Manage customer engagement in business

Manage customer engagement in business

No corporate organization can avoid understanding the behavior of consumers and business customers who are growing rapidly. They check prices at the push of a button and are getting more and more selective about which brands share their lives. They form an impression of every encounter and post disappointing online reviews. These changes in customer behavior present significant organizational challenges, as well as opportunities. The great thing is that we have all become marketers: critical moments of interaction, or touch points, between companies and customers are increasingly spread across different parts of the organization, so customer engagement is now the responsibility of everyone in the company. In many companies, the marketing function is best placed to manage customer engagement throughout the organization. To do so, the function must be pervasive---able to affect touch points that are not directly controlled. Over the past year, various companies have tried to handle customer engagement in a more integrated way, but many executives told McKinsey they didn't know where to start. The spectrum of choice for organizations is wider than ever, and companies are struggling to determine the right marketing role for their business. What's more, senior executives often view any internal efforts by the marketing function as "land grabbing." Given the absence of solid return on investment data, they may express skepticism about the place of marketing in the new environment. While these challenges are difficult to overcome, companies need not be stuck in place while waiting for the full picture of the answer to emerge. By broadening the lens companies use to see customer engagement needs, enabling faster responses, and establishing internal lines of communication, these steps create a more agile organization with broader marketing. Almost all companies have an annual or semi-annual business planning process that brings together senior managers from units and functions to discuss strategy and objectives. Yet few go through a similar process to discuss how to engage with the lifeblood of all companies, namely the customer. Such a summit, should be with a list of participants that starts right at the top and traverses units and functions. The focus of such summits is customer engagement, which should not be confused with customer experience; engagement goes beyond managing the experience at the touch point to include all the ways a company motivates customers to invest in an ongoing relationship with a product or brand.

• Checking their decision journey helps you compare your engagement level to what you believe it should be. After Starbucks investigated customer engagement in France and Italy, for example, it concluded that consumers in those countries preferred the traditional local cafe format. As a result, he invested in distinctive shop layouts and furnishings and adapted his drink and service techniques.

• When one multi-channel retailer held its summit, the company, like many other retailers, discovered that recent trends had left it with an anachronism: a series of touch points that had to be coordinated but instead managed independently in functional silos. Customer engagement summits allow the senior management team to create a coordinated plan that includes them---so, for example, the customer experience in a call center can be coordinated with the behavior of the company's frontline people, or the online signup experience with product development. 

• Internal resources may not be able to meet all the requirements imposed by a world with multiple touchpoints: for example, content and communications; data analysis and insights; product and service innovation; customer experience design and delivery; and manage the company's brand, reputation and citizenship. Senior leaders need to decide how to carry out these activities and design the mix of internal capabilities and external partners that will make them happen. These customer engagement planning sessions, in addition to informing and motivating the organization as a whole around customer engagement, can help avoid spreading scarce resources too thinly.

One of the first outcomes of a customer engagement summit was the realization that a continuous forum was needed to focus management's attention on engagement. It doesn't have to be another marketing committee. In fact, your customer engagement board may already exist under another name, such as strategic planning or branding board. The goal of a Customer Engagement Board is to bring together all the major forms of engagement---marketing, communication, service, sales, product management, and so on---to coordinate tactics across touchpoints in a more timely manner. This board, which should be the operational and decision-making body, should translate the findings of the customer engagement summit into specific actions at individual touchpoints. To achieve this goal, board membership must be large enough to ensure that all key players are represented but small enough to make decisions efficiently. For example, one high-tech company included 17 people on the Customer Engagement Board. Because it is difficult to get it to function efficiently with more than a dozen or more members, decision-making in practice rests in the hands of a core group of chief marketing officers and heads of the company's three main divisions; The sub-team board coordinates its decisions with other corporate entities as needed. This customer engagement board is most effective when chaired by the same person who chairs the customer engagement summit, such as the CMO or head of communications, strategy, sales, or service.
The second consideration is how often the board should meet. For example, the Customer Engagement Board of one retail bank meets weekly, while a similar board of a social services organization meets on a monthly basis. The frequency of such meetings is generally based on the main engagement activities the group is driving and their cycle times. The third consideration involves input and support: boards must make decisions based on facts, thus requiring information on everything from priority touch points to customer behavior and competitor movements. Finally, such a board must have a customer engagement charter. To reduce the risk of gaps, rework, and territorial wars, everyone in the organization needs clarity about decision rights over touchpoints and the key processes that influence them. The Customer Engagement Charter will be useful for explicitly allocating design, manufacture, operation, and updating rights for certain touchpoints to functional "owners". Marketing, for example, might design and update scripts for a call center, which sales or operations will build and operate. In addition, the charter development process is useful for forcing dialogue about who owns and does what. More specifically, what does marketing do in customer engagement? What didn't he do? When properly structured, built, and operated, these customer engagement boards play a critical role in breaking the "silo" mindset that reduces the effectiveness of customer engagement in many organizations. Such boards often serve as mediators and decision makers in conflicts between functions and business units and as a filter for what should be elevated to CEO level or other senior leaders.

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