is cost-prohibitive for most companies. This is where artificial intelligence can step in. AI-powered chatbots can help answer questions when live agent support may not be available. Additionally, customers like to engage with brands in a variety of different ways — social, live chat, messaging apps, etc., so it’s important companies know what channels will benefit their customers most and provide consistently excellent support across them.
Stage Two: Purchase – Pulling The Trigger
After a customer weighs their options and decides on a product, it’s time to convert the sale. However, as we all know, the best-laid plans don’t always go as planned. Cart abandonment is a real problem for companies — and something we’ve all done as shoppers. Why do people leave without completing a purchase? It could be anything from second guessing a size, getting distracted or forgetting the password to their account. In fact, a study conducted by MasterCard and the University of Oxford found that “about a third of online purchases are abandoned at checkout because consumers cannot remember their passwords.”
At this point, when a customer runs into a problem, help needs to be at their fingertips, otherwise the chances of losing that sale is high. AI is making an impact at this stage as well, by recognizing the signs of cart abandonment and proactively prompting customers and offering help. This may be as simple as directing the customer to a size guide, or require a more complex solution where it can seamlessly bring a human agent into the conversation to help with the conversion. The best approach is to ensure the chatbot stays engaged in the conversation and works alongside the agent to recommend resolution options in real time, helping the agent solve the query quickly.
Stage Three: Use – The Aftermath (Planning For The Good And The Bad)
As we all know, a truly valuable customer engagement shouldn’t end after the sale. To turn customers into brand advocates, it’s important for brands to be engaged and offer post-sale support. Whether it’s questions on returns, product setup or warranty information, these issues need to be solved with the same passion and priority as the pre-sale phase. This may mean having really great self-service capabilities where customers can address questions or issues themselves, or providing a personalized experience when a live agent is needed. Imagine a scenario where a customer calls in and the agent knows who they are, what product they have, and can even predict why they are calling based on previous interactions. This level of VIP service makes customers feel valued, and a valued customer is more likely to turn into a lifetime customer.
Stage Four: – Share And Re-Engage Upon Return
In the best cases, customers that have a great experience will share it with others. When you can identify those brand advocates, keeping them advocates becomes of the utmost importance. Finding the right-time to re-engage with them through offers or simply highly targeted communications like “hey, the pants that match the shirt you bought are now on sale” — can encourage follow-on purchases and transform what could have been a one-off purchase into a repeat customer.
In the end, every customer touch point is an opportunity to create long-term loyalty. Overall, the key is to know when and how to engage with customers and provide a personalized experience wherever possible. Getting the style and cadence right is not an easy feat, but it can very well be the difference between welcoming a new customer/turning an existing customer into an advocate, and losing out to a competitor.
Ryan Lester is the Director of Customer Engagement Technologies at LogMeIn. He and his team own the strategic development and implementation for the go-to-market plan for AI, Chatbot and Virtual Assistant products at LogMeIn. Lester is passionate about making new technology easy and helping companies unlock the potential of AI and bots. Prior to LogMeIn, he held various sales, marketing and product positions at Intel Corporation, Cisco Systems and Eaton Corporation.