Engagement Strategy Plan: The 5 Step Process
If you have a strategy, then you need employee engagement strategies. Why? Because the cornerstone of any successful strategy is people. However, getting them engaged in what you want to achieve might be a little harder than you think.
In fact, a lack of engagement in strategy is the number one reason we identified for strategic failure. Having been on countless strategy implementation teams, I can't tell you how often I've seen this happen:
The CEO/leadership team is crazy excited about the new strategic plan....
...there aren't any obvious signs of disengagement when the plan is presented to people throughout the organization...
...but 3 months later, nothing has really changed and everyone is pretty much going about business as usual.
Most of the time, this occurs when the leadership team became overly focused on the content of the strategy. The team doesn't give enough thought to just how hard it will be to get people on board.
The larger the organization, the more of a challenge this becomes. We see this the most with 'new' CEOs who arrive into their roles full of great intentions and excitement.
CEO's who perhaps don't fully understand the organizational challenges. Nothing takes the wind out of their sails more than when people don't get behind their new ideas.
The answer to this problem isn't easy - often it goes to the root of the culture of the organization. But there's one huge thing you can do to stack the odds in favor of your new strategy. That's to take the time to create your strategic engagement plan.
What is an Engagement Strategy Plan?
A strategic engagement plan walks you through a series of steps that start before you begin brainstorming ideas for your strategy. It also outlines clearly what you will do and when. This will allow you to maximize the chances of your new strategy being embraced by the organization.
There are 5 key sections to a strategic engagement plan:
- Cascading Strategy
- Strategy Communications Plan
- Combining Strategy & Business As Usual
- Celebrating Success
The steps must be completed in order, I can't stress enough the need to start at the beginning of your strategic planning process. The reason is that a huge part of driving engagement in your strategy requires you to involve people in creation.
You won't necessarily distribute your strategic engagement plan to the entire organization, but you should involve your leadership team in its creation.
Let's dive into the key sections of your strategic engagement plan and how to put them together...
The first part of your strategic engagement plan should address involving people. Specifically, how you're actually going to go about involving people from throughout your organization in your strategic planning process. By involving people early on, you're much more likely to get buy-in to your goals .
There's a fine line of course between genuinely involving people in ideation vs simply paying lip service to their ideas and then doing what you were going to do anyway. It's fine to have a rough idea of your vision (as a leader, that's absolutely part of your role) but you need to be open-minded enough to the ideas that come your way as part of this process.
1.1 Identify your stakeholders
Start off by figuring out who the stakeholders are that you want to involve in the planning process. Think broadly and don't forget that many of those stakeholders might be outside your organization (shareholders, friends, and family, etc).
Make a list of the stakeholders different internally and externally to keep track of whether you've effectively involved them.
1.2 Meet with them
Arrange a series of workshops with each stakeholder group. In the workshop, outline your overall vision and explain to them why you value their input.
You should also detail how specifically you would like them to contribute to the planning process. Prepare a series of questions for these meetings to tease out the key points you'd like their contribution on. Things like:
- What do you think our strengths and weaknesses as an organization are?
- Can you identify any opportunities and threats you see for us?
- What do you think we should focus on over the next 5 years?
- Are there any organizations in our space that you really admire? Why?
Be sure to actively engage with each stakeholder group. Write notes from each meeting and send out a summary afterward by email. This will help you reflect on what they've said, and proves that you were genuinely listening to their ideas.
1.3 Reflect on the feedback in your plan
You'll almost certainly get some valuable ideas by implementing this part of your strategic engagement plan. Be sure to reflect those ideas in your strategic plan, then circle back with your stakeholders to show them their feedback was incorporated.
If someone has an idea that you're not able to incorporate, it's fine to be upfront with them about that. Let the person know why you decided against incorporating their feedback. Most likely they'll appreciate the fact that you listened and gave due consideration to their ideas, even if you didn't implement them on this occasion.
2. Cascading Strategy
Let's assume you've successfully completed your strategic planning process (we've written tons of content on that subject, so check out this guide if you need more help with actually creating your strategic plan).
The reality is that your plan will still be fairly high level at this stage. To operationalize your plan, you're going to need to cascade it throughout your organization.
Cascading strategy essentially means taking the high level elements from your strategic plan and assigning them to key people, then working with those people to develop them into more detailed goals. These people then in turn cascade their goals to their teams.
2.1 Delegate high level goals
You should assign a key member of your leadership team against each of the high-level goals in your plan. This will likely be an easy process since most strategies revolve around goals that relate to typical business areas such as marketing, sales, etc.
Part of the process should be to ask them to work with their own teams to flesh out that particular component of the plan and then present back that work to the rest of the leadership team.
A great tactic here is to ask them to actually go and create their own 'sub-plan' for their team that breaks the high level goal into a number of smaller focus areas, which link back to the high level goal in the main strategic plan.
\This gives a strong sense of empowerment around owning their own strategy, rather than simply owning a deliverable on the main strategy.
2.2 Present back & iterate
Once each team member has created a strategic plan of their own to deliver their component of the main plan, have them present it to the leadership team. Use this opportunity to review and iterate each team member's understanding of the main plan. You'll want to ensure each team member understands how their goals align back to the original strategic vision.
Depending on the size of your organization, you may need to repeat this process of strategy cascading several times. This will ensure that literally everyone in the organization gets involved to some degree. The best strategic engagement plans are the ones that are 100% inclusive.
That doesn't mean that you have to be involved personally in every round of strategy cascade. You can leave that with your managers and trust them to ensure that alignment to the overall vision remains intact.
3. Strategy Communications Plan
The third part of your strategic engagement plan involves the creation of a communications plan. This is where you take your strategy on the road and start to whip up some excitement throughout the organization.
3.1 Stakeholder communication
Remember the list of stakeholders that you drew up in step 1.1? It's time revisit that list, except this time we're going to figure out a series of mini-plans for how we're going to communicate the strategy to them, and what outcomes we want to achieve from doing so.
By defining your outcomes, you'll better structure your messages and communication technique. Here are a few examples:
Stakeholder Group: The board
Desired Outcome: Board members have confidence that the goals are sufficiently ambitious, without being risky. They should be confident that we have the resources to deliver this plan, and that they will be regularly updated on its progress.
When you communicate your plan to this group, you’ll probably end up toning down the hype behind the plan, and focusing on the hard business outcomes.
Stats and specific KPIs will help to demonstrate to this group that you’ve thought deeply about the detail of the plan and can be absolutely trusted to deliver it.
Stakeholder Group: Customers
Desired Outcome: To give inspiration and hope to our customers that they have the made right choice in choosing us as a provider. That they’re doing business with an ambitious, innovative, and progressive company. That they themselves are a valued part of the organization’s current and future success.
Unlike the board communication, you won’t be focusing on detailed numbers or stats. Your language should be much more inspirational and motivational. Even though you’re communicating the same plan, your delivery is going to be very different!
It may seem obvious that you’ll deliver differently to different groups, but take the time to plan out your messaging for each one anyway – when you’re up there in front of people, that extra little preparatory step will be 100% worth it.
3.2 Wow factor
Don’t let the hard work you've put into your plan go to waste by delivering it with a boring PowerPoint presentation! And worse still, DO NOT deliver a new strategic plan over email.
The benefit of spending a little extra time and money on delivery is centered on one inescapable fact. If your people see that you’ve invested in this new strategic plan, they’ll take it so much more seriously.
When we work with clients in our cloud strategy tool Cascade , we try to encourage them to record videos . We ask clients to record videos focusing on the key elements of the plan (the vision statement, the focus areas, etc).
Those videos then become a key component of the delivery (i.e. they’re played on a big screen at the launch event).
But, they also become a reference point for new employees joining the company to understand what their new organization is all about. A strategy map helps employees to feel engaged because it visualizes the strategy, enabling them to see where they fit into the overall plan.
If you are using a cloud strategy tool for the first time, that in itself will give you brownie points as something new and innovative.
Here are a few more tips and ideas to bring your plan to life:
- Hire an animator or graphic designer to create cartoons for your focus areas ( one of our clients based in South Africa did a great job of this using safari animals to represent their focus areas – The Lion (Financial Growth), The Giraffe (Innovation), etc. )
- Arrange a fun launch party that is solely dedicated to the launch of the strategy (don’t tack it on to some other event, that sends a BAD signal about its importance.)
- Invest in some of those cheesy but surprisingly effective desk toys , branded with your new vision/focus areas
3.3 Follow through
It's so easy to go big on the launch of your strategy, and then just go back to business as usual right afterward (more on that later). From a communications perspective, one of the best things you can do is ask some follow-up questions about how people thought the launch went with each of your stakeholder groups. You could do this in-person or via a survey for larger organizations.
If there were certain aspects of the strategy that people didn't quite understand, be sure to arrange follow-up sessions to address those concerns in more detail. This is not only incredibly helpful for your people, but it also reinforces how seriously you're taking the launch.
4. Combining Strategy & Business As Usual
One of the hardest things about any new strategy is how it fits in with business as usual (BAU). What I mean by that, is how people juggle executing the new strategy while delivering their day jobs and KPIs.
It's naive to think that people will be able to drop everything they're working on and focus their energy on your shiny new strategy. That's not to say that things shouldn't change under the new strategic plan - but rather that change needs to be realistic and well-managed.
4.1 Incorporate an element of BAU into your strategic plan
Your strategic plan probably won't involve changing every single thing about your organization. That would be to ignore your strengths and the positives of whatever has brought you this far in life. A good tip is to actually account for this as part of your strategic plan.
For example, let's say that your strategic plan includes a major shift towards being more customer-focused. It's likely that you'll already have some KPIs around this area in your team, so build on those KPIs (make them more aggressive perhaps) rather than replacing them completely.
Take a close look at the different projects that are already happening throughout your organization and see if you can blend them into the focus areas you've created for your strategy.
Don't force them in - it's possible that there will be some aspects of your BAU activities that need to cease or change dramatically. But try to find a balance that doesn't involve a total overhaul from the ground up.
4.2 Create your strategic governance
One of the things that should change under your new strategy, is that people need to be talking about the new plan and how their goals are progressing against it. You should absolutely introduce a regime of meetings and reporting that focuses solely on the progress of the strategy.
That should include things like strategy dashboards, dedicated strategy meetings (at least once per quarter), and inclusion of strategy in all team meetings.
4.3 Integrate your business processes
The last thing that you want is for people to view strategy as something additional to their roles. Rather, people need to view their roles themselves as strategic and the goals they're working on should reflect this.
A common issue we see - people allocate strategic goals to their teams, but then maintain a separate process of annual reviews. The annual reviews will instead focus on a different set of goals entirely.
We often see this with clients who are working with legacy HR systems. HR systems that include goal management aspects without clear linkage to strategy.
It's imperative that anything in your organization that relates to goals (think HR systems, goal management systems, KPI tracking tools, etc) has a clear linkage between those goals and the broader strategic plan.
Even if you're not using a dedicated strategy execution platform, you can achieve this (albeit less elegantly) in Excel and through constant reinforcement of those linkages in team meetings and 1:1 sessions with your staff:
"Ok Steve, I see that you've started work on implementing a new CRM system for your team. Which of our strategic focus areas do you think will benefit the most from this project?"
This is another crucial step to proving your commitment to the new strategy and therefore a critical part of creating your strategic engagement plan. What systems will you be integrating and how?
5. Celebrating Success
OK, you've done a load of work so far on creating the perfect strategic engagement plan - now it's time for the fun bit. The last part of the plan involves figuring out how'll be celebrating the success of your new strategy.
I'm not necessarily talking about the ultimate success of achieving your vision statement - that will likely take quite a while. Rather this is about celebrating all of the small wins along the way. These small wins will sustain the energy and focus of you and your people on your strategy.
5.1 Define clear milestones
Strategies tend to span several years - but you can't wait that long to start celebrating success. Instead, define a series of clear milestones (usually linked to the delivery of certain KPIs or major projects) that you'll be celebrating along the way.
You'll want to ensure that these milestones occur at least twice a year and that they are as inclusive as possible. I.e. don't always celebrate sales milestones along, as this will likely not be engaging to many of your operational staff. Balance the celebratory milestones across the different focus areas of your strategic plan.
5.2 Splash out
Yep, this is one of those times when you might have to spend a little bit of money! We're not talking extravagant, though you should absolutely think about holding a team event/party for each of your milestones.
The actual event should be different each time (don't let them get repetitive). It might be something as intimate as a team lunch (for smaller teams) to all-out venue hire where appropriate. Include a budget for these celebrations in your strategic engagement plan.
5.3 Link reward to strategic success
Linking reward to strategic success covers somewhat similar ground to step 4.3. Make sure there's a clear link between the reward and remuneration your people receive and the success of the strategy.
Reward and remuneration can be addressed on two levels. Firstly, ensure the goals people own (the one they're measured against typically annually) line up against the organization's strategic plan. So, if people deliver the goals they own, the organization's strategy succeeds and people get rewarded for it.
This creates a clear linkage in their minds between the strategy and their own internal drivers. Secondly, it's worth considering some kind of company-wide bonus scheme to reward everyone when certain milestones of the strategy are delivered.
As part of your strategic engagement plan, you need to figure out how this reward is going to be structured and much money you plan to invest in it.
As you can see, there's a fair bit of work involved in creating your strategic engagement plan. You'll be tempted to skip to the ideation phase of creating your strategy, but don't forget the famous statistic that over 70% of strategic plans fail . If I then told you that lack of engagement was the number one reason behind these failures.
Hopefully, that's enough to persuade you that creating a good strategic engagement plan could be the difference between success and failure for your organization. To help, we've created the free downloadable strategic engagement plan toolkit attached to this article.
Download it and start working on your own plan asap. Don't forget to check out Cascade, our strategy execution platform which will also help you with the majority of the steps outlined above.
Strategy Review: How To Run It & What To Include
The 4 Levels Of Strategy: The Difference & How To Apply Them
Risk Mitigation Strategies: Types & Examples (+ Free Template)
How To Create An Effective Annual Operating Plan (+Template)
Your toolkit for strategy success.
The Ultimate Guide to Customer Engagement in 2021
Published: October 21, 2021
When improving customer relations , we typically think about service and support rather than customer engagement. However, this goes beyond high-quality customer service. Delighting customers and encouraging them to spend more money with your brand isn't enough. In fact, this could make them feel transactional and less meaningful to your company.
Instead, you need to improve the customer experience to strengthen their loyalty to your brand through customer engagement. It needs to be clear that you value your relationship with your buyers and not just the money they spend. That's why you need to consistently engage with customers and demonstrate your dedication to their needs.
In this post, we'll discuss everything you need to know about customer engagement, including industry examples, software, tools, and how it can enhance customer relations in your organization.
Customer engagement is the process of interacting with customers through a variety of channels in order to strengthen your relationship. For many businesses, this process begins with the first interaction and extends beyond the point of purchase. Companies can engage with customers via social media, email, websites, community forums, or any other space where they're communicating or consuming content.
The goal of customer engagement is to offer customers something of value beyond your products and services. High-quality products initially attract customers; relevant content is what keeps them around. Marketers do this through a strategy known as customer engagement marketing.
Customer Engagement Marketing
Customer engagement marketing is a marketing strategy that delivers timely, relevant, and personalized messages to consumers. What sets it apart from other marketing tactics is the personalization element. The relevancy of the content is what makes customers feel like engaged members of your brand's community.
Why Customer Engagement Marketing Works
You want your brand to be omnipresent so that no matter when your customer needs your help, your team is there. However, being omnipresent can become exhausting for even the largest organizations with resources to spend.
Customer engagement marketing works because it takes the pressure off of just one team to produce an exceptional customer experience. This type of strategy encompasses the entire customer journey and every team within your customer that supports it — from customer service, to operations, to sales.
How to Implement a Customer Engagement Marketing Strategy
To implement a viable customer engagement marketing strategy, you'll want to employ the following tactics:
1. Set a goal for successful customer engagement.
Any great strategy begins with a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Start setting your goals by thinking about why your business needs more customer engagement. It's easy to assume that you need it because engagement is good, but what exactly does that mean for your specific organization? Better yet, what's the benefit for the customer to engage with you? Figuring this out before your teams get started designing engagement campaigns will keep everyone within scope, on budget, and producing work that actually matters.
2. Begin cross-functional team collaboration.
As mentioned earlier, customer engagement isn't just one department's responsibility. In the early stages of this strategy, identify which teams have a part to play in engaging customers and get their buy-in. Not only is it easier to spread the workload across departments, but you'll also have a much more comprehensive strategy in the long run that truly serves the customer.
