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How to Provide Two-Way Customer Engagement

Engagement is a two-way street. Are you operating that way?

Your team is effective and efficient, notifying customers about the status of their order, taking calls and answering emails, and responding quickly to urgent matters. That’s to be expected, but it’s not enough. To grow your business rather than keeping it flat, you have to create a compelling, conversation-based engagement strategy with your audience.

Two-way engagement means creating opportunities for conversation. One survey found that 66 percent of millennials are more likely to be loyal to a brand that replies to them. For respondents over the age of 45, 47 percent had the same feeling. How can you employ a two-way engagement strategy? Go beyond the obvious step of responding to complaints and comments; your customers want and deserve more than that. Implement these four tips to boost your two-way engagement.

Don’t dominate the narrative. It’s hard to not talk about yourself all the time, but no one wants to be friends with that person. When engaging your audience on social media, abide by the 80/20 rule: Only 20 percent of your posts should be product endorsements and self-promotional. The other 80 percent should be helpful to your readers, adding value to their day. Share news, best practices, or industry tips. Think about providing valuable information. Pick topics that show you’re listening and understanding your customer’s pain points. Be human. Show you care about their concerns. Spark conversation by asking for feedback or customer tips. Create a community that thrives on open communication.

Market your customers. That’s right. When you see a customer post pictures of themselves using your products, share them back on your social network. It gives that customer a little marketing boost, but it also encourages your other followers to do the same, broadening your market reach. Think of it as word-of-mouth marketing in the digital age. This can be especially helpful to B2B businesses. When other businesses in their industry see your products work for them, they are likely to try them too.

B2C companies can benefit as well. A great example is British clothing retailer Boden. The company regularly reposts pictures of their customers wearing their clothing on Instagram. The diversity on display widens their audience, promotes them as a company in touch with their customers, and portrays the idea that they understand what you need. Marketing through your customers and making them your brand ambassadors is a genius way to up your engagement game. It engages your existing customers and helps you reach a broader base that may not even know about you yet.

Surprise and delight customers. Go the extra mile for your valued patrons; companies that unexpectedly “surprise and delight” their customers are a happy trend that we want to see more of. Taking extra steps to provide the next level of service, above and beyond what’s reasonably expected, is a way to take customer transactions to the next level. Those on the receiving end of these magic moments are apt to post or tweet about the experience and feel a sense of fidelity to your brand.

Join other conversations. You don’t always have to be the one that starts the conversation. Be sure you’re paying attention to all Internet chatter, especially on social media. Customers frequently start conversations about their favorite brands. They share content, ask questions, and level complaints in their own feeds. Don’t ignore this form of engagement. Respond as quickly as possible, even if it’s a simple “thanks for mentioning us.” Don’t miss the opportunity to develop a relationship with a customer. It can be as simple as retweeting or following customers, or can involve adding comments to customer posts and tweets or holding Twitter chats. Finally, give yourself a credibility boost by joining the conversations of industry leaders, associations, and/or non-profit organizations that serve your field.

Provide a digital community. Two-way engagement can be fostered beyond social media. Provide a platform on your own website for you to engage with customers and for them to engage with each other. Take cosmetic retailer Sephora; their Beauty Insider community has 1.5 million members where customers interact with each other, create content, watch tutorials and other helpful content, and interact with the company. This level of engagement builds a loyal customer base that can’t be matched through basic product reviews.

An effective engagement strategy can be summed up in this simple phrase: Sell less, converse more. Engaging with your audience not only pays off in a greater customer experience; it helps you learn about what your customers love — and would like to see improved. You’ll gain insights while building loyalty. Do right by your customers and perhaps they’ll do right by you with recommendations. And that is a two-way street.

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