How to select the perfect customer engagement platform
Customer engagement is key for the performance of your business: highly engaged customers will buy more, come back more often, and recommend you to their own personal and business networks. That’s why it’s essential to develop a comprehensive customer engagement strategy.
Once you have your strategy in place, you’ll need the right technology stack to manage customer relationships and provide them with the best possible experience. That’s where customer engagement platforms can help.
This article will explain these platforms, their benefits, and how to choose the right one for your business.
What is a customer engagement platform?
A customer engagement platform, or customer engagement management tool, is a software tool that helps you engage better with your audience, which translates into a better customer experience, higher customer satisfaction, and better business performance.
A customer engagement platform will help you manage relationships with your customers, but it’s not the same as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. But many CRMs come with additional features that allow them to serve as customer engagement platforms as well.
A CRM’s core function is to store information on your customers and their interactions with your team. In contrast, a customer engagement platform collects data on customer behavior at each touchpoint along the customer journey so that you can optimize your interactions to increase engagement.
Customer relationship management deals with person-to-person interactions, often between customers and the sales or support team. Customer engagement management focuses on optimizing interactions between the customer and every facet of your marketing efforts.
A customer engagement platform will allow you to:
- Map the customer journey
- Communicate with customers across all channels
- Facilitate personalization of marketing communications
- Integrate with other data sources
- Review in-depth data on customer behavior at all customer journey touchpoints
There are many customer engagement platforms, and choosing the right one will depend on your use case, preferred communication channels, and the benefits you’re looking to get out of the software.
The benefits of customer engagement platforms
Customer engagement marketing increases customer satisfaction, loyalty, and purchase intent. Customer engagement management helps you reach those outcomes by:
- Improving the customer experience through personalization and automation
- Optimizing the customer journey through detailed analytics
- Increasing efficiency through automation and integrations with third-party software
How to choose the right customer engagement platform
You may be able to find one software that provides all the features you need. Many companies (e.g., HubSpot) have robust offerings that include customer relationship management functionality along with other tools.
But, depending on your needs, you may need to combine two or more tools to meet your customer engagement goals.
Here are seven questions to answer before researching your options.
1. What will you do with the platform?
First, define your use case and the minimum feature set you require. For example, you might need a solution (or combination of solutions) that:
- Integrates with your existing CRM
- Enables self-service support
- Enables your support team to provide assistance via multiple channels
- Manage a loyalty program
- Co-browse websites during sales or support interactions
- Engage with customers across different channels
- Collect user feedback and reviews
Once you define your exact use case, it’ll be much easier to assess different options. For example, you might combine a solid customer engagement platform to orchestrate the customer journey with standalone co-browsing software for sales and support.
2. What features do you need?
Not all features will be equally important to you. Based on your use case, determine what features are must-haves, then narrow down your choices to the platforms that provide them.
Some of the features to consider are:
- Centralized account management
- Omnichannel communication management
- Social media and community management
- User behavior tracking, reporting, and analytics
- Personalization & customization capabilities
- Third-party integrations
- A/B testing functionality
- Churn management
- Feedback collection
3. What level of personalization do you require?
According to a 2018 study by Greenberg and Google, 61 percent of customers expect brands to provide them with personalized experiences based on their preferences, while 90 percent of leading marketers say personalization is one of the key factors that drives business success.
In the light of these statistics, it’s easy to see why personalization matters so much. The level to which you can personalize the customer experience will depend on the level of customer segmentation provided by your customer engagement platform.
Customer segmentation is the way you separate your customer base into different groups so that you can target them with relevant messaging. Basic segmentation enables you to target customers according to demographics and location. More advanced segmentation allows targeting based on things like in-app behavior.
4. What integrations are essential?
You’ll likely use your customer engagement platform with a number of other tools, so it’s essential to make sure that it integrates seamlessly with your existing software ecosystem. If it doesn’t, it could hurt efficiency and lead to data discrepancies.
Review the platform’s existing integrations and do some research to see if users report good experiences with the integrations you need.
5. What channels will you use?
Make a list of the channels customers currently use to engage with you and what channels do you want to add.
The primary channels to consider are:
- Live chat
- Social media channels
- Push notifications
- Messaging apps
Ideally, your customer engagement platform will centralize all communication channels so you can manage and track all customer communication in one place. That makes it much easier to execute an omnichannel approach to customer engagement.
6. What level of automation do you need?
Customer engagement software comes with different levels of automation. You need to determine how much of the process you want to automate for efficiency, and what actions will need to be executed manually.
Some questions to consider are:
- What customer actions should trigger automations?
- What automations should those actions trigger?
- What follow-ups can be automated?
- What customer engagement activities is your team executing manually that could be automated?
Based on your answers to those questions, you can decide what level of automation is necessary and ensure that you find a solution that meets your needs.
7. How quickly can you implement the solution?
Feature-rich customer engagement platforms are great, but ease-of-use is also important. Depending on your situation, finding a solution that’s easy to set up and use may be more important than some features.
To get an idea about how long it will take to get your team up and running:
- Read reviews and ask around to see how helpful the support team is.
- Schedule a demo and sign up for a free trial to see how user-friendly the software is.
- Ask what level of training is provided during the onboarding process.
- Ask what level of support is provided after the onboarding process.
- Be sure to get the opinions of the people who will be using the platform most. Does it seem like a tool they can start using quickly or will there be a learning curve?
Based on your findings, determine whether the software is worth the time.
Improve the customer experience with the right customer engagement platform
The right customer engagement platform will dramatically improve the customer experience. It will help you build better relationships with your customers, create more value, and sell more.
But the choice needs to be carefully considered because the wrong software will cost your team time and money. After answering the questions we’ve covered here, you’ll know exactly what you need so you can research your options and find the perfect fit.