3. Identify where and how customers should engage in both the long and short term.
Later in this article, you'll learn more customer engagement strategies, and you'll see that not all of them will work during every phase of your campaign. Segmenting your efforts into short-term and long-term tactics will help you focus on the right deliverables at the right time. After all, your customers will want to engage with you on more than one occasion, on more than one platform.
4. Gather feedback from internal and external stakeholders as well as customers.
Once your campaign is live, review the goals you set in step number one. Track metrics that align with these goals so that you can monitor the success of your activities. Include internal stakeholder feedback from members of the cross-functional teams on the project as well as external partners who might be involved. Don't forget to gather feedback from the customers themselves so you can identify what's working and what needs work with enough time to make changes.
5. Iterate your customer engagement marketing strategy regularly.
You don't have to wait an entire year to iterate your customer engagement marketing strategy, especially if you have both short and long-term milestones for your customers to hit. Whether you decide to track progress weekly, monthly, or quarterly, stick to consistent intervals so you can easily measure it over time.
In addition to customer engagement marketing, there are a few other ways you can foster customer engagement. Let's take a look at those next.
Customer Engagement Strategies
- Build a brand voice.
- Share your brand voice online.
- Personalize customer experiences.
- Create content based on customer history.
- Use social media contests.
- Meet customers where they are.
- Use relationship marketing.
Based on this guide, it's clear that customer engagement positively impacts your business and ensures a stronger customer base. However, it's not so simple to just jump right in. Consider the following strategies for ways to incorporate customer engagement into your organization.
1. Build a brand voice.
Customers want to engage with a brand that has a personality. Many brands have differentiated themselves through the use of a unique brand voice. This personifies the company making it more relatable and memorable to its customers.
For instance, Glossier is an e-commerce makeup and skincare brand that stands out from competitors by donning a very playful, authentic personality. Women crave being a "Glossier Girl" — someone who embraces their authentic self and uses skincare and makeup as a means of highlighting their existing features, rather than disguising them with other beauty products.
Creating this brand voice establishes your company as a thought-leader in its industry. Customers will look at you as an expert who can give them advice on different products and services.
2. Share your brand voice online.
Your brand voice is more powerful when you share it with others. Start with building a personality on social media, just as you would with a personal account. Post content that aligns with your brand values and share messages that have similar meanings.
If you want your brand to have a more light-hearted personality, consider brands like Wendy's which embraces humor as a means of poking fun, like in the example below. Social media is a great way to engage with customers that may not have discovered or connected with your brand.
3. Personalize customer experiences.
Some companies, like Amazon, have software that makes recommendations based on past purchases or search history. Not every company has to invest in such complex technology. There are other ways to personalize customer experiences, including asking customers how you can help.
Some companies start the customer journey by asking them to fill out a user profile or take a quiz that has them select preferences. For instance, Birchbox asks customers what their skin and hair types are, which helps the company personalize products in their monthly subscription boxes. This way, you can obtain customer feedback at the beginning of the experience, then delight the customer from there.
4. Create content based on customer history.
Feedback surveys can help you create and share content based on what customers have purchased in the past. Unlike Birchbox, however, these suggestions aren't vital to the customer experience. Rather, they complement and add a special touch that exceeds your customers' expectations.
For instance, Spotify has a Discover Weekly playlist which is a playlist of songs that it creates for each user. The feature incorporates an algorithm that discovers each user's "taste profile" based on the songs they listen to and similar songs featured in other users' playlists. This campaign is a unique offering that shows how Spotify is helping users discover more music they might enjoy.
5. Use social media contests.
Cultivate customer engagement through friendly competition. The possibilities are endless when it comes to social media contests and giveaways, but no matter which route you choose, this type of activity can spark rapid customer engagement.
Beware that contests and giveaways can result in short-term engagement if they're not done strategically. To combat this, have a comprehensive plan for your social media engagement campaign that gives each customer a place to land long-term.
For example, if you have a new product or service, choose a long-term customer engagement strategy to promote it on — like YouTube. Then use your social media giveaway to drive engagement on your YouTube channel by asking customers to subscribe and watch videos about your new offerings.
6. Meet customers where they are.
An important part of a customer engagement strategy is to share relevant content in a place your customers will see it. That means posting the secret to business success on a billboard in the middle of the desert probably won't yield the engagement results you're looking for.
That's why it's important to meet your customers where they are — and social media isn't always the best way to do it. Sure, many of your customers can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, and even TikTok, but they're probably on other channels too. When delighting your customers, you want to show up in the places they least expect you to be.
Explore options like:
- Murals in places with lots of foot traffic
- QR codes in and on modes of public transportation
- Holiday cards sent the old-fashioned way — in the mail
- Sponsorships on niche YouTube channels
7. Use relationship marketing.
Building relationships between your organization and your customers is a sure way to turn them into advocates of your brand. Relationship marketing is a strategy that can be used at any stage of your business. To implement this strategy effectively, you'll need to incentivize customer engagement. Tools like Rybbon can help you keep track of your outreach efforts and ensure that your customers are hitting the right engagement milestones throughout your campaign.
The use of customer engagement marketing strategies can make all the difference when it comes to reducing customer churn . In fact, let's take a look at a few companies that used this method to retain customers at their business.
Customer Engagement Examples
- Gravity Payments
Every brand has the potential to introduce engagement strategies that benefit its current and potential customer base . This is illustrated in the following examples, which include companies of various sizes and revenue.
For many professionals, Slack has become an integrated part of our lives during the work day, but sometimes we need the app on our mobile phones, too. Slack recognizes the importance of its software in its customers' lives — and how that software can contribute to an "always-on" culture.
In response, Slack shared this gentle reminder to customers who downloaded or updated the app.
What we like about Slack's customer engagement:
If you're anything like me, you're probably wondering "How did they know I needed to hear this right now?" While it's highly unlikely that the company's product team moonlights as mind readers, they are very attuned to their customers in order to spur engagement and interaction. Taking the opportunity to share a customer-centric message in a place they visit quite often is a recipe for delight and engagement.
As you may have seen, in 2014 Coca-Cola launched a new marketing campaign that took the nation by storm. #ShareACoke removed the company's logo on 20-ounce bottles and replaced it with 250 of the most common names in the U.S. The campaign was successful because of the customer engagement element.
What we like about Coca-Cola's customer engagement:
This wasn't just a typical marketing campaign; in fact, the highly personalized aspect made it even more engaging. Customers could physically see a piece of themselves on a Coke bottle. Even those without common names could follow the "Share A Coke" tour where they could personalize their own cans. This was a simple campaign that related to Coke's target audience and got people talking about the brand.
Carhartt , a work apparel company, introduced new technology to its website that helps customers connect with experts and make smarter purchases. When a customer displays a certain behavior, a pop-up appears that asks them if they'd like to chat with an expert.
It was found that when customers clicked "yes," they found the right product, were more satisfied with it, and purchased it again in the future. In fact, this led to a 10-fold increase in conversion rates compared to other self-service options, as well as a 10-25% increase in the average order value.
What we like about Carhartt's customer engagement:
Carhartt's customer engagement strategy proves that your business doesn't have to use the latest technology or even automated tools to provide an engaging customer experience. One-on-one interactions between your service team and the customer is still a viable strategy that can turn passive customers into brand enthusiasts.
Gymshark has grown its customer base exponentially through social media, guerrilla, and influencer marketing. The brand has a unique ability to reach its customers with highly personalized and relatable content that's sharable and interactive.
In this example, Gymshark joined the conversation about the gas shortage in the UK by setting up an interactive pumping station. This customer engagement campaign brings both prospective and existing customers face-to-face with the Gymshark brand to build relationships in a way that's authentic.
What we like about Gymshark's customer engagement:
Gymshark balances a serious concern of its UK customers (a gas shortage) with a positive outlet to blow some steam (a popup workout space). This customer engagement tactic is on brand and on time, showing its audience that the company is always listening and showing up when they need it most.
How does a company that's already dominating its industry do more for its customers? Well, it comes up with a way to make loyal customers feel special.
Starbucks began a new effort called the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room which lets customers chat with coffee specialists, watch coffee brew from fresh beans, and try a variety of rare coffees.
What we like about Starbucks' customer engagement:
This is a multi-sensory experience that takes customers to the next level. They feel like an active part of the Starbucks journey and are getting an inside look into the company's product development process. It's something exciting and unique that further engages customers and gives them a new appreciation for the brand beyond the same coffee every morning.
6. Gravity Payments
Sometimes, customer engagement can occur as a result of another initiative. After hearing about his employees' struggles, Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments , decided to implement a minimum annual salary of $70K. While the move was meant to improve employee satisfaction, productivity, and quality of life, the change also had a profound impact on customer engagement.
Monthly leads grew from 30 to 2,000 inquiries, profits doubled, and customer retention increased from 91% to 95%. It was clear that customer engagement was directly tied to employee satisfaction. When employees are treated better, they want to work harder for their companies, which results in happier customers.
What we like about Gravity Payment's customer engagement:
While these are great success stories, it can be hard to predict whether an engagement marketing campaign will be effective. Investing in an engagement platform, however, can ensure your campaigns will be consistently profitable for your business.
Rybbon walks the walk when it comes to customer engagement. This tool is used by thousands of businesses to manage customer engagement through reward programs, surveys, incentives, and more. But their commitment to the customer doesn't stop when their businesses are onboarded to its platform. The team at Rybbon is committed to engaging their own customers who use its platform, too.
What we like about Rybbon's customer engagement:
In a case study about biotech company Quincy Bioscience, one person said, “It’s been highly successful, we’ve captured thousands of leads, and the conversion rates are very high, almost everyone who receives the module completes it. We’re huge advocates of the platform.”
And that's the goal of customer engagement — to cultivate brand advocacy in your customer base.
Now that you understand the basics of customer engagement, how to use customer engagement marketing in your campaigns, and you've seen some examples of companies that are doing it well, try it on your own. Follow the tactics in this article to build a customer experience that will keep your brand top of mind for new and existing customers.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Don't forget to share this post!
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Engagement Marketing: A Complete Guide
Engagement marketing is the use of strategic, best marketing strategy, resourceful content to engage people, and create meaningful interactions over time.
Engagement marketing can help you build a stronger relationship with your customers — boosting your sales, reputation and referrals. But what is the definition of engagement marketing and how can it work for your business? Let’s start at the beginning.
In this engagement marketing guide, you’ll discover:
What is engagement marketing, why do you need engagement in marketing.
- Why engagement marketing strategies work for business
- Common problems that engagement marketing can solve
- Components of engagement marketing
- ROI of a successful engagement marketing program
- Plan, implement and optimize your engagement marketing program
- Ways to fire up your customer engagement strategies
- Frequently asked questions
Engagement marketing is the strategy and content required to create meaningful customer interactions and build brand loyalty. It’s a cross-channel, inbound marketing approach that includes:
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Marketing automation
When you implement engagement marketing, you create worthwhile interactions with people. Imagine a great piece of content, designed to make a tricky decision easier for a consumer, or a well-timed email checking in with someone after they’ve recently made a purchase. These can help build a personal rapport between brand and customer.
To do it, marketers use data to build a better impression of who their customers are and their behavior. This not only creates more personalized interactions but brings the added benefit of moving customers along the sales funnel quicker through targeted, strategic user experiences.
Today’s advertising can be overwhelming for consumers. Forbes estimates that most Americans are exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 advertising messages a day, out of which a person will remember just a few.
This obviously presents a problem for marketers. Clearly, people don’t like to be sold to, so how are we supposed to reach buyers?
For starters, we must keep in mind that just because people don’t like marketing it doesn’t mean they aren’t making purchases. That means we must reach potential buyers in a different way. That’s where engagement marketing comes in.
Buyers today are armed with a wealth of information at their fingertips. They don’t need ads to discover products, they can find them by themselves.
In fact, it’s estimated that up to 90% of buyers are familiar with a brand before they ever interact with it, so marketers must get ahead of the curve. In our view, your most valuable asset isn’t your product, it’s your customers.
Why engagement marketing strategies work for business.
The most successful companies succeed because they excel during each stage of the customer lifecycle. This means:
✓ Acquiring new buyers
✓ Growing their lifetime value
✓ Converting buyers into advocates
Today, it's on marketers to become stewards of the customer journey and to build bonds with customers wherever they are. Whether that means engaging on social media, presenting a unified experience across devices, or personalizing content and communications.
A successful engagement marketing program can be extremely effective in spreading brand awareness for a much lower cost than traditional advertising. For example, a well curated and targeted content marketing strategy can put your business in the powerful position of being a thought leader, building trust and brand preference as you help buyers educate themselves on future purchases.
“We’re entering a new phase of marketing right now. The new discipline is emerging from the early experiments and pilot investments. And it’s way more strategic and central than anybody thought.”
– doug kessler, creative director & and co-founder, velocity partners, common problems that engagement marketing can solve..
Engagement marketing takes into consideration all stages and types of the buyer journey, and a successful program can build lasting bonds with your customers.
Brands in novelty and B2B industries feel they have to start with disruptive marketing strategies, to get the buyer’s attention and generate an interest or hunger for their product.
Engagement marketing can generate attention and earn trust by answering the questions that they do have. Many real-estate professionals, for example, engage prospects by sharing resources and content, based on their geographic area.
Focusing on self-education can provide visibility to your business.
No matter what your product is, if you can align it, along with your services, toward pain points and topics that your target customers care about, you will see an uptick in interest.
Demonstrate your passion for your product, service, and/or target audience through whatever channels fit best, and you will discover creative ways to be interesting.
Once you’ve garnered awareness, you need to establish preference. Successful content marketing creates preference through thought leadership, by making you a trusted source of information and education.
You can also create preference through relationships, which are strengthened whenever your content entertains or helps your buyers.
Engaging content marketing is part of a natural conversation with current and potential customers. That’s because it is relevant to their interests and behaviors and builds a continuous story over time.
Unlike traditional marketing, content pays dividends for a very long time and provides lasting value for customers. That said, content marketing is a long game, so the more effort you put into it, the better results you’ll see over time.
Components of engagement marketing.
Implementation of an effective engagement marketing program means you need to throw most of what you know about traditional marketing out the window. This will allow you to connect with customers on a deeper, more meaningful level.
It helps you engage people:
- As individuals. Whether you’re talking to a CIO about software or a new mom about breakfast bars, you’ll want to be well versed on your buyer’s preferences, history, relationship with your company, stage in the buying journey etc. While persona-based marketing defines and speaks to your typical buyers, one-to-one marketing speaks to individuals on their own terms.
- Based on what they do. Rather than assuming that since a buyer fits a certain profile they will be interested in a certain product, we can now target individuals based on how they behave. You can then use behavior on one channel, an interaction on your company’s Facebook page for example, to inform marketing on another channel. This could be the message that appears when that person visits your website, for instance.
- Continuously over time. We now have the opportunity to listen and respond to every customer at every stage of the buying journey, keeping them engaged, and helping to drive purchase decisions. Using intelligent nurture tracks, marketing messages should flow in a logical fashion, creating engaging, personalized conversations. It’s not about individual messages, or even individual campaigns. Every interaction asks for another interaction and is part of a longer chain of events.
- Toward an outcome. Once you’ve acquired a customer, your new goal is to create a long-term, reciprocal relationship of value for both you and your customer. Whenever you communicate with your buyers, keep the customer journey in mind. Engagement marketing isn’t about relationship building for its own sake, it’s about relationship building toward a goal.
- Wherever they are. Today’s customer is everywhere, so it’s vital that you create a consistent experience for them. To do this, you must acknowledge the nuances of individual channels, yet still present a unified message. However, to make the shift from siloed communications, you need a program specifically designed to drive engagement on your website, on tablets and smartphones, via email, through social networks, at in-person events, and beyond.
ROI of a successful engagement marketing program.
When you engage with customers, build trust, and create brand preference, your revenue will show the results.
Engagement marketing leads to:
- Trust. 85% percent of consumers trust solutions that take the time to walk them through various paths toward decisions, rather than just providing an answer outright.
- Clicks. Triggered email messages have 71% higher open rates and 102% higher click rates than non-triggered emails ( Every Cloud ).
- Measurable success. 87% percent of marketers report a measurable lift from their personalization efforts ( Evergage ).
How to plan, implement, and optimize your engagement marketing program.
Engagement marketing is a multichannel approach that requires planning, implementation, optimization, and upkeep. Rolling out a program can be a lot of work, but you’ll get out of it what you put in.
Step 1: Map and develop your buyer personas and journeys.
Before you start producing new campaigns or content, determine what kind of information your current and future buyers need. Your buyer personas will help you define:
- Your audience
- Their challenges
- Questions they have
- Their needs
- The content they like to consume
While their buying stages tell you what each piece of content you create for them should accomplish.
Step 2: Develop your brand voice.
It’s important to present a consistent experience across channels, which means you need to define your brand’s voice. Whether you’re creating content for your blog, your website, or on social, the style you write in will become the voice of your brand.
