Aristotle’s Method Applied to Customer Engagement

As stated previously, the next post in the Customer Engagement series can be found here: Aristotle’s Method to Customer Engagement, as a guest post on the Boulder Startups blog.

In future Customer Engagement posts, I’ll go into more details on Ethos, Pathos, and Logos (Credibility, Emotion, and Reason), and what you can do to make sure you are including all three consistently across the customer lifecycle.

The Difference Between Customer Interaction & Engagement

In a previous post, I discussed why customer engagement is important. I also introduced the customer lifecycle map, which is a template that shows interactions a technology company has with their customers. Once all customer interactions have been mapped, you want to make sure that every customer interaction is an engagement. This post is to explain exactly what the difference is between an interaction and an engagement. The next post will be about how to create an engagement.

An analogy to explain this is to think of a first date between two people. Think of the first date where you quickly realize there is no interest:

It is two people interacting with each other, and not much else. You look at your watch just as much as you talk to the other person, if not more.

Now think of a first date where both people realize “wow, there is something here.”:

Conversation is animated, you and the other feel a sense of hope for more. This is more than interacting, it’s engaging.

There are lots of differences between these two hypothetical first dates – a spark, chemistry, involvement – those are all further elucidations on the difference between an interaction and an engagement. The biggest difference is a matter of the outcome – whether or not there is a second date! And when it comes to dealing with customers, you are always looking for the second (or next) date. Sure, sometimes in a pre-sales conversation a point can be arrived at where you realized there is no technology/need fit, but it is better if that happens while the conversation is still engaging. To loose a customer (pre or post sales) because of failed engagement with them is what you want to avoid.

Continuing to the next conversation is why you want to engage with your customers with every interaction. The next post will discuss how to engage with customers, based on engagement principles first presented by Aristotle in the fourth century, BC. I have been invited to post it as a guest post on the Boulder Startups blog, a part of the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship. I will link to that post with a new entry here on my site when it is out.

Why Customer Engagement is Important

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.

Customer Engagement Overview

In my previous post, I Love My Customers, I discussed a new series I am going to write on customer engagement. That series is going to start by following this outline:

– Why is customer engagement important

– What is the difference between an interaction and an engagement

– How to engage with your customers

– How to apply customer engagement to your customer process

I quit my job on June 5, and took 2 weeks at the retreat I take every year in New Mexico. I’ve been back home for 2 weeks now. I have been doing some philanthropic work with Entreprenuer’s Foundation of Colorado, spending more time with my family, doing some internal inquiry into what I want to do next, and getting out rock climbing at least once a week. I have also been reaching out to folks I know and talking to lots of start up technology people on the Front Range about what’s going on with their companies and their customer engagement. Every time I talk about it, I learn something new.

I hope that writing this blog series provides a good overview that others can read, and provides an opportunity for me to learn something new about customer engagement.

I Love My Customers

I resigned from my post as VP Service Delivery from Symplified a few weeks ago. I have been connecting with my customers this week, letting them know that my last day with the company is Tuesday, June 5. I have had some great connections around it. I feel so fortunate to have so many great customers. Some that I’ve had as my customer for over four years. Four years of building technology and finding solutions to meet their needs. Four years of talking about family, weddings, and kids. Four years of being able to depend on each other and create together.

It’s been bitter-sweet. Bitter to say goodbye, and sweet to know that some of these relationships are bigger than the bond forged in the context of me at Symplified and them at company X. Many wishes that this goodbye is not the last time we will work together or be in touch.

Since I submitted my resignation, which Symplified graciously accepted so that I could leave on good terms, I have done a lot of reflecting on how I built a customer engagement model that allows for the kinds of connections that I, and the entire Service Delivery team, have been able to forge. Not only did it create the context for such great relationship building, it created excellent references, and a lot of customer expansion in product use (and dollars spent). What did we do, what was the underlying model, and how was that applied into everyday action?

In my inquiry, I discovered the underlying model and the methodology and began to map it. I have since talked to a handful of others about it. It resonates well, is easily digestible at a high level, and has led to a lot of insight for me, and the others I talk to. I am going to start a new blog series titled “Customer Engagement: An Aristotelian View”, as one of the tenets of the model was originally developed by Aristotle. I’ll introduce it on my next post.