When talking about customer engagement, the first thing I’d like to address is why it is important. It may be obvious, but as one of my favorite sayings go – do not be afraid to state the obvious. Customer engagement is critical because that’s how a business sustains itself, with paying customers. Let’s look at the definition of “engage”, from the dictionary on my Mac:
1. occupy, attract, or involve (someone’s interest or attention). cause someone to become involved in (a conversation or discussion)
If you want to keep the attention of your current customers and attract new ones, you must engage them. And for technology customers today, they are becoming accustomed to subscription-based pricing, and renewing that subscription monthly or annually. For technology companies selling subscription-based services, customer engagement is even more critical because if you don’t engage your customers at every opportunity, you risk losing not just annual maintenance fees, but the recurring revenue associated with that customer.
As a producer and service provider of technology, you must look at every interaction point in the customer lifecycle and make sure you are engaging your customers. From the dozens of conversations and work that I’ve done with technology companies, I have found three major customer touchpoints shared by all technology companies:
1. Pre-sales. It is best to treat your customers like a customer when they are still in pre-sales. Yes, things will change some once a contract is signed or a credit card is entered, but at the very least, they are a customer of your pre-sales process.
2. Implementation and Adoption. Whether this is a complex system being setup for an enterprise, or a few simple steps for a consumer website, there is some process to get your new customer using your service. This step includes not only getting the technology to work, but having your customer adapt their process so that they use your product.
3. Production Relationship Building. Once the customer is live and using your service, they enter what is commonly referred to as “production support” mode. Just as important as supporting their production deployment, is building the relationship with them. I call this phase the “relationship building” phase of the customer lifecycle. Successful relationship building leads to continued use of the product and increases the chance of upselling the customer so they buy more of what you have to offer.
Within each of these major touchpoint phases in the customer lifecycle, are the specifics to each individual company. These specifics depend on the product (simple or complex), the customer organization (small, mid-size, enterprise), the technology company, the market, etc…
The key is to map out all of your customer touchpoints, and then do everything you can to ensure that at each point you are engaging with your customers, not just interacting with them. The next post in this series will explain the difference between an interaction and an engagement, and future posts will discuss how to measure your engagement level.