Remember, while you may choose to adopt a more playful voice on Twitter and a more professional voice in a whitepaper, consistency is key.
Step 3: Brainstorm and flesh out your context mix.
Planning and creating new marketing engagement strategies and tactics isn’t just about mapping and metrics, it’s also about creating inspired content. Think about the type of content that serves your objectives best.
Content marketing comes in many forms, and the form you choose depends on many factors. This includes your:
- Audience’s preferences
- Industry’s standards
- Bandwidth and budget
Step 4: Set an editorial calendar and launch.
An editorial calendar is not only where you keep track of, coordinate, and share your upcoming content. It’s also a strategic tool that helps your team execute integrated programs that include your content.
Keeping an editorial calendar ensures that you’re releasing your content at the best possible moment. Plus, it helps keep your whole team aligned around the release dates.
Step 5: Optimize and scale.
Your promotion strategy will depend on your audience and your needs, but the best approach to promotion is a wide-reaching one. Don’t start to scale and add new channels until you have a good measurement strategy in place.
To do this, you’ll need to:
- Define your content goals
- Decide how you will measure results
- Align your key stakeholders
We recommend covering your bases by measuring early-stage metrics, and then tying them back to pipeline and revenue.
How to improve your engagement marketing strategy.
Now that you’ve got your customer engagement strategy all planned out, it’s time to add a few final touches to make it a success. Here are a few extra tips:
- Make your data manageable. Retrieving data from different apps, vendors, siloes and databases is time-consuming and inefficient. Before you start your engagement marketing strategies, consolidate your data touchpoints into fewer platforms, to make them easier to manage. This will make it easier to learn about your customers and audience segments.
- Find the right platform. You may need to consolidate your data, so find a customer engagement platform to help. These can help you put all your data in fewer places and create better engagement across your channels.
- Personalize the experience. Now for a deep dive into your new, easy-access data. Use customer information to create personalized content and experiences to drive engagement and conversion. Making your customers feel valued can pay dividends down the line.
- Research your content strategy. Content strategy is an essential part of your inbound marketing. To nail your content, remember to do solid consumer, competitor and SEO research before you start creation. This is a great way to create high-quality leads and build brand awareness.
- Go big on social. Social media is the perfect place to start building out your brand voice. Post meaningful content with a sharp turn of phrase, a sense of humor and the right targeting, and you might see an increase in clicks, engagement and site traffic as a result.
- Experiment with AI. Artificial intelligence can prove essential to your strategy. Use this to monitor consumer behavior in real time to provide exceptional content and experiences.
Frequently asked questions about engagement marketing.
What is the definition of engagement marketing.
Engagement marketing is the use of tailored, engaging customer interactions. For example, with solid data on consumer behavior, brands can create meaningful content and experiences that resonate with their audience. This can help drive conversions and sales, as well as build brand awareness and lasting consumer relationships.
Why is engagement in marketing important?
If you keep customers engaged from the first interaction, you can help guide them towards a conversion and spark brand loyalty. Creating content and other touchpoints can also help you build a better impression of consumer behavior, which can feed back into your engagement strategy.
What is an engaged customer?
An engaged customer is someone who has an emotional connection with your brand. As a result, they may buy more, promote your brand to others and demonstrate loyalty. This is highly useful for businesses and many spend a great deal of time and effort in keeping their customers on-side.
Welcome to the Era of Engagement Marketing
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8 Effective Customer Engagement Strategies 
The right customer engagement strategies can have a massive effect on your business outcomes. These strategies will result in a better customer experience, higher customer retention rates , and eventually help you attract more potential customers.
Let's get started.
What is a customer engagement strategy?
A customer engagement strategy is a plan to capture the attention of existing customers and make sure they have the best experience possible when interacting with your brand throughout their journey.
Related: A Complete Guide to Customer Engagement >
Customer engagement strategies
- Know your customer journey
- Customer loyalty programs
- Offer personalized service
- Implement a chatbot
- Use analytics
- Use visual engagement tools
- Offer conversational service
- Support your team
1. Know your customer journey
You can't start developing or implementing an effective customer engagement strategy without knowing who your customers are and how they interact with your brand.
A good way to start is to map your customer journey and find all important touchpoints, bottlenecks and challenges your customers may meet. This will help you find out more about their needs and behavior as well as identify opportunities for engagement.
By analyzing your customer behavior and attributes, you can start constructing customer profiles or personas. You can look at signals that matter to your business, like location, income, motivations, interaction history, and more.
Using this knowledge, you may come up with ideas to specifically engage each persona in a way they prefer.
2. Create a customer loyalty program
One of the most effective ways to improve customer engagement is to create a customer loyalty program .
These act as incentives to reward loyal customers who continually engage with your brand through points, discounts, special gifts, and more.
Customer loyalty programs are a fantastic engagement strategy that not only encourages repeat business but boosts brand loyalty.
3. Offer personalized service
Personalization is quickly becoming one of the most popular and effective customer engagement strategies. It makes sense – customers want products or services that are tailored to them and their needs.
There are many ways you can apply the principles of personalized customer service . It could be simple, like showing them a location-based ad or using their first name in an email. It could also be much more complex, taking advantage of machine learning and AI to offer hyper-relevant services.
For example, a person who usually buys ski clothes during the winter can be served recommendations on ski equipment.
If you're still at the beginning, start small: a pre-chat survey is an excellent way of gathering some information about the user, so your team will know who they're talking to. This can be the starting point of more personable service.
4. Implement a chatbot
If you implement an AI-powered chatbot that analyzes data and can speak to users, it’s easy to program it to make recommendations to site visitors — or help them choose the products they like. That’s one of the smarter customer engagement strategies because it feels natural — chatbots will work based on what the user needs.
Chatbots can also use "triggers" to send relevant messages based on criteria such as location, time on page, or the number of pages viewed.
Another benefit of chatbots when it comes to a customer engagement strategy is that they help you offer smooth service even after hours. This means that, even when human agents aren’t around, you don’t lose the chance to grab the attention of customers, collect contact details so humans can reach out later, or just handle routine questions faster.
5. Capture business analytics
Analytics is the backbone of customer engagement strategies. How do you know what works and what doesn't? What exactly do your customers like or dislike? Only with customer feedback data can you answer these questions.You can gather customer data and analyze them from different sources — customer satisfaction surveys (CSAT) or NPS, for example. For more long-term insights collected from your customer interactions, a customer experience platform can be the answer.
For example, which pages of your website result in the most live chat inquiries? Or, how is your support team performing when interacting with customers? This data can be at your fingertips whenever you need it.
Of course, you still need to track a few KPIs to report the success of your strategies. If you're wondering what to measure, check out four customer engagement metrics you can use.
6. Use visual engagement tools
Any tool that uses visual means to engage customers can help you create a more human experience. There are two tools to consider:
Cobrowsing is a technology that allows support agents to view and interact with a customer’s web browser in real time.
For example, a customer has trouble filling out a form, the support agent can initiate a cobrowsing session and take control of the customer’s screen, pointing and writing to help them complete the form.
Cobrowsing is secure, easy to implement and use, and it’s a great opportunity to engage customers who may otherwise have given up on completing a task such as reducing cart abandonment rate.
Stats show some businesses have seen an 18 percent improvement in first call resolution and a 14 percent reduction in call handling times by using an integrated cobrowsing solution.
Video chat can make up for the lack of personable connection on the internet, where most interactions are text-based. Live video communication with customers provides tons of value and businesses should take advantage of this feature.
For example, furniture retailer The Dufresne Group used video chat to assess furniture repairs from afar without having technicians go to customers houses.
Mind map software helps visualize ideas by creating structure and visibility. It lets you create a visual diagram from your ideas and easily illustrates the relationship and hierarchy between different concepts.
The average mind map software falls under one (or more) of these categories:
- Diagramming : create a technical diagram like engineering flowcharts, architectural designs, network diagrams, etc.
- Brainstorming : best for problem-solving sessions as you can organize and present an idea visually
- Business intelligence : visualize data as charts by importing it from business applications
- Software development : prepare site map diagrams, software wireframes, etc.
7. Offer conversational service
How can you make the customer service process more efficient or pleasant for both customers and agents?
One way is to turn your attention to conversations instead of interactions. It’s not enough to treat customer issues as support tickets, or their purchasing inquiries as nothing more but a stage in their customer journey.
Shifting the focus to conversations means that each time you talk to a customer, you build on the same long-term relationship.
This will also create a customer centric culture for your organization.
How can you do all that? The key is in keeping and using interaction history across channels. No matter what channels your customer has used in the past, every team member is always aware of past conversations and goes into every interaction with context.
For example, if a customer has sent an email about an issue they have, then used live chat, and then social media to complain, it’s still the same customer relationship.
With conversational customer experience , each agent can see all that and further the conversation: “How can I help you?” becomes “I see you’ve been having this issue with the item you bought, let me help.”
This is a customer engagement strategy that helps your business stand out from the competition.
8. Support your team
Happy customer service teams result in a happy customer base. For example, 73 percent of customers fall in love with a brand because of friendly customer service representatives.
It’s true, customer-facing staff plays a massive role in engaging customers. Yet, many companies forget to support their employees like they support their customers, and that may have an impact on customer engagement.
So, try to employ one of the most forgotten strategies for customer engagement: take care of your team. Equip them with the right technology and training, motivate them, and reward results. Only when your team is taken care of can you deliver the best possible customer experience and engage customers for life.
Customer engagement plan template
The strategies we mentioned will eventually feed into one big overall effective customer engagement strategy. So, it’s useful to have a plan for implementing and fine-tuning that strategy.
Here’s a customer engagement plan template (note that each stage and step may be different across companies and industries):
Stage 1: Preparation
- Assess current situation
- Set engagement goals
- Map customer journey
- Create customer personas
- Build a business case
Stage 2: Planning
- Do market/competitor research
- Select strategies and tactics
- Create rollout and budget plans
- Align teams and operations
Stage 3: Implementation
- Assess technologies (e.g. send RFPs)
- Choose providers
- Launch systems and plans
- Test and refine
Stage 4: Tracking
- Report on KPIs / metrics
- Get feedback from customers
- Conduct new experiments
- Follow digital engagement trends
Engage with customers strategically
Based on how developed your customer engagement strategy is, each stage may have different levels of complexity. For example, if you’re just starting out building engagement strategies deliberately, your metrics dashboard will not be in-depth or your various departments may not be fully aligned.
As you pursue this process in the long term though, everything will start falling into place — and customer engagement will drive massive business value.
Ready to put these strategies for better customer engagement to the test? Schedule a demo today to see how Acquire can help you build stronger customer relationships and drive business growth.
A Complete Guide to Customer Engagement
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10 customer engagement strategies from real small businesses
As someone running a small business, you might think your most important mission is bringing in new customers—don’t get us wrong, this is crucial.
But another priority should be holding onto the customers you already have. And that’s where customer engagement comes in.
Customer engagement is the act of building a relationship with the people who are buying what you’re selling. It’s the sum total of all the ways you connect with your customers: the emails, the phone calls, conversations on social media, and more. Creating a strategy around these interactions can help you keep your customers happy—and bring in new business, too.
How well do you know your target audience? Do you know how your customers prefer to communicate with you after they’ve bought something from you?
Read on for some good customer engagement strategies that you can put in place right away.
Today, we’ll cover:
- What is a customer engagement strategy?
The benefits of customer engagement strategies
- How to track customer engagement
And 10 customer engagement strategies from real companies:
- Run a “tag a friend” contest on social media
- Engage across different channels
- Shout out your reviews
- Check on your quiet customers
- Reward engagement
- Activate your fan club
- Make good on feedback
- Use that data
- Keep your promises
- Involve customers in social causes
🔍 How can you spot a disengaged customer? We’ll tell you. Find out how to identify (and win back) a disengaged customer with our free checklist.
✅ Get the checklist
What is a customer engagement strategy?
A customer engagement strategy is a plan to increase customer satisfaction by having more positive interactions with them. It can be through any channel, from in person, to online, to over the phone.
Great strategies take customer engagement from reactive to proactive. They should include both how your team interacts with customers when they reach out on their own and ways your company can take the initiative and actively engage with your base.
By the end of 2020, customer experience will be the #1 reason people choose to do business with a company 1 . That’s right—how someone feels about your brand could edge out both price and quality.
The quality of your customer relations also impacts how likely someone is to recommend you to a friend or family member. Word of mouth can be a vital source of referrals for small businesses, so it might be worth your while to create some customer engagement strategies (with help from the ideas we’ve laid out below for inspiration, of course).
Now, let’s look at a few ways to measure customer engagement and make sure you’re on the right track.
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4 ways to track customer engagement
This one’s tricky, but depending on which strategy you use, here are some ways to know whether they’re working:
1. A spike in social interactions
One measurable way to tell that your customers are picking up what you’re putting down? More likes and comments on your social media pages. Facebook Pages, Twitter, and Instagram all come with their own easy-to-use Insights section, where you can monitor your engagement over certain periods of time.
2. More positive reviews
Customers who feel engaged (whether it’s because you’re super responsive and have a great first call resolution rate or just because you have a great brand) are more likely to be happy and more likely to sing your praises. Keep an eye on Yelp, Google, Facebook, and other sources for great customer reviews .
3. Happier customers
This seems obvious, but can “happy customers” be measured? That’s what customer surveys are for. Surveys don’t have to be long and complicated, and if you send them out regularly (once or twice a year—you don’t want to burn out your base), they can be a great indicator of how engaged your customers are.
Try to ask the same or similar questions each time, specifically about satisfaction levels and how likely they are to recommend you. This lets you measure improvement over time. And keep track of that response rate, too—nothing says “engagement” like a customer taking the time to fill out a survey for a company!
4. New business, courtesy of your biggest fans
Like we said earlier, customer engagement strategies can lead to the holy grail of small business success: better word of mouth and more referrals. Be sure to ask your new customers how they heard about you, and thank those existing customers who helped get new customers through the door.
10 customer engagement strategies for your business
1. run a “tag a friend” contest on social media..
If you aren’t active on social media, you might be missing out on some easy opportunities to engage with current (and future) customers. (Here are a few social media best practices to keep in mind.)
Small businesses today use social media to post weekly specials from their menu, show off new items for sale, and share urgent changes to their store hours. These days, many small businesses’ social pages are more current and helpful than their actual websites, because it’s easy for customers to follow their favorite businesses and get notifications whenever businesses post.
If you’re just starting out on social and want to build that base, try a “tag a friend” campaign.
Real example of a tag-a-friend campaign: Kopari Beauty celebrated hitting 100,000 followers with a tag-a-friend giveaway to thank their customers. Here’s how they worded it:
How to do it: Post a photo on Facebook or Instagram of the prize you’re giving away. Maybe it’s your most popular product that customers order again and again. Then ask your followers to tag a friend in the comments to be entered to win the prize. Be clear about the terms of the contest: the close date and time, if it will be a random drawing, or if the person who tags the most friends wins.
Make the number you want to hit a goal you can reasonably reach within a week or so, to keep the contest fresh in people’s minds—if you only have 50 followers right now, shooting for 100,000 might be a little ambitious.
2. Engage across different channels.
Agility is your friend in the engagement game. Being able to reach and respond to your customers across a variety of platforms can help you build a reputation of being responsive, gracious, and ready to assist at any time. But it can be time-consuming to keep up with all the moving parts if you don’t have the right communication tools .
Real example of engaging across channels: RingCentral’s omnichannel contact center is customer engagement technology that puts all of your customers’ communication channels in one place. You can monitor social media, respond to emails, take phone calls, and even text your customers from one single platform (learn more about omnichannel customer service ):
How to do it: Having a platform that does it all will go a long way to helping you streamline all of your communications.
3. Shout out your reviews.
Did you get an awesome new review on Yelp or Google? Screenshot that bad boy and share it on all of your social platforms, thanking—and tagging—the author for their kind words. Doing so will not only toot your horn for you (though word of mouth is your best friend), but it’ll also encourage other customers to do the same and give them an example to pull from as they write.
Real example of a review shoutout: The Greek Olive, a small business out of South Africa, took a customer review, turned it into a quote on a clean background, and made an eye-catching Instagram post that has us craving tapenade:
How to do it: A post like this is easy to make. There are lots of quote-making apps available right on your smartphone for free, like Quotes Creator, which is available for both Apple and Android phones. So start mining those public reviews to make some beautiful posts.
Learn a few simple ways to consistently exceed your customers’ expectations .
4. Check on your quiet customers.
Give the squeaky wheels a break and seek out some of your silent customers, to thank them for their business and see if they have any concerns. Chances are these shy folks will be happy for the acknowledgement, so long as you approach in a way that doesn’t force them to talk to someone in real life.
