4 Types of Customer Engagement to Build Die-Hard Brand Advocates

By: Sofie De Beule

December 3, 2013

Customer Engagement
gartner research

Engaged customers make for better brand advocates but Gartner believes organizations lack the right attitude to engage with their customers. Some of them keep their interactions way too shallow, while they should really be aiming at these four types of engagement: active, emotional, rational and ethical.

Gartner defines customer engagement management as follows:

The attracting and influencing of customers in order to hold their attention and induce them to participate in a relationship at length

Why is customer engagement such a big challenge?

Customers are complaining much more often than 10 years ago and they’ve lost their trust in big companies. They’re more likely to tell others if they had a poor experience with your company and have higher expectations, that are not always easy to meet. Thanks to social media, consumers have gotten a voice and brands the perfect channel to live up to their expectations.

How can we measure customer engagement?

Successful engagement typically leads customers to one of these four actions:

  • respond to a campaign
  • purchase a product
  • remain a customer
  • recommend the brand

But how can you get there? Customer engagement is more than just talking to your customers. There are four underlying attributes to keep in mind when interacting with your audience: active, emotional, rational and ethical engagement.

How can we increase the different types of engagement?

1. Active engagement: connect social, mobile and traditional channels

Active engagement requires customers’ activity on different channels. They provide you with feedback when asked, make the best use of your products or services and make suggestions on how to improve them.

To increase active engagement, your company should make some changes to people, processes and technology.

  • Engage your own employees to activate customers as well
  • Modify processes to make them more flexible, reliable,  accessible and personal
  • Use the right technology to encourage participation in forums, peer-to-peer support communities and provide better user experiences

2. Emotional engagement: use transparency

The emotions associated with owning a product and with the interactions customers have with the organization, are key to successful brands. However, it’s very difficult to measure and modify an emotion. Customers who are emotionally engaged complain less, compliment more, buy more and will automatically be more likely to defend the brand on social media sites.

Since trust in big businesses has declined rapidly, rebuilding it will take a lot of effort. You can for example recommend a competitor’s product if they’re a better fit for the customer’s needs. This won’t increase sales but it will help people regain trust and hopefully long-term loyalty.

3. Rational engagement: have customers participate and make knowledge available

Rational engagement is the involvement of a customer in collecting detailed information on a product or service. Customers that know all about your products’ values, quality and details, will be more likely to take part in communities or engage in co-creation.

Customers like to buy with emotions, but they also want to justify their shopping spree with logic. Nowadays we see a shift in involvement from the customer in the buying process. Low involvement products (like Nike shoes) will be turned into high involvement purchases, where people can for example design their own Nikes. If you offer low-involvement products, why not turn them into high involvement-purchases?

4. Ethical engagement: demonstrate commitment with employees, partners, customers and community

Ethical engagement goes beyond a purely materialistic view of the world. Every organization has (or must have) a framework on how to deal with employees, partners, customers, suppliers and the rest of the world. This way a company might explain their views on sustainability or provide detailed insights in their manufacturing process.

Ethical engagement isn’t just ‘optional’ like it was in the past. Nowadays, with billions of social media users, organizations can no longer hide unethical behavior. As our society has become highly aware of ethical principles and standards, ethical engagement has become a growing consideration within many industries.

In brief, customer engagement doesn’t imply a shallow approach. You can’t just improve regular interactions with your customers on the phone, website or – more relevant nowadays – social media. Only by understanding the true underlying attributes, CRM leaders can improve their level of customer engagement.

Want to learn more on how to build customer engagement? Download this case study by the European Union, and discover how you can connect with your customers.