Real example of checking on quiet customers: RingCentral Contact Center™ includes both email and SMS capabilities in one platform, so you can try out some different approaches for these quieter patrons to see what works best for them:
How to do it: Try a simple “thank you for your business” email ( more examples of marketing emails here ) or even a text message, if your business is set up for that. People usually like being thanked, and you can include a line about being available to help them in the future to encourage an open channel of communication going forward.
5. Reward engagement.
Sometimes, you won’t have to reach out and encourage engagement. Your customers will sing your praises on their own… and isn’t that the dream?
Real example of rewarding engagement: It’s hard to beat Southwest Airlines in the rewards game. They have an excellent social media team that finds people who are enjoying their flight experience and sends them fun little gifts that are at the door when they get back home:
How to do it: It’s a good idea to have some small engagement rewards on hand and ready to roll out the door as soon as you see an opportunity to engage: a little token that thanks fans for their support and encourages them to keep chatting up your business.
6. Activate your fan club.
Who loves you, baby? Chances are you know who your best and most excited customers are. Think of creative ways you can get them involved in spreading their enthusiasm as brand ambassadors.
Real example of activating your fan club: Lively was a small lingerie company that was able to compete with the big guns in the game. How did they do it? Over the years they’ve engaged over 100,000 “Boss Babe Ambassadors,” regular customers who wear and love their products. The customers get some social clout, and Lively benefits from showing real women rocking their pieces:
How to do it: Create a VIP Customer Club to thank these folks for their support, and bring them in for early access to new products or services to get their feedback before you go live. Odds are good that they will be flattered that they were chosen and will become even more vocal about how great you are.
7. Make good on feedback.
Listening is an essential part of engaging with customers, and improving your services or a product based on customer feedback can go a long way toward building trust in, and excitement for, your brand.
Real example of making good on feedback. Remember Sonic the Hedgehog? In 2019, Paramount Pictures revealed the first look at their CGI version of Sonic for an upcoming film starring the popular SEGA character. The internet went wild… but not in a good way.
The designers had given Sonic human-looking teeth: the stuff of nightmares. And fans were not shy about sharing their opinions. Instead of ignoring the feedback and pushing ahead, Paramount actually listened and spent the time (and cash) on some serious digital plastic surgery for Sonic, to the delight of gamers everywhere:
Before (*shudder*) / After
How to do it: An easy place to start is survey results. Share an overview of the results via email with the folks who took the time to weigh in, and clearly outline two to three changes you plan to make based on the feedback. Then, once the changes are in place, follow up to let the survey-takers know that you’ve listened and taken action.
8. Use that data.
What kind of data are you collecting as a company, through surveys and other sources, and how can you use it to personalize and improve the customer experience ?
Real example of leveraging data: Netflix’s algorithm does an incredible job of using the data of what we watch to deliver even more content we will enjoy:
How to do it: Say you look through your order data and notice a customer always buys the same product every other month. Try mailing them that product on the house, before it’s time for them to re-order, with a note thanking them for their business.
9. Keep your promises.
We’ve told you about a lot of great customer service stories , but we have to include what happens when you don’t deliver on the promises you make to customers.
Real example of not keeping promises: You might have seen the recent documentary about Theranos, the Silicon Valley startup that promised to revolutionize blood testing. But the research and development never quite caught up to the sales and marketing. In the end, this approach left customers and investors disappointed and the company itself unable to recover.
How to do it: Make sure your promotional promises line up with the actual product you’re delivering. A good way to find out is to read your customer surveys and reviews to see how your services are being perceived.
10. Involve customers in social causes.
People want to feel good about the money they spend, and they want to share the good they do with their social networks. Bake social responsibility into your business plan, and be sure to include ways for your customers to participate, and you might see a real increase in excitement for your brand.
Real example of involving customers in social responsibility: TOMS Shoes started with social responsibility as a cornerstone of their business. Their mission of donating a pair of shoes for every pair they sold took off, and now they are able to do so much more than just shoe donations with the help of their customers. They even have an entire page dedicated to “Your Impact,” which showcases all the causes you help as a TOMS customer. And doesn’t that make you want to buy a pair of their shoes?
How to do it: You can set up regular volunteer opportunities that allow your team and clients to work side by side in the community, even make your office front a drop-off for food bank donations a few times a year. (Turn it into a contest that you share on social media to hit a couple customer engagement strategies at once!)
Customer engagement strategies: start here
With so many businesses leading the charge on customer engagement, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, or do it all at once, in order to make a difference.
Take one or two items from this list that seem manageable, and put them to work for you. Be sure to set some reasonable goals, and define how you’ll measure progress. And don’t forget to check in regularly to see how these strategies are doing, and try something new if you need to. With a little time and effort, you could see a real increase in customer engagement.
Whatever your customer engagement plan is, we’re here to help. If you’re ready to simplify and supercharge your customer engagement, check out RingCentral Digital Engage™ and put all of your communications in one easy-to-use platform.
1 “Customers 2020: A Progress Report.” walkerinfo.com/knowledge-center/featured-research-reports/customers-2020-a-progress-report
Originally published Oct 12, 2020, updated Nov 17, 2021
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7 Customer Engagement Strategies That Marketers Can’t Ignore
Customer engagement is one of the most pressing issues for marketers today. Why? Because it underscores the entire reason why marketers market: to build relationships with customers that will ensure they choose you over the competition, enjoy and benefit from your product or service, keep coming back for more, and tell their friends, family or colleagues to try it too.
In order to acquire, convert, retain customers – and turn them into advocates – you need to engage them. To connect with them in an appropriate, effective and meaningful way.
Brands can’t just rely on catchy slogans or celebrity endorsements anymore. Thanks to social media and mobile phones, businesses and brands have to be always “on”, ready to take on opportunities to engage with customers anywhere, anytime.
If that sounds like a tough challenge, don’t be afraid! There are lots of tactics and methods you can use to boost client engagement, and they don’t have to be complicated. Rather, they must come from an authentic place, target the right audiences, and provide compelling reasons for customers to engage, so they’ll truly want to.
What is customer engagement?
Before we get into the “how” of customer engagement, it’s important to properly define what it is.
Customer engagement is all the ways you interact with customers, both online and offline. Ideally, those interactions should cause customers to feel and act positively towards your business or brand. Here’s a few customer engagement examples that happen every day: a customer receives an email newsletter about a new product release and clicks through to the company’s website to see it. Or a customer calls the support line about returning an item. Or a customer watches a behind-the-scenes video about how a product is made on a company’s social page.
There are endless examples of customer engagement, but the bottom line is this: Businesses that focus on customer engagement are focused on value creation, not revenue extraction. They give people something meaningful beyond a sales pitch: a brilliant end-to-end customer experience, great content, or interactive, real-time customer support. When executed well, a strong customer engagement strategy will foster customer loyalty and sales growth.
How to increase customer engagement
Here are seven customer engagement strategies for building a loyal customer following:
- Create great customer experiences
- Make your brand relatable and meaningful
- Use push notifications
- Take advantage of conversational marketing
- Focus on retention
- Sharpen your social media marketing
- Capture hearts and minds with video
1. Create great customer experiences
If you need proof that customer experience is essential to consumer engagement, here it is: among companies who work to improve their customer experience, 84% report increased revenue .
It makes a lot of sense, really. We’ve all had bad experiences with companies which made us swear never to return! Waiting too long on hold to speak to a service rep, online checkout that was too complicated or (even worse!) a transaction that didn’t go through after entering all the information, reading a Tweet that was tone deaf – all these things are examples of bad user engagement.
So how about creating some good ones?
Making sure to deliver great customer experiences means first mapping out all the ways you interact with customers. Whether in a brick-and-mortar store, website, social media pages, emails, customer support center, and/or anything else, do a thorough analysis of each and see where you can improve.
2. Make your brand relatable and meaningful
Successful customer engagement isn’t just about making the user experience smooth and efficient (although that’s a huge part of it). It’s also about creating a brand personality that customers will love getting to know and want to engage with.
This is where brand awareness comes into the picture. Before engaging with a brand, the customer has to be aware that it exists and that it has something special, relevant or useful to offer.
Companies must work to create a sense of meaning and connection with customers, in order to attract their attention and facilitate opportunities for engagement. Part of that will come from the sense of authenticity you can create for your brand (which is absolutely essential for the brand-weary and socially conscious consumers of today. 86% say that brand authenticity is key to deciding which brands they like ).
Brands communicate that sense of authenticity in just about every way they do business. For some it might mean sourcing materials from suppliers who support your values and ethics. For others, it could come from the personal story of how the brand was born and the passion that created it. Whatever it is for your company, look for ways to let that authentic character shine, so customers can become aware of it, relate to it, and engage with it.
3. Use push notifications
Engaging with customers effectively sometimes means reminding them about what you have to offer. And push notifications are a great way to do that.
Push notifications are short messages that “pop up” on a user’s mobile or desktop screen, outside of the browser. They can be used to notify customers about special offers, events, or news. Customers must subscribe to receive push notifications, so by opting-in to receive them, they are already choosing to engage with the brand. The next challenge is crafting push notifications with a compelling offer or message that will excite the customer enough to click on it and engage even further.
The trick with push notifications is getting the content and timing just right. You don’t want to bombard customers with too many push notifications – the average US app user receives 46 push notifications a day, and 32% of users will disable push notifications if they receive more than 5 notifications a week . Another thing to look out for is segmentation. Not all notifications will be of interest to all customers. Try to segment your recipients into audiences that can be targeted with the most powerful message for them.
4. Take advantage of conversational marketing
Digital marketing is becoming more sophisticated, and so are the expectations of customers. The concept of a 9-5 store is not relevant anymore. Customers want and expect to connect with brands and companies whenever and wherever it suits them. If a customer buys an item online at midnight, and a problem occurs with the payment process, they want to have it dealt with as soon as possible.
Of course, some companies can’t necessarily provide that level of engagement at every moment of the day (and night), and that’s where conversational marketing tools, like chatbots, can be a huge help.
Chatbots are those automated chat services that appear online to help guide customers through their experience with a company. They are based on artificial intelligence technology that can mimic human conversational patterns and create engagement experiences that feel quite real. Even if the customer knows they are chatting with a bot, if the communication process is effective, they won’t mind. What matters is that the customer is being attended to, and that creates engagement.
A key aspect of creating successful conversational marketing is in the development of scripts and conversation flows. Take a look at some useful tips here .
5. Focus on retention
As every marketer knows, retaining customers is much more cost effective than acquiring new ones. Significantly. Existing customers spend more, spend more often, and recommend the brand or product to family and friends, some of whom also convert to customers.
Think of it this way: a customer will only return to a brand or business if they have good experiences with it. A consistent series of positive, reliable and fruitful interactions with a business will help keep customers engaged and satisfied, and ensure they come back.
Customers engage with brands over and over again when they feel appreciated, looked after, and excited by new and original offers.
Customer retention goes hand in hand with customer engagement. You can’t have one without the other. So any solid customer engagement strategy will need to include strategies for retention – keeping customers satisfied in the long term and through the entire lifecycle of their interaction with a business.
6. Sharpen your social media marketing
Being active on social media is a no brainer for businesses today. Every marketer knows they must be on social media, but the question is, how best to engage customers once you’re there.
Social media networks are crowded spaces, full of brands and products competing for customer attention. For this reason, customer engagement activities must be very focused.
How to engage your customers on social media
Although it might seem like a chore, it’s really important to respond to customer comments on social media, especially the negative ones. Customer complaints are also opportunities for engagement, and companies should take the time to address them carefully and properly. This can actually turn a bad engagement into a good one.
It’s also very important to post regularly and frequently. That doesn’t necessarily mean posting every day, but there should be a consistent stream of content and communication that customers can engage with. Take a look at this best practices guide for posting frequency. Also, try to start conversations on social media, rather than just talking to customers. Invite their participation and dialogue with interactive content, like polls, contests and quizzes. And be sure to follow up when customers do engage so they know they’ve been heard and considered.
7. Capture hearts and minds with video
Video is hands down one of the most powerful marketing tools available. And with global audiences spending more time on mobile, engaging customers with enticing bites of video at different moments has become one of the most popular tactics of choice for marketers.
The trick to creating great engagement is great video storytelling . While digital has drastically changed the way we live, some basic human qualities will never change, namely, the love of stories. Human brains are drawn to narratives. It’s how we make sense of the world and everything that happens around us. Companies that create interesting or moving stories with their brand videos will go much further in generating customer engagement.
Besides creating videos that tell stories, it’s also important which audiences you choose to tell those stories to. Targeting appropriate videos to customer segments via social media or native advertising means you are more likely to succeed in gaining their interest and engagement.
Engagement campaign examples
Customer engagement campaigns don’t necessarily have to be complex in order to get good results. Here are four examples of original customer engagement campaigns and tactics that really managed to entice and engage users with their message, structure and targeting.
1. Push notifications
The Growth Marketing team at Outbrain likes to use push notifications to alert customers about new content that might interest them. As customers have to “opt-in” to receive these notifications, they are already interested and engaged. The next challenge is deciding what content to push and how to push it. Below are two examples of push notifications that got pleasing results, around 3% open rate. Both of these promote recently published blog posts, and the notifications contain emojis and friendly, inviting language to catch the user’s attention and inspire them to engage. And of course, the Valentine’s Day notification was timed a few weeks before the holiday, when marketers are considering how to promote their Valentine’s Day offers, so engagement was naturally higher.
2. Video storytelling
This next example of consumer engagement is so brilliant, we’ve cited it before on our blog. In 2019, a family-run hardware store in Wales created a marketing video for just 100 pounds, and it went completely viral, garnering over 2 million views. Even small businesses with minimal budget can achieve massive customer engagement rates when they tell a captivating story in the right way.
3. Social media campaign
When the COVID pandemic hit and the world went into lockdown, Coors Light Beer launched a campaign to help alleviate what they called the “suckiness” of the situation. The brand created an amusing video looking back at all the “sucky” times in history, implanting a beer in the situation to boost the mood. The video was promoted on Twitter with an offer of a free six-pack delivered to anyone who #CouldUseaBeer. Customers just had to tweet at the brand using the hashtag. Coors Light supplied customers with 500,000 free beers in what was a truly successful consumer engagement campaign.
Let’s face it – right now, America #CouldUseABeer . Tell us who could use a 6 pack and why. We’re buying. Beer purch. req’d. Offer varies by state. See bio for T&C link. Ends 6/1/20. — Coors Light (@CoorsLight) April 28, 2020
4. Native advertising
Native advertising has evolved in recent years to include a wide variety of ad formats , from video ads to app install ads to carousel-style ads. This is great news for customer engagement, because marketers have many more ways that they can use native to capture customer attention and get users to interact with their content and brand. Check out this case study from Red Bull , which used Outbrain carousel video ads to create a rich storytelling experience and got incredible engagement rates: average session duration that was 96% higher than the target KPI!
How to measure customer engagement
Like any marketing activity, tracking and measuring performance of user engagement is essential. By measuring customer engagement over time, brands can learn how users are responding, and adapt and optimize their activities to achieve better results.
There are several metrics that measure customer engagement, as they give a strong indication of user interest based on actual behaviors. Here are three metrics that marketers commonly use for customer engagement monitoring:
- Conversion rates: This is the strongest measure of how well a campaign is performing. Whether the conversion action is completing a form, buying a product or downloading a catalog, the conversion rate will tell you that customers are engaged and interested enough to actively follow through.
- Time on page: The amount of time website visitors spend on web pages is a good indicator of how engaged they are with the content. Pages that have high time spent can be optimized further to engage users even more. Pages that are less engaging to visitors can be analyzed and even reworked completely to improve engagement.
- Video view completion: Consider how many users are watching the entire brand video, and this will give you a very clear idea of whether the content and story is engaging for customers. If a video gets a high completion rate, then it is obvious that the message and medium is working.
Why customer engagement matters
There are more ways than ever to engage with customers today. This means lots of opportunities for brands to capture consumer attention and get them on board. It also means that competitors have the same opportunities…
In order to boost consumer engagement, brands must actively work to connect and interact with customers, at every possible opportunity. Ultimately whatever customer engagement strategies you employ, be consistent. Craft messages that are on-brand and suitable for the target audience, and create positive end-to-end customer experiences, from their very first interaction throughout the entire brand journey.
Give them a consistent (and exceptional) experience and you’ll be rewarded with their trust, loyalty – and engagement.
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17 B2B Customer Engagement Strategies That Drive Retention and Loyalty
11 min read
Looking to try out new B2B customer engagement strategies to improve your product’s overall user experience and drive retention? We got you covered!
In order to acquire, convert, retain customers – and turn them into raving fans – you need to engage them first. Engagement is the sum total of all the ways you connect with your customers and foster meaningful relationships with them.
In order to do this successfully, you need to have a solid customer engagement strategy in place. Read along to learn how you can develop and implement this!
- Customer engagement is enabling customers to interact with your brand on an ongoing basis through any channel of their choice. These interactions focus on relationship building by providing customers with valuable content that helps them succeed.
- A customer engagement strategy is a detailed plan that includes all activities a company will employ to maximize CX and keep customers engaged throughout their journey.
What you stand to gain from successful customer engagement:
- Improved overall customer experience
- Increased retention and loyalty
- More revenue from upsells and cross-sells
- Customer experience is the customer’s perception of you, while customer engagement is how you interact with those customers. Both metrics work together to help you retain customers and keep them happy.
17 B2B customer engagement strategies for each stage of the user’s journey:
Start developing your customer engagement strategy with user journey mapping
- Hyper- personalize in-app communication and customer experiences
- Drive customer engagement and strengthen relationships with customer loyalty programs
- Use gamification to increase in-app engagement
- Measure customer engagement KPIs and metrics across the user journey and make iterations
Use social proof in your marketing materials
- Track product usage and in-app customer behavior to glean valuable insights
Re-engage inactive users with email marketing
Communicate product changes in a proactive manner, build virtual communities for your customers, collect customer feedback at multiple touchpoints and act on it, engage customers with in-product messaging, provide real-time engagement with a live chat or a chatbot, host virtual customer engagement events such as webinars, provide proactive support and ongoing education with a resource center, embrace video storytelling and embed it into your product experiences, share your company’s vision and gather user input with a public roadmap, what is customer engagement.
Customer engagement refers to the process of interacting with your users through a variety of channels and building a relationship with them.
Email, social media, community forums, and a company website are popular channels companies use for customer engagement.
What are customer engagement strategies?
A customer engagement strategy is a detailed plan that includes all activities a company will employ to maximize CX and keep customers engaged throughout their journey. A good customer engagement strategy has measurable KPIs and is always updated based on the performance data.
Why does customer engagement matter in SaaS?
Signing up to use your software is just one step you expect a SaaS customer to take. You want them to keep renewing their subscriptions and have a high LTV . The surest way to ensure that is by keeping them engaged with your product and brand.
Specifically, here are the reasons you should care about customer engagement:
Improve the overall customer experience
Good customer engagement strategies will lead to positive interactions and make customers feel good about your brand. This experience will, in turn, make them want to stick with you.
Repeated engagement results in increased retention and loyalty
Loyalty doesn’t just happen; it’s the product of ongoing engagement that builds emotional bonds between you and customers.
With this bond established, customers will keep renewing their subscriptions and stay loyal , provided your app continues to be valuable.
Boost revenue thanks to upsells and cross-sells
This is a consequence of the previous point.
Loyal customers are with you because your product satisfies their needs, which means this customer group is the most primed for upsells and cross-sells. They’ll easily upgrade with minimal push, leading to increased revenue for you.
Customer engagement vs customer experience
Customer engagement and customer experience are two sides of the same coin and are often combined to keep customers happy.
So what’s the difference between them?
For one, CX is more passive than CE: In customer experience, the user is the recipient of what the company does.
Customer engagement requires active participation from customers. You create the channels and content while users interact by sending emails, engaging with your social media posts, etc.
Another way to see it is that customer experience is the customer’s perception of you, while customer engagement is how you interact with those customers. As mentioned, CE and CX work together—People’s experience with your brand tends to improve over time as they continue interacting with you. And in turn, the positive experiences make them engage more.
17 B2B customer engagement strategies for each stage of the user’s journey
Our focus in this article is to help you improve customer engagement, not necessarily CX (although that’s often a de facto benefit).
Below are 17 strategies you can use to engage customers at different stages of their journey:
It’s impossible to develop effective engagement strategies if you don’t know your customers or what they want to achieve.
A clear user journey map helps you visualize how customers progress through your product, the experiences they’re expected to have, and possible challenges. In short, you’ll gather insights into customer behavior and identify opportunities for engagement.
Here’s what a simple journey map built with Miro looks like:
Hyper-personalize in-app communication and customer experiences
Personalization is one of the most popular engagement strategies, especially for B2B customers. And for good reasons—it makes customers feel like you know them and makes it easy for them to get things done on your app.
Common examples of SaaS personalization:
- Onboarding flow personalization
- Sending emails to the right user segments
- Revealing features based on the journey stage—as against showing customers everything at once and confusing them
- Segmenting dissatisfied customers and offering personalized assistance
The key to hyper-personalization is properly segmenting users, and Userpilot helps companies with that.
Here’s segmentation in action on our software:
Drive customer engagement and strengthen relationships with loyalty programs
SaaS customers won’t buy from you every day. But you need to keep your product top of mind so you’re the one they go to when next they need something you provide.
You do that by adding value to every engagement a customer has with your brand. The experience will be memorable, and they’ll keep thinking about you.
Loyalty programs are great for building this kind of relationship. Rewarding customers for something they would have otherwise done for free keeps them motivated and gives them something to remember your platform about.
There are essentially three kinds of customer loyalty programs:
- Points-based: Customers accumulate points for performing key actions and can exchange those points for something valuable.
- Referral-based : Rewarding customers with money or freebies from your platform for referring others.
- Mission-based : Having a compelling social mission and telling customers every purchase they make equals giving a fraction to that cause. Ideally, your mission should be something customers can relate to—e.g., poverty alleviation, free education, climate change, etc.
Use gamification strategies for increased in-app engagement
Positive reinforcement is something we’re all susceptible to. It’s just our brain’s way of ensuring we keep doing the things that bring good vibes.
Use positive reinforcement by rewarding customers for reaching important milestones on your app (e.g., feature activation, renewals, etc.). Your reward will make them feel good and be tempted to keep engaging to get the same dopamine rush.
Gamification elements you can use include badges, certificates, celebration modals, etc. Example from Asana: a magical creature appears every time new users complete a task.
Track customer engagement metrics across the user journey
There are several KPIs that can tell you how well your customer engagement strategies are performing. You’ll be more successful if you regularly track them and iterate based on the results.
Metrics for measuring customer engagement:
- Customer engagement score (CES) : This tells you how engaged your existing users are. This metric is measured by determining the most important events on your app, assigning engagement scores to each event, and calculating the sum of all the event values. CES varies for each customer based on the person’s engagement frequency.
- Retention rate : The percentage of customers retained over specific periods.
- Active users: The number of active interactions by your users. This is measured daily (DAU) or monthly (MAU).
- Number of Sessions per User: Tells you how frequently people revisit your product by calculating the average number of sessions per user.
- Sessions per day (Activation): Similar to the above metric, but measured per day and focused on user activation.
- Time Spent in the Product: Tells you the average time each visitor spends on your tool per day, week, or month.
- Onboarding Engagement: How engaged your new users are during the onboarding process.
- Feature Adoption: Tells you how many users interact with specific features over a given period.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) : An 11-point scale (0-10) that measures customer sentiment by asking them how likely they are to recommend your product.
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people tend to conform to the crowd to feel among or achieve the same results as others.
It’s increasingly becoming a strong tool for engaging customers, especially as most B2B buyers rely on testimonials and referrals. Adding social proof to your marketing material gives users and prospects something to interact with when unsure of your brand’s capability.
The rise of third-party review sites means you can’t afford to joke with social proof. Whether you’re intentional about it or not, customers will always leave reviews about your product where others can find them.
So, why not be proactive and ask loyal customers for reviews and testimonials? That way, you’ll be more in control of what potential leads read and hear about you.
Track product usage and customer behavior inside the app
The in-app customer behavior is a gold mine you wouldn’t want to sleep on.
Tag features and set goals to see how customers interact with your product. Notice where they get stuck and where they are successful, then use the results to make data-informed changes to your customer engagement strategy.
Inactive users are those who either stop using your product completely or no longer perform value-based actions.
You still have their emails, so reach out via that medium and provide a compelling reason to revisit your app/become more active.
Your compelling reason could be a new feature, FOMO by telling them what they’re losing out on the app, or discounts and limited deals.
Product changes are inevitable. As your software and user base grows, you’ll often need to add new features and sunset others. But how you approach change can determine if customers are carried along or not.
General principles for being proactive and driving engagement with product changes:
- Use a mix of channels to announce updates so users don’t miss it: blog posts, website banners, in-app notifications, emails, etc. Your announcements should focus on the value users will get by adopting the change.
- Let users know in advance when sunsetting a feature . Avoid taking them by surprise for something that serious.
- Ensure users know when you launch a new feature that will deliver new or extra value. Many of them won’t find out on their own due to feature blindness .
You can use modals to announce product changes. Example:
Building digital communities is a great way to connect with customers and engage them at scale. Communities also allow customers to network, ask questions, and share ideas.
There are several ways to go about community building. You could go light by simply having active social media accounts where you post engaging content, create polls, and interact with customers in the comments section or the DMs.
And you could go beyond that to create exclusive digital communities like a Facebook or Linkedin group, Slack channel, an online forum, etc.
Feedback lets you know what your existing customers think and feel about your brand. Collecting and analyzing it will enable you to draft better customer engagement strategies.
Generally, you want to collect both passive and active feedback, and look out for two things:
- What’s causing frustration: Avoid this in your CE strategy.
- What’s driving customer satisfaction: Create more of it to improve the product experience and drive more loyalty.
In-product messages come in different forms and can be used to drive free-to-paid conversion , trigger users to complete onboarding, promote special offers, etc.
These messages are best triggered contextually so the user can quickly take action.
Different forms of in-product messages include checklists , tooltips , modals, and microsurveys.
Live chat helps you to engage customers and provide immediate assistance to their problems.
You can also implement chatbots as standalone or complementary support to your live chat option. This approach will save you money—fewer people from the support and sales team on the payroll—while ensuring customers get immediate help.
Webinars humanize your brand because customers get to have face-to-face interaction with someone from your success team. They’re also opportunities for customers to ask you questions, share feedback, and even connect with other users.
We mentioned live chat and chatbot earlier. They have their place, but building an on-demand resource center is another way to engage with customers. The good thing about resource centers is that customers can visit them anytime without worrying about waiting in line.
Content formats to consider having in your resource center include guides, video tutorials , access to chat and support, etc. Basically, everything customers need to engage with your product and get unstuck.
Instagram reels and Tiktok videos aren’t having higher engagement just because they’re social media platforms. It’s actually an indication that our taste is gradually moving from text to visual content—especially videos. Even B2B buyers aren’t left out.
And why not? Videos are easier to consume, and they tend to do a better job of breaking down complex concepts. That’s not to mention the humanization and increased likeability that comes with seeing a customer success agent or hearing their voice in brand videos.
The customer communication software Tolstoy understands this. They use videos with real people at key points in their onboarding to drive better engagement and shorten the time to value.
Having a public roadmap means customers and prospects can visit at any point to have an idea of what you’re working on. It’s even more engaging when you make it possible for them to suggest ideas and vote for suggestions made by others. It’ll make them feel involved in your journey.
We’ve discussed 17 strategies; some complement each other while others are independent.
It’s normal to get confused when picking the strategies to implement. A few ideas to help:
- Start with the ones that stood out to you the most
- Don’t skip the fundamentals. You know them—user feedback, personalization, journey maps, etc
- Always track KPIs and make iterations until you’re satisfied with the result
Userpilot can help implement the customer engagement strategies you decide to focus on. Our product growth platform enables you to segment users and personalize product experiences, collect feedback with in-app surveys and track user behavior among many other things. Simply Book a demo and tell us what you want to experiment with!
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Oct 07, 2019 / by Wayne Eckerson Data Strategy Insider
Business engagement models - the key to value delivery.
The previous article in this series examined the teams and roles that comprise a data analytics program. This article focuses on the importance of establishing a strong relationship between business and technical teams and describes various business engagement models that sit at the heart of all successful data analytics programs.
There has always been a yawning gulf between business and technical teams. The two often speak a different language, sit in different departments, and have different goals and objectives. The business has a short-term perspective: it wants to move fast and adapt quickly to changing market conditions so it can meet business goals. Conversely, technical teams (often in the IT department) have a long-term perspective: they want to develop standard processes and architectures so they can deliver economies of scale and universal truth. These competing visions and objectives inevitably lead to conflict.
Until recently, the IT department had the upper hand: it controlled all the technology, data, and technical expertise and could dictate technical solutions. However, when IT forces every business unit to stand in line and wait to be served, mutiny results. IT’s perennial backlog causes business leaders to circumvent IT processes and standards, creating data silos and conflicting data.
Facilitate, Not Dictate. In the past ten years, IT’s hegemony has disintegrated, thanks to the advent of self-service tools, cloud-based data platforms and services, and a bevy of low-cost and open-source tools that make it easier for departments to create their own data and analytic environments. IT’s role has reversed 360 degrees: rather than dictate the terms of engagement, it facilitates how the business uses data and analytic solutions.
Centers of Excellence . Not surprisingly, this change in power dynamics has altered the fundamental nature of data analytics programs. Rather than act as a corporate shared service, today’s data analytics programs consist of “centers of excellence” or “competency centers” that help business units create business intelligence and data science solutions rather than always build solutions for them. (See figure 1.)
Figure 1. Business Engagement Models and Centers of Excellence
Although self-service has changed everything, everything still remains the same: data analytics technical teams must still engage with the business and build applications for them. That begs the question: how best should IT engage with the business to ensure optimal outcomes?
BUSINESS ENGAGEMENT MODELS
There are four primary business engagement models: 1) business requirements analysts 2) agile teams and methods 3) IT co-location and 4) spanners. (If you know others, please let me know!!)
Business Requirements Analysts
For decades, technical teams have used business requirements analysts (BRAs)-or simply business analysts—to engage business users. In fact, many companies still have large departments dedicated to these business intermediaries. One client has 75 staffers in its “Business Architecture” department—their job is to meet with business users at the outset of a technical project, gather requirements, and translate those requirements into technical specifications for developers.
The major problem with BRAs is that they are generalists—they don’t have deep technical or business expertise in a given domain. Consequently, they lack the context to fathom the real need behind business requests. Moreover, their requirements gathering process is generally serial in nature, not iterative: BRAs rarely reopen requirements documents because they have already moved on to the next project. BRAs are the cornerstone of waterfall development, which works well when requirements can be defined with certainty upfront, but work less well in data analytics where customers often don’t know what they want until they see it.
At Eckerson Group, we recommend clients replace BRAs with relationship managers (RMs) who are more senior than BRAs. The best RMs are business people with technical proclivity who come from the business they serve: they know the people, issues, politics, and challenges facing the business unit and speak their language. Thus, they quickly become trusted partners: they regularly attend strategic planning meetings and provide proactive advice on ways the business unit can use data analytics technology to solve problems and seize opportunities.
Whether a data analytics program uses BRAs or RMs, it’s imperative that the individuals are dedicated to a single business unit (or two smaller ones). To gain the business context they need to serve as trusted advisors, they should spend the majority of their time in the same physical location as the team they serve. The more they know the people, hear their conversations, and interact with them in formal and informal ways, the more valuable they become. Rather than order takers, RMs serve as internal consultants who devise clever ways to use technology for business gain.
In addition, the best RMs can develop a report or dashboard prototypes to help business people understand what is possible and provide a springboard for technical developers to build a robust solution. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words—or a thousand pages of technical specifications. Putting requirements into software fosters a healthy, iterative exchange of ideas that ultimately expedite development and guarantees customer satisfaction.
Many data analytics programs have replaced BRAs with agile teams that adhere to Scrum or other agile methods. The beauty of agile is that it supports an iterative approach to fleshing out requirements, using two- or three-week sprints that generate working code that business users can touch and feel. Iterative design and development work much better in data analytic projects than in traditional waterfall projects.
Business Involvement. The key to agile, however, is to get business participation on the team. This requires the business to allocate a portion of the time of a valuable subject matter expert. That person must be available during every sprint to reshuffle user stories (a lightweight form of business requirements) and review the output. Sometimes, this is a big ask and many agile teams fail to get adequate business participation, which undermines the value of the approach. Consequently, some agile teams refuse to work on projects unless the business commits to full participation.
Cross-Training. Another virtue of agile is that it encourages self-organizing, cross-functional development teams. Each agile team is staffed with functional experts—data architects, data engineers, BI developers, quality assurance analysts. In other words, everyone required to build a complete solution quickly. To avoid delays and increase skills, agile team members must learn each other’s roles and fill in if one person on the team is absent. This cross-training creates a stronger talent pool, improves staff motivation and engagement, and accelerates delivery cycles.
Retrospectives. The best part of the agile methodology is the “retrospective” conducted at the end of each sprint (and sometimes as a sprint itself.) During a half-day retrospective, team members review their work, identify problems, and suggest ways to improve the process. When conducted openly and candidly, retrospectives become the foundation for continuous improvement and heightened productivity. All grandmasters in a given domain—whether chess, football, art, management—learn by continually reviewing their mistakes and making adjustments.
Many IT departments have discovered the value of collocating technical experts in the business units they serve. This is great unless the IT experts represent multiple IT disciplines and thus become generalists whose job becomes more about consolidating and translating requirements for a corporate development team than building functionality. In other words, a glorified BRA with a tad more technical expertise.
We are a firm believer in the power of colocation. Technical developers, not BRAs, should be embedded inside departments so they are viewed as members of a business team who happen to have strong technical skills. They can report to the business unit head with a dotted line to the director or IT or vice versa—they can report to the director of IT with a dotted line to the business unit head. Embedded technical developers often create the most widely adopted solutions in an organization.
But colocation or embedding doesn’t work if the developer serves too many masters. In the data analytics realm, each department should have one or more embedded BI developers and perhaps a data engineer as well. As long as the embedded developers are aligned with the corporate data analytics team (i.e., a center of excellence) and its policies, processes, and standards, then they are likely to develop scalable, aligned solutions, not data silos.
The last business engagement model is the least common. It extends the IT colocation model to its logical conclusion. Rather than embed a technical specialist who can only build part of an analytic solution, a spanner builds the entire solution from start to finish. Spanners, as their name suggests, “span” the development stack: they gather requirements, create data models, build transformation scripts, design and publish reports and dashboards, run tests, manage operations, and generate insights for the business domain they serve. Phew!
As you can imagine, spanners are rare. They often exist in start-up environments or small departments, where one or two people design and build an entire reporting stack. As the company or department, and its appetite for data and reports grow, the scale of the solution often exceeds the ability of a single person to deliver it. Or the criticality of a solution requires a systematic workflow with multiple checks and input. In other words, you don’t want a spanner creating a financial report for public investors.
Summary: Choose Your Engagement Model
Perhaps the most important decision facing data analytics leaders are how to engage with the business to develop value-added solutions. Every approach has its tradeoffs:
BRAs are good for waterfall projects where requirements are straightforward and don’t change; RMs are great for building trust between business and IT and creating proactive solutions that circumvent the need for more traditional requirements processes; agile teams are great when short, iterative work cycles with active business participation can rapidly flesh out business requirements and deliver working applications quickly. IT colocation is valuable for building context-rich solutions as long as technical experts are not diluted with too many domains. And spanners are great for startups and small departments that need custom solutions built quickly.
A Champion Greases the Wheels of Business Engagement. For any business engagement model described above to work, data analytics leaders need to set the tone for business-IT relations. They need to proactively court business leaders, keep them apprised of new developments and relevant technology, and continually evangelize the value of data and analytics. A champion at the top greases the wheels for all business-technical interactions.
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5 Strategies to Build and Track Audience Engagement
Table of contents.
No matter your business’s industry, engaging your target customers is critical. Whether prospecting to generate new leads or communicating with customers , audience participation keeps your brand fresh and relevant.
Audience engagement translates to metrics like page views, email opens and Twitter interactions. While you don’t need to analyze every metric, focusing on specific measurements can help you achieve your goals.
We consulted with communications experts to bring you five essential strategies for building and tracking audience engagement. Here’s what you need to know.
Strategies to build and track audience engagement
Ideally, your marketing plan should engage current customers while drawing in new business. Fortunately, there are several proven ways to keep people interacting with your brand.
Here are five expert-approved strategies for boosting and tracking audience engagement.
1. Know your audience.
Audience engagement is a critical marketing element. To build your brand , you should know your current customers and understand your target audience. Who follows your brand? Who would you like to follow your brand? Has your audience changed?
“Sometimes your current audience is different from the group you originally wanted to communicate with,” said Chevon Drew, senior communications manager at Race Forward and Colorlines.
He used baby wipes as an example. “A business can manufacture and market baby wipes to parents for five years, experience an increase in sales, and attribute it to parents wanting more wipes.” However, if the business surveyed its customers, it might discover a huge upswing in people using baby wipes to remove makeup – a new, unexpected audience.
“That’s an example I fabricated,” Drew said. “But it illustrates the thinking behind doing less assuming and more surveying.”
2. Use engagement to achieve company goals.
Depending on your business’s size, your marketing and communication departments may be completely separate. However, they should always meet when discussing revenue generation.
“It’s important to make sure that your audience engagement initiatives align with your company’s overall goals,” said Elizabeth Riley Boyer, former vice president of marketing and communications at literacy courseware company ThinkCERCA.
She recommends following the OKR framework. “OKR” is a term used by Google, Intel, and other major corporations that stands for company “objectives” and measurable “key results.” Every objective should align with the company mission , values and vision statement , and each key result identifies how employees can work together to reach an objective.
“For nearly all businesses, you probably have some sort of revenue metric that you’re tracking,” Riley Boyer added. “At ThinkCERCA, we have some great data on platform usage leading to great student achievement results, which leads to increased customer renewals and expansions. So my team is currently looking at launching and growing engagement initiatives that support increased platform usage among teachers and students.”
In addition to revenue goals, ensure your engagement strategy aligns with your image. Media marketing guru Tony Tran pointed out that what works for Wendy’s is entirely different from the approach Starbucks or Nike would take.
Your engagement might be educational, supportive, or humorous, but it should be consistent; it should align with your company image and promote your goals.
OKRs and KPIs (key performance indicators) are both measurable ways to view a team’s performance. However, OKRs tell you where you should be going, while KPIs tell you whether or not you got there.
3. Hire an expert.
An average day for Drew involves tracking which links receive the most retweets from Twitter and shares on Facebook and analyzing open rates for their organization’s marketing emails .
That’s why Christina Ochoa, social media strategist and founder of The Social Butterfly Gal, recommends hiring a tailored professional well-versed in social media for business . To best serve her clients, she uses analytics and powerful visuals to market on Instagram.
“Digital strategy can be time-consuming and overwhelming,” Ochoa said. “Small business owners should hire someone who knows the digital world, can respond in a timely [manner] and [be] one [who] isn’t afraid to try new things when it comes to strategy or content.”
However, since social media is publicly accessible, an experienced professional doesn’t have to work in the industry. Their following and content can show how well (or not) they grab an audience.
4. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Digital media is constantly changing, with platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook always adding new analytics features and engagement tools. Experiment with your digital platforms and marketing emails to find what works.
“Our audience engagement editor is constantly testing subject lines and [the] best times of day to send a tweet,” Riley Boyer said.
Be mindful of getting wrapped up in what your brand “should” sound like, because you could lose your unique voice. An overly promotional tone makes content feel less relatable.
Authenticity is especially important for new companies just beginning to develop their voices. “Too many feel social media needs to be so straightforward,” Ochoa added. “Don’t be afraid to be real. That’s how people will feel connected to you and want to follow you!”
If you use a CRM solution in your business, your built-in CRM analytics tools can share audience insights as well as customer service and sales insights.
5. Build an engaging website.
Stoney deGeyter, president of Pole Position Marketing, offered several tips for enhancing audience engagement with your website:
- Optimize your website for fast loading times. Website speed is an often-overlooked element of website design. DeGeyter stressed the importance of a fast-loading and efficient website.
- Make your website mobile-friendly. Mobile-friendliness is critical as mobile and social media shopping continue to grow. Design your site to look as good on a phone or tablet as it does on a computer screen.
- Design an effective landing page. Offer options on the website landing page that can take your visitors in different directions, based on their preferences. This increases the likelihood that they will linger on your site, enhancing engagement and providing you with more opportunities to record their interactions. Include clear calls to action (CTAs) to move customers and prospects through your sales process.
Effective business websites have easy-to-find domain names, visible contact information and clear navigation menus.
Tools to help build and track audience engagement
These four tools can tie audience engagement strategies into your business’s everyday operations.
A journey map is a visual representation of how customers interact with your brand. It helps you identify the individual touchpoints that take your customers from first learning about your business to purchasing your products. This way, you can ensure each of these touchpoints is fulfilling customer expectations.
With programs such as UXPressia, Lucidchart and Microsoft Visio, you can create detailed flowcharts that lay out a customer’s journey through your brand’s sales funnel . This journey could include where they came from when visiting your website and what actions they performed on your site.
Use your completed journey map to see where you can better optimize users’ experiences with your business.
Customer surveys are the most direct way to get your customers’ perspectives on what resonates with them about your brand. With their opinions in mind, you can determine the best ways to build relationships with your customers and improve your products and services.
Simplesat, Startquestion, Typeform and SurveyMonkey are some of the survey tools that make it easy to gather feedback from customers. They also simplify organizing customer responses into information that will ultimately serve your business.
Marketing automation is software that automatically takes care of your marketing practices without needing constant oversight. Social media updates, email marketing, and text message marketing are all automatable tasks. Automating your marketing allows you to connect with your customers on various platforms while being free to focus on other areas of your business.
Marketing automation software gathers customer data to create relevant, engaging content. We reviewed the best marketing automation software to help businesses choose the right tool for their needs. Here are a few solutions to consider:
- HubSpot is our pick for the best marketing automation platform for small businesses. The solution is easy to use and scalable.
- Oracle Eloqua is our pick for the best marketing automation solution for enterprises. Eloqua is a comprehensive system that is highly effective for large companies and teams.
- Pardot is our choice for the most customizable marketing automation solution. Its robust features help you create quality content with ease.
- Zoho Campaigns earned our designation for best low-cost marketing automation software. This straightforward solution is highly usable and easy to learn.
Live chat gives your customers a convenient way to ask questions about your products and services. This audience engagement feature allows you to establish a helpful dialogue with your customers that keeps them around. They don’t have to initiate a phone call or visit your business in person.
Live chat can also help you identify any common issues your customers are having. Customers value this support and come away with a positive experience.
Sendinblue, LiveAgent and Intercom are just a few of the many live chat tools available for small businesses.
In a survey from Kayako , 52% of customers said they’re more likely to buy again from a company that offers the option of customer service via live chat .
Getting closer to customers
As you implement audience engagement strategies, don’t hesitate to share your business’s story and mission. These elements give customers a way to relate to your company. Use the information you gather from surveys to create a personalized experience so customers know you have their best interests at heart.
With all the above methods in the works and the tools to implement them, you’re on your way to adopting a customer-focused business model. That gives current buyers more reasons to keep bringing their business to you and new buyers all the more reason to get started.
Adryan Corcione contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
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Working together with State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies and their partners to effectively implement the requirements of WIOA
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Business engagement models and functions, what models & functions work best for business engagement, think beyond the job title: leadership values and vision.
One of the most challenging aspects of implementing an effective business engagement strategy is that of presenting a consistent message, public image, or brand identity – and this starts with the development of a shared vision and strong plan for internal communication. Leadership is the strategic driver that moves State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies (SVRAs) to build relationships with business and ensures high-quality services, dependability, and sustainability.
The Role of Leadership in Business Engagement
Some common organizational models and associated roles, centralized business relations unit.
In this model, business engagement is primarily the responsibility of dedicated staff located in the central VR office. This model supports a unified, consistent message to businesses and makes it easier to track business accounts and contacts. The agency's website can provide easily accessible information about services to businesses, and can offer a single point of contact for interested businesses.
Centralized operations may present a challenge in accessing smaller, local businesses that don't have a statewide presence. It can also be difficult to establish an effective system of communication about job-ready customers and possible job openings; counselors are usually best situated to have information about the former, and if job possibilities are being funneled through the central office it is necessary to quickly share the information with the field staff so action can be taken. In a small state this model may be efficient and effective.
Business specialists are responsible for knowing local labor markets, marketing VR services by participating in Chambers of Commerce events and similar activities, and responding to business needs for information and consultation. Meanwhile, they network frequently with local counselors who can link job-ready customers with interested businesses.
Direct Service Staff
More often in agencies that do not have a robust central or regional business engagement design, the role of engaging and supporting businesses falls to the community rehabilitation programs (CRPs) that are contracted to provide job development and placement services.
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Moving Beyond the Point of Contact: Internal Communication Plan
At different steps in the process of business engagement, new challenges arise for SVRAs. As the models indicate, the point of contact with a business or businesses may be a regional business relations rep, a VR counselor, a state coordinator of business relations, or a Community Rehabilitation Provider – or someone else!
Regardless of the model, internal communication is crucial for effective outcomes at all levels. Internal communication will make or break any organizational model. The most sophisticated customer tracking system will not ensure successful communication if there is no incentive to use it. It does very little good for a centralized Business Relations Specialist to have close relationships with potential employers if the field staff never get any information. Conversely, when it comes to responding to the need for qualified candidates, the point of contact needs information from VR counselors about customers who are ready and able to begin working.
Planning and Implementation of an Internal Communication System
Whether your VR agency is building a business engagement model from scratch or simply making improvements in an existing structure, effective internal communication is critical to success.
Communication inside large bureaucratic organizations is a constant challenge. In order to meet that challenge it is helpful to think about three elements of a communication system: the Who , the What , and the How .
The Who means the staff within the organization playing key roles and functions in the business engagement effort. The What refers to the information being exchanged among them. How refers to the methods being used to convey this information.
Today's VR business engagement models typically respond to dual customers: a business and a VR client. To determine what kind of information must be a critical part of an internal communication system, VR agencies need to consider the answers to some important questions about customers and who will use the information toward successful outcomes.
Here are some examples of questions to consider:
- Who are the leaders of the business engagement strategies in the agency? Who sets the direction for the rest of the staff’s involvement? Who clarifies the expectations around roles and responsibilities in the business engagement approach?
- Who initiates business contacts? Who maintains business accounts? Who shares the information within the organization? And with whom?
- Who ensures that VR consumer information, such as qualifications and availability, is readily accessible to meet demand-side needs?
- Who needs to know WHAT?
- What do VR counselors and business relations staff need to know about a company and a job opening to assure a quality job match?
- What client characteristics do VR counselors and business relations staff agree are critical for employment success?
- What labor market information gathered by business relations staff is of value to VR counselors and their clients? How and when can this information be used?
- What factors contribute to employment retention?
- What process measures can be introduced that will improve the quality of a business engagement effort? (e.g., number of referrals per job opening, number of interviews, job starts, number of client contacts-job shadow, informational interview, internships with businesses)
- What information exists within VR case management systems that can be used to forecast employment needs of clients?
- What kinds of information are businesses seeking about hiring people with disabilities?
- How will business relations staff ensure VR counselors are informed of employment opportunities?
- How will business contacts and accounts be shared?
- How can VR counselors access necessary business and labor market information in a way that is integrated with their daily work load?
- How do case management and business account systems interface?
- How is business account information kept current?
These are just a few examples of areas to be explored by VR agencies as part of a business engagement strategy. When consensus is achieved on the kind of information that is of value to various players, processes for sharing that information can be developed. The experience of asking and answering these kinds of questions has the potential of creating more trusting and productive relationships among VR counselors, business relations staff, and SVRA leadership.
How all of this information is communicated will vary greatly depending upon many factors, including agency size, geography, technology, and culture. The important factor is that administrators, business relations staff, and VR counselors participate in the design of whatever systems are developed to share information.
There is more to engaging business than creating positions and job descriptions within the SVRA. There must be a pervasive belief throughout all levels of the organization and all job titles that business is our customer, essential to our success. That critical message must be supported by systems that are aligned to deliver services to both industry segments and "Mom & Pop" shops, while preparing a qualified workforce of people with disabilities.
Download the brief, Developing a Business Relations Structure: Lessons Learned from VR Trailblazers [PDF] to learn more about six agencies’ business relations structures and functions, how they determined a business relations approach, and the challenges they faced throughout this process.
Necessary Functions for Business Engagement
VR agencies use many different models in engaging businesses at the state and local levels. Regardless of the model, there are certain functions that every VR agency must perform if it is to engage in a meaningful way with business. Who performs the functions depends on the vision and values of the organization, the size of the state and the agency, the number of full time positions and the geographic distribution of staff, the availability of and relationships with external partners, and economic development issues within the state. Download the guide, Building Business Relationships & Resources to help identify promising practices, tips, and questions to consider throughout the various stages of a business relationship lifecycle.
Business Engagement Staff Roles and Functions
The following sections review five Business Engagement functions: Marketing and Outreach, Assessing Business Needs, Responding to Business Needs/Requests, and Evaluating Customer Satisfaction.
MARKETING AND OUTREACH
Marketing and outreach.
Marketing programs, though widely varied, are all aimed at convincing people to try out or keep using particular products or services. According to the Small Business Administration, marketing emphasizes the value of the customer to the business, and has two guiding principles:
- All company policies and activities should be directed toward satisfying customer needs.
- Profitable sales volume is more important than maximum sales volume. ( sba.gov )
Business Outreach at VR
SVRAs are not seeking profit, but in a sense, they are selling a product or a service. If we replace the language in point 2—"profitable sales volume," with "high quality vocational outcomes," and "maximum sales volume" with "many quick closures"—this principle translates to a basic VR tenet: High-quality vocational outcomes are more important than many quick closures. We often hear "Careers vs. First Job/Any Job" as the distinguishing feature of the VR program among other workforce development programs.
Just as all VR participants have unique needs, so do businesses. As SVRAs seek to develop the most productive relationships with businesses, a firm understanding of the general functional capacity and skill base of the current clients receiving services as they relate to needed and available jobs in the local economy will aid in the profiling of target employers. (Fraser, 2008)
"Select a target market" is often the first piece of advice offered as organizations delve into marketing. Why? Because marketing isn't effective unless you know to whom you are marketing. To get results, your marketing must meet the needs of a defined group of people. Marketing messages must address specific needs and concerns. ( http://www.thinkadvisor.com/ )
Marketing involves repeatedly keeping the agency's name in front of the target market over an extended period of time. It takes work and persistence. If SVRAs are serious about gaining real results, it's wise to think of a marketing investment in terms of years rather than months. ( http://www.thinkadvisor.com/ )
Businesses must be contacted frequently in order to be responsive to vocational rehabilitation programs. Ideally, this is some form of consistent direct contact, but mailings, "e-blasts," newsletters, and other forms of publicity can maintain interest in your services and clients. (Fraser, 2008)
While some SVRAs conduct marketing initiatives and public information campaigns, a more familiar endeavor may be outreach. An external outreach effort requires true involvement in community organizations, such as Rotary, Chambers of Commerce, and other civic groups. Participation as a contributing member is critical to contacts with upper management in diverse businesses. In a nutshell, all VR personnel need to think "business engagement" both on and off the job. (Fraser, 2008)
SVRAs also need to develop an internal presence of business within the organization. On a basic level, employers may be brought in to teach job-seeking skills, provide informational interviews, or otherwise mentor clients. Over time, businesses may assume a more influential position on a project advisory board or the State Rehabilitation Council. How close can your program become to "being one" with the business community? (Fraser, 2008)
Oregon Commission for the Blind: The Business Perspective
How can VR market services to business? OCB asked business leaders what they think.
As part of their job-driven technical assistance project, the Oregon Commission for the Blind (OCB) and the Institute for Community Inclusion created a video series featuring OCB clients, Oregon businesses, and OCB business engagement staff.
In this marketing video, OCB lets businesses know that in addition to qualified job candidates, OCB offers a wide range of free services, including paid internships and other short-term work-based learning experiences; adaptive technology demonstrations; diversity training; accessible technology training and assessment; job retention; and much more.
Getting Your Message Out: The Power of Social Media
The pervasiveness of internet use in daily life creates an opportunity for organizations to make a “digital impact” through the effective use of social media. Its reach is vast. Recent marketing research from HubSpot reports that LinkedIn has 450 million members, with over 110 million of them visiting the site monthly. Facebook has 1.1 billion daily users, with 74% of them reporting to use the site for professional purposes. Read more...
R.T. Fraser / Successfully engaging the business community in the VR process, 2008.
ASSESSING BUSINESS NEEDS
Assessing business needs.
Businesses are looking for qualified, reliable employees. This is a given, but it's not true 365 days of the year, or even every year. If all that SVRAs have to offer is workers, there will be times that business has no need for us.
If we offer more, we stand a better chance of meeting a determined need. But how do we find out? How do we know what to offer and to whom?
A number of surveys have been conducted to determine needs of business in overcoming barriers to hiring people with disabilities. In one survey of mid-west managers, there was a strong need for adequate knowledge and experience related to hiring and retention of qualified individuals with disabilities and chronic health conditions. In the same survey, employers expressed need for support with identifying appropriate workplace supports, accommodations, and vocational services related to job retention and return to work (Chan, 2010).
Using a market research effort based on questionnaires given to current or prospective business leads, a SVRA can often uncover possible new products or services and identify dissatisfaction with currently offered services. Market research will also identify trends that affect potential relationships. Population shifts, legal developments, and the local economic situation should be monitored to quickly identify problems and opportunities (SBA).
Needs of individual businesses are as varied as the businesses themselves. Analysis of survey data and labor market trends only gives SVRAs part of the information. Once a relationship is established with a business, an important service that VR can provide is to help identify and prioritize their diversity needs. Frequently the need that is presented as a priority, such as hiring or training, is only the tip of the iceberg when a skilled professional begins to work on the underlying issues.
Some strategies for identifying business needs include:
- Involving frontline supervisors and workers in needs assessments to identify employer needs.
- Engaging groups of employers rather than single employers when possible.
- Partnering with employer associations when possible.
Download the guide, Interacting with Businesses: Guiding Questions Protocol , that provides sample responses and resources for business services representatives to reference as they respond to commonly asked questions by businesses.
BENEFITS OF SECTOR STRATEGIES
- Businesses experience greater success finding workers with the skills they need to compete and to expand.
- Workers receive relevant training that can lead to greater job stability and advancement opportunities.
Regional, industry-focused approaches to building skilled workforces are proving to be one of the most effective ways to align service providers to address the talent needs of businesses. Sector-based strategies take a comprehensive, broad-based approach to identifying and addressing skill needs across key industries within a region rather than focusing on the workforce needs of individual employers on a case-by-case basis.
These strategies require SVRAs and other regional workforce service providers to establish engaged and sustainable relationships with business to determine the specific skill and occupational requirements to meet industry needs. As these relationships strengthen, service providers will likely offer more customized, coordinated, and timely workforce solutions. Simultaneously, VR, education, and other training providers will refine programs and curricula to more tightly align with industry demands. (Kentucky Sector Strategies White Paper)
Chan, F., Strauser, D., Maher, P., Lee, E.-J., Jones, R., & Johnson, E.T. (2010). Demand-side factors related to employment of people with disabilities: A survey of employers in the Midwest region of the United States. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation.
Taylor, Colin, EMPLOYER ENGAGEMENT IN THE NATIONAL FUND FOR WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS, National Fund for Workforce Solutions, January 2011. http://www.jff.org/publications/employer-engagement-national-fund-workforce-solutions
RESPONDING TO BUSINESS NEEDS/REQUESTS
Responding to business needs/requests.
Business engagement is not a "one and done" deal. It is the establishment of a relationship over time, and the acknowledgement that needs change over the life of that relationship. Our response to emerging needs of business customers establishes our credibility and the long-term benefits of the relationship for all parties.
The following information was published by the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. It is a summary of effective business engagement strategies that are applicable in a VR setting. Actions that prioritize and demonstrate an ability to meet employer needs and/or requests may include:
- Providing employers with information—and lots of it
- Forecasting future skill shortages
- Adapting programming to employers’ future needs
- Aligning training programming, including customized training, with employer skill needs
- Tax incentives
- Employee retention/disability management
- Technical assistance
- Americans with Disabilities Act amendments and other legislation
- Training for potential hires, such as:
- On-the-job training
- Trial employment
- Job shadowing
The stage of the relationship between a SVRA and a particular business will indicate the kind of response that is appropriate, but there are basic principles that apply regardless of the specific need.
- Always demonstrate respect for the business and the people, no matter how little they understand disability.
- Respond in a timely manner.
- Directly address the issues presented, or find someone who will.
- Do what you say you will do.
Taylor, Colin, EMPLOYER ENGAGEMENT IN THE NATIONAL FUND FOR WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS, National Fund for Workforce Solutions, January 2011. http://www.jff.org/publications/employer-engagement-national-fund-workforce-solutions
EVALUATING CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
Evaluating customer satisfaction.
SVRAs have a long-standing history of assessing satisfaction with services provided and the subsequent results for people with disabilities who have received VR services. A similar approach must be taken with business customers in order to evaluate and improve VR business services. Some questions to ask your business customers include:
- Did the agency meet the identified need?
- Were services of the quality expected?
- Were services timely?
- Will you call on our agency again to meet future needs? Why or why not?
Some SVRAs are already tracking satisfaction of the business customer. As an example, Vermont DVR has information on its website regarding consumer, employer, and staff satisfaction survey results: http://vocrehab.vermont.gov/whoweare/ourresults/satisfaction
Frequency, tools, and modalities used in the evaluation effort will vary depending on the stage of the relationship and the content of the interaction(s). An annual emailed survey is probably the least productive way to get businesses to provide feedback on their satisfaction—how many of us bother to complete a satisfaction survey that may arrive months after we purchased an item or received a service?—but it may remind inactive business partners about the resources and services that are available from the VR agency.
Here are some other ways to assess business customer satisfaction. The approaches that take more time and personal attention generally yield the most useful information, so you need to balance the cost of the approach against the potential benefit.
- Follow-up survey (email or phone) immediately after services are provided to businesses (consultation, resources, referral of job candidates, etc.)
- Personal "check-back" visits to businesses following provision of services. This might also include leaving behind a short paper-and-pencil survey along with a pre-addressed envelope.
- Focus groups of businesses that have received services from the VR agency.
- Open discussions with business groups (e.g., Rotary Club) about VR's role and efforts.
Communication to Enhance Performance
The real value of a well-designed internal communication system is that the information that it produces will determine the performance of the business engagement system. Therefore it is important to build in regular reviews of the communication system to assess the quality and quantity of the information being shared.
Is the information helping VR counselors to identify potential job seekers more quickly? Are business relations specialists receiving quality candidates for the openings they are obtaining from business customers? Are job retention times improving? If the VR agency is not achieving the desired performance from the business engagement system, based upon these reviews, adaptations and changes need to be made with the full inclusion of business engagement staff and VR counselors.
What Models and Structures Work Best for Employer Supports?
Roles and functions.
VR agencies use many different models to support employers at the state and local levels. The various configurations of management, staff, and external contractors dictate the allocation of resources toward serving business customers and meeting the needs of employers of VR participants.
Regardless of the configuration, there are certain functions that every VR agency must perform if they are to support employers in a meaningful way. Who performs the functions depends on the vision and values of the organization, the size of the state and the agency, the number of full-time positions and the geographic distribution of staff, the availability of and relationships with external partners, and the economic development issues within the state.
While there are a variety of organizational models for engaging businesses, the tasks related to employer supports become the responsibility of the VR counselor as part of a consumer's Individualized Plan for Employment. Counseling and guidance must include discussion of necessary accommodations for success on the job. Through this dialogue, consumers may determine their comfort level in requesting accommodations and other kinds of support, the anticipated need for post-employment services, and the need for training in soft skills, including employee-employer relationship protocols. The need for supports–for both the employer and the employee–is highly individualized.
Ideally, the counselor-client relationship is expanded to include the employer once the individual with a disability acquires a job. In some cases, the VR counselor takes a back seat in the negotiation with the employer, but often there is a more active role as an employee advocate or employer educator. The counselor may provide information and referral, on-the-job training, planning for reasonable accommodations [PDF] , workplace training in disability awareness, or any other indicated consultation services. He or she may fulfill these responsibilities through purchased services or through the work of agency staff.
Webinar View ExploreVR two-part webinar, Reasonable Accommodations Process for VR Counselors Part 1 & Part 2 to learn more about the counselor’s role in the accommodations process for job seekers.
Who provides the supports?
It depends on the employer's needs, the resources of the agency, availability of qualified community rehabilitation providers, etc. The VR agency may offer specialized services for assistive technology or interpreting, may offer services of a business relations unit in providing workplace education, or may contract out most of the employer support once a job seeker is hired following a referral from VR.
When contracted service providers (e.g., CRPs) are used by a VR agency to provide services like job development, job placement, and job support, the counselor often maintains minimal involvement once the individual has been referred. This generally results in a total lack of connection between the counselor and the employer; the primary relationship is between the employer and the CRP, and the employer may not even realize that the VR agency is involved.
This is ill-advised for at least two reasons. First, although it would be ideal if every CRP provided excellent service to both the individual with a disability and the business, that is not always the case. As long as the case is open, the VR counselor retains a responsibility for making sure that appropriate and effective services are being provided, and adjustments to the plan are made as needed.
Second, when the counselor and the VR agency are invisible to the business customer, there are missed opportunities for further relationship building and networking with the business community. In addition, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act [PDF] requires the VR agency to collect wage and hour data six months and one year after the person exits the program; this may be difficult to do if the VR agency has no relationship with the business that has hired the VR participant.
On the other hand, there are several advantages to using contracted services to provide employer supports. Contracted services can be brought in as necessary, without providing a full-time book of work to a permanent VR employee. CRPs are often already engaged with employer support due to their service of customers referred by the state's developmental disabilities and/or mental health agencies. Employer support requires a different skill set from rehabilitation counseling, and counselors may not want to or feel qualified to provide these services.
In many states, contracted service providers are paid far less than their state employee partners. While this isn't necessarily good news for being able to access qualified and experienced providers, it can reduce the cost of job coaching and employer support services.
The model used to provide employer support has significant implications for the agency's fiscal planning and cost allocation. If services are provided by internal staff--whether counselors, aides, rehabilitation techs, employment specialists, or some other job title--then the number of staff and time allocations must provide enough capacity to meet the need for services. In particular, if counselors are the primary providers of employer services, their job descriptions and caseload sizes must reflect this responsibility and time commitment.
If services are provided by CRPs, the staff FTE requirement may be less, but funds must be allocated for contracted services as well as for agency staff to contract with and monitor these vendors. Depending on the number of vendors, the size of the state, and the need for contracted services, the cost for purchased services could be significant.
Necessary Functions for Employer Supports
Because of the individualized nature of effective employer supports, it's difficult to lay out a recipe for success. The VR participant who finds his own job and does not want to disclose his disability may not want or need any services beyond counseling and guidance. Another individual who needs customized employment, intensive job coaching, and long-term support may require a wide range of employer supports in order to be successful: job analysis and carving, coworker and supervisor consultation or training, access to assistive technology, and access to problem-solving resources for as long as she is employed.
Common areas of employer support include recruitment and hiring employees with disabilities; job matching, modification, and accommodation; support for job retention; and information/resources about laws and regulations. The following functions are relevant to all the employer support areas:
- Assessing business and employee needs
- Providing support and resources to employers of individuals with disabilities for recruitment, onboarding, training, and retention
- Tracking business accounts and results
- Managing/overseeing the work of contracted service providers
- Evaluating customer satisfaction (both employer and employee)
Assessing Employer Satisfaction with VR Services
Vocational Rehabilitation agencies should develop a procedure for assessing employer satisfaction with the employer support services offered. Since most VR agencies contract with Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs) to provide a significant portion of employer supports services, these surveys could also be used to evaluate the quality of services provided through those CRPs.
These surveys could assess employers’:
- Knowledge about the range of services available,
- Satisfaction with the quality and timeliness of the services,
- Satisfaction with the communication between the VR department/CRP and the employer,
- Satisfaction with the staff members providing services and their competence,
- Satisfaction with the applicants they hired from VR and their ‘fit’ with the employer’s business,
- Perceptions about the usefulness of the services.
Surveys should be kept as succinct as possible and could be administered biannually or once a year to gather data to support program improvement and accountability. Here are two examples shared by the North Carolina [DOC] and Alabama [DOC] VR agencies.
Communication Issues in Employer Supports
There are multiple communication issues that can arise when a VR agency offers to provide support to employers. Since VR agencies may choose different structures to provide these supports, it's impossible to recommend a single approach to efficient communication!
This document reviews some variations on the types of support that may be requested, the initial recipient of the request, and the person who ultimately provides the assistance. It goes on to suggest questions that should be discussed and resolved as the agency designs and implements their employer support services.
Support requests can come in to internal staff
- Business specialists (central, regional, or local)
- Employment specialists
- Counselor techs/aides
- Or CRPs working with the business
Requests can involve:
- Sourcing qualified candidates with disabilities
- Assistance with Section 503, the ADA, other laws and regulations
- Information/training on disabilities or disability etiquette
- Assistance in training, accommodating, or supporting newly hired VR participants
- Assistance in training, accommodating, or supporting former VR participants working at a business
- Assistance in training, accommodating, or supporting incumbent employees with disabilities with no previous VR involvement
Support can be provided by internal staff:
- AT specialists
- IL specialists
- SVRA job coaches
Questions about employer supports and internal communication:
- Who makes the initial response to requests for information, training or candidate referrals from businesses that have NOT hired VR participants in the past? Who follows up, and how do they get the referral? Who provides the service, and how do they get the referral? How is the service tracked for later reporting?
- Who makes the initial response to requests for information, training or candidate referrals from businesses that HAVE hired VR participants in the past? Who follows up, and how do they get the referral? Who provides the service, and how do they get the referral? How is the service tracked for later reporting?
- Who makes arrangements for assistance in training, accommodating, or supporting newly hired VR participants? Who follows up, and how do they get the referral? Who provides the service, and how do they get the referral? How is the service tracked for later reporting?
- Who makes arrangements for assistance in training, accommodating, or supporting former VR participants? Who follows up, and how do they get the referral? Who provides the service, and how do they get the referral? How is the service tracked for later reporting?
- Who makes arrangements for assistance in training, accommodating, or supporting incumbent employees with disabilities with no previous VR involvement? Who follows up, and how do they get the referral? Who provides the service, and how do they get the referral? How is the service tracked for later reporting?
Questions about employer supports and communication with contracted external providers (CRPs):
- What services are agreed upon? Who provides the service and what is the referral process? How is the service tracked for billing and reporting? How are these services and terms of the contract communicated to the VR agency field staff? And/or Business Relations staff?
- Communicate the employment goal and clearly specify how the CRP services are expected to contribute
- Contact the employer and share information about the role of VR in this partnership, as well as other employer supports VR might be able to provide
- Monitor and follow up on CRP communication about progress or lack thereof
Click here to explore journal articles on Employer Supports [PDF] .
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How to Create a Stakeholder Strategy
- Darrell Rigby,
- Zach First,
- Dunigan O’Keeffe
Lately companies have come to recognize the limitations of the view that they must create value only for shareholders. Recognizing that every stakeholder has an impact on other stakeholders—engaged employees improve customer satisfaction, which in turn spurs growth, and so on—many CEOs are pledging to generate benefits for all their constituents: customers, workers, suppliers, communities, and investors. But few leaders have explicit strategies for doing so; most seem to rely on intuitive approaches.
The good news is, firms can use data to design and implement effective stakeholder strategies. They should start by exploring outside perspectives of the value they produce—specifically, the ratings of agencies like the Drucker Institute and Just Capital. Firms must then bolster data from such third parties with inside insights and gain an understanding of the interdependencies among their particular stakeholders. Armed with that, they can develop a clear description of their purpose, establish criteria for evaluating progress toward it, set priorities among stakeholders, and start measuring value creation for each group. The last step is sustaining the new strategy through cultural change and by developing supporting processes and organizational structures.
A data-driven approach to design, measurement, and implementation
Idea in Brief
There has been growing recognition that the shareholder value movement went too far and that to create sustainable, responsible businesses, companies should provide benefits to all stakeholders. But the big challenge has been developing a strategy for doing so and a mechanism for implementing it.
A Critical Advance
Dozens of firms have helped substantially improve the quantity and quality of publicly available data about companies’ impact on their stakeholders. The data proves that the companies that create the greatest total value across all dimensions of performance don’t do so at the expense of shareholder value.
Data can also greatly improve the strategy development process. First you need to make sense of outside perspectives of the value your company is generating. Then bolster data from those outsiders with insider insights, analyze the interdependencies among your stakeholders, and create your own strategy. Finally, build systems to implement and sustain it.
Most people will readily agree that the first responsibility of business leaders is to grow the long-term value of their companies. But that’s where the agreement ends and the debate begins: What is value, and how should it be measured and managed? Is a company’s value maximized by being shareholder-centric, customer-centric, employee-centric, or some-other-stakeholder-centric? In a complex system where every stakeholder influences other stakeholders’ outcomes—highly engaged employees improve customer satisfaction, which in turn helps accelerate profitable growth, and so on—are any stakeholders safe to neglect?
- Darrell Rigby is a partner in the Boston office of Bain & Company. He heads the firm’s global agile enterprise practice. He is the author of Winning in Turbulence and a coauthor of Doing Agile Right: Transformation Without Chaos (Harvard Business Review Press, 2020).
- Zach First is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Bain & Company. He leads the firm’s stakeholder strategy work. From 2016 to 2022 he was the executive director of the Drucker Institute. DrZfirst
- DO Dunigan O’Keeffe is a partner in the San Francisco office of Bain & Company. He heads the firm’s global strategy practice, focusing on long-term growth, building new businesses, and the founder’s mentality.
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Top Strategies to Build Employee Engagement
Learn how to implement employee engagement strategies to improve company culture, employee well-being, and productivity.
Employee engagement is the connection an employee has to their organization. This affects whether employees choose to stay at the organization, how satisfied they are in their position, whether they go above and beyond to foster company growth, and how committed they are to promoting the company mission. While many organizations work to improve company engagement, many need help to retain employees and improve employee engagement. However, focusing on key drivers of employee engagement and designing strategies around these drivers may help your organization foster engagement and improve organizational success.
In this article, we will dive into the importance of employee engagement and how you can use top strategies to boost employee engagement in realistic and effective ways.
Why is employee engagement important?
Employee engagement is one of the key drivers of organizational success. Because of this, it is a focal area of many successful organizations, such as Microsoft, Apple, Salesforce, PepsiCo, and Cisco Systems.
Employee engagement has been linked to company and individual success in more ways than one. Companies with higher employee engagement tend to have higher levels of employee satisfaction, higher profits, high productivity, reduced employee turnover rates, higher safety levels, and more. According to Gallup, businesses with higher employee engagement had a 23 percent rise in profitability compared to teams with lower engagement levels [ 1 ]. With such strong associations with company benefits, you may seek strategies to improve employee engagement within your organization.
Read more: Why Is Employee Engagement Important?
How to find the best employee engagement strategy
According to Gallup, five key factors drive employee engagement [ 1 ]:
Employee and organizational purpose
Opportunities for employee development
Positive relationships with managers who foster employee growth
Ongoing communication and open conversations
Focusing on strengths
When designing employee engagement events or strategies, it is crucial to promote key drivers of employee engagement. Engaged employees feel optimistic and passionate about their work, and they often feel connected to the organization and its mission. When employees have room to grow, are passionate about their work, and are team-focused, the entire organization benefits.
While employee engagement is closely related to high employee satisfaction, they differ. Employee satisfaction refers to how content in their position an employee is. However, this does not necessarily relate to the employee’s organizational commitment. Employee engagement refers to the emotional commitment to the organization and mission. A satisfied employee might arrive at work, but an engaged employee will go above and beyond to meet project goals and foster progress. When designing an employee engagement strategy, it is important to focus on increasing engagement.
Strategies to improve employee engagement
There are several ways to improve employee engagement, and the dynamic of your team and organization will determine which strategies are right for you. For example, if your team works remotely, an in-office lunch will not be the best strategy, but a company-funded Zoom lunch meeting with delivered meals may be a fun alternative. Employee engagement is an ongoing process, so try not to get discouraged if your first idea doesn’t work. Listen to your team’s feedback and determine which strategies yield the best results.
Promote employee bonding.
Incorporating fun activities into your work environment can help build relationships between employees within the company. Coworker relationships, collaboration, and communication are key drivers of employee engagement. When employees can bond and build feelings of inclusion and camaraderie, teams may become more effective, and employees may develop stronger ties to the organization. For a fun way to encourage bonding between employees, consider the following ideas:
After work happy hour
Holiday lights show
Offer perks of employment.
By offering employment perks, you can help your employees feel valued within your company. While this alone may not increase employee engagement, it can provide a space where employees feel appreciated, respected, and cared for by the company. Examples of potential employment perks include:
Wellness budget or discounted rates
Paid time off
Flexible working hours
Discounted sports or event tickets
Discounted restaurant prices
Many industry leaders provide their employees with top-notch perks. For example, Google creates a fun environment in the office, including access to fitness studios and free meals. Salesforce Inc., on the other hand, offers employees $100 per month for wellness, helping to promote work-life balance.
Create a space for open feedback.
Communication is one of the driving forces for employee engagement. By implementing engagement strategies that open communication within the organization and acting on employee feedback, you can help employees feel like they are shaping the workplace. This instills feelings of trust and a bond between employees and the organization. To foster this collaborative space, consider:
Daily or weekly surveys on employee experiences
Regular meetings between employees and higher levels of management
Open Slack or communication channels for employees at all levels
Open communication and a “fluid hierarchy” exist at many top-performing organizations, including Apple. By ensuring employees at every level feel valued and open to giving feedback, organizations can ensure the workplace is a conducive environment for growth at all levels.
Provide learning and development opportunities.
By showing opportunities for growth within the companies, employees may be less likely to feel “stuck” or like they need to move outside the organization to grow within their professional careers. Your goal should be to show employees that there are opportunities to expand within the organization and that internal candidates are promoted to higher positions within the company. Consider implementing ongoing learning opportunities such as:
Lunch and learn meetings where speakers can share expertise and network
Training opportunities to learn new skills
Learning opportunities in line with company goals to help employees grow within roles
Speakers to enhance employee knowledge and motivate teams with fresh perspectives.
Clear strategic alignment and a transparent company mission give employees a sense that they are working toward a common goal. This gives a sense of purpose within the organization, which is one of the highest drivers of employee engagement. If employees feel they have the opportunity to thrive within the organization and help promote positive change, they may feel more committed to their position and team.
Read more: 15 Employee Engagement Ideas
Employee engagement is a top driver for company success. To learn more about utilizing these strategies, consider top courses on Coursera, such as the Engagement & Nurture Marketing Strategies course by Northwestern University, SAP Customer Engagement and Discovery by SAP, or Accountability and Employee Engagement by the University of Colorado Boulder.
Gallup. “ What Is Employee Engagement and How Do You Improve It? , https://www.gallup.com/workplace/285674/improve-employee-engagement-workplace.aspx.” Accessed November 2, 2023.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
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What is engagement strategy?
Six years ago, when Elinor started her journey, she was a community manager looking to take on clients’ challenges in developing and managing communities and social media.
After a very short while, she noticed the gap goes deeper and market needs are for something more. A “combined mix” of services so to speak.
“Engagement strategy” was born out of her trying to create a tailor made mixture of services for each and every client individually.
However , Engagement strategy is not a service based perspective. It looks at the whole business model from a very different angle, the one of communities .
Engagement strategy begins with identifying the communities of a business, learning their language, the places they “hang in” (online and offline!), their actual needs from the client’s business or brand, and from there stimulate the business growth process.
In effect, breaking down this concept will eventually produce a list or a mix of services. Services such as: content writing, social media management, community management, PR, inbound marketing, campaigns, influencer marketing and much more.
We use the power of communities and what the industry calls HX (Human Experience) to create and promote brands, to help businesses grow.
With the human connection in mind, we consult our clients on the optimal mix of services they need, including the actual work plan (frequency and types of content, where should it go, who are the thought leaders they should connect with and how to reach them and more). The result is a tight strategy that promotes both the business (growth, sales, investments) and the marketing (brand awareness, inbound and outbound) without compromising the level of materials, and in a manageable way that doesn’t just “make noise for the sake of making noise” but truly provides added value to their clients and communities.
With this same approach we also help corporations develop and execute employee engagement and advocacy program, select their specific service providers for whatever it is they need (content, social media or anything else) and even train employees who will be executing the strategy.
Sticky Business: 5 User Engagement Strategies to Make Your Product Sticky
- Digital Marketing
Every new brand or product is always looking for growth, but what many people overlook is that retention and sustained engagement is also a big part of what growth means. Growth is not just about acquiring new users — it’s about building a product that continuously engages users in order to retain them overa period of time and reduce customer churn rates.
In an era when user attention spans are fleeting, making your helpful product sticky isn’t merely an option, it’s the foundation of lasting success, especially if you want to eventually scale your product to bigger markets. By leveraging the right user engagement strategies, you can build a product that fosters an self-compounding loop of acquisition, retention and referral , ensuring a successful long-term path towards exponential growth.
What is a user engagement strategy?
The term “user engagement strategy” has been an industry buzz-phrase that’s slowly gained prominence as mobile apps continue to grow in popularity across multiple industries. At its core, a product engagement strategy is a deliberate and systematic approach taken by companies to create and nurture a deeper connection between their product and its users. It’s the art of transforming casual users into loyal customers, creating a bond that goes beyond mere functionality or utility.
A robust product engagement strategy encompasses a range of techniques and practices designed to keep users actively involved with your product. It’s about turning occasional interactions into regular engagements and, ultimately, forging an emotional connection between users and your brand. This isn’t achieved through chance; it’s a meticulously crafted plan that leverages user data, feedback loops, personalized communications , and user-centric design. In essence, a product engagement strategy is the blueprint for creating that magnetic pull that keeps engaged customers coming back for more.
What does it mean to have a “sticky” product?
A “sticky” product is essentially what you achieve when you pair an efficient acquisition funnel with an effective user engagement strategy. To have a “sticky” product is to have a sustainable ability to keep users coming back, time and time again, much like a cherished ritual or a favorite daily habit. It’s a product that has successfully ingrained itself into the lives of its users, creating an almost instinctual attachment on a day-to-day basis. But what lies beneath this notion of stickiness?
Product stickiness differs slightly from customer retention in that it’s not just about retaining a newly acquired user; it’s about creating a profound and lasting relationship between the user and the product itself. Think of it as an emotional bond, where users feel an authentic personal connection, loyalty, and a sense of trust with the product or brand. A sticky product is one that seamlessly fits into a user’s daily routine, solves their problems, and provides consistent value, making it difficult for them to imagine life without it.
It’s an embodiment of user-centric design, excellent functionality, and the successful implementation of user engagement strategies. Having a truly “sticky” product means that your users don’t merely use but genuinely love the product, and actively want to make it a central part of their lives.
What are some examples of product stickiness?
Spotify is a prime embodiment of what product stickiness can be. Aside from being the world’s most popular audio streaming service today, Spotify is also a leader in innovative user engagement strategies , including everything from viral organic marketing strategies to bold moves in the metaverse space. Spotify is a good product, sure, but what is it that makes the product so sticky?
Spotify’s user engagement strategy centers on tying together the emotional element of music with the data-driven capabilities of a mobile streaming app. Spotify really leans into the relationship between music and emotion, and builds their strategy around what music means to people. Here are just a few examples of innovative user engagement strategies that unlocked sustained product stickiness:
- Playlist in a Bottle: Many people associate music with the idea of memory and nostalgia, so this year Spotify created a “Playlist in a Bottle”, which lets users create a musical time capsule that will be unlocked in January of 2024. Since users have to wait until 2024 to “unlock” their playlist, this nostalgia-steeped feature essentially locks a user into their Spotify subscription for another year.
- Spotify Blend: This regularly-updated playlist combines the music you and another person listens to based on your shared listening activity. By tapping into the relationships that users have with their friends, family and fellow music-lovers, Spotify creates an additional incentive for users to return to the app as a way to see how their “taste match score” has evolved.
- Spotify Wrapped: Spotify’s viral “Spotify Wrapped” marketing campaign is another user engagement strategy that dominates online conversations and social media platforms come every December. The campaign was so popular that it became some sort of an annual tradition or a rite-of-passage for die-hard Spotify users — meaning you have to stick to having Spotify year-after-year in order to participate in this cultural phenomenon.
- “My Top 5”: Spotify’s “My Top 5” experience allows users to identify their top 5 moments from an artist’s discography, before revealing to them what their top 5s actually are based on their listening data. This interactive experience taps into the excitement that fans have for their favorite artists, creating a stronger emotional connection between the user and music they love — and ergo the app that strengthens that bond.
Another brand that excels at building product stickiness is Oura Ring, a smart ring product and software app that tracks your sleep, activity, and health all from the palm side of your finger. The ring itself is obviously something that contributes to the app’s stickiness — you have to wear it every day in order to track your daily health key metrics; but there are plenty of key features in the app itself that help ensure that users are checking in on their statuses on a regular basis.
In particular, the Oura Ring app uses gamification and progress-tracking as a way to motivate users to actively integrate the product into their daily habits and behaviors. Here’s how they do it:
- Sleep scores: The Oura Sleep Score (1-100) tells you how well you sleep every night. By tying a tangible, regularly-updated metric to a daily activity, the feature essentially ensures that users are checking the app at least once a day in order to stay updated on their score.
- Activity goals: Asking users to create a goal, and then tracking their progress on that said goal, is a common and highly effective way to incentivize users to return to the app on a regular basis. The “credit” that the user gets from making progress on their goal simulates the feeling of a reward, which keeps them coming back for that feeling of accomplishment and customer satisfaction.
- Oura Circles: Similar to Spotify Blend, Oura Circles turns the app experience into a way to connect with others — meaning that you’re not just driven to the app to check on your own scores, you are motivated to use it to check on others too.
How do you increase user engagement?
Here are 5 key strategies that can help you increase user engagement and make your product more sticky.
Gamification, the strategic integration of game-like elements into non-gaming contexts, has emerged as a powerful tool for enhancing user engagement and making products more irresistibly sticky. By tapping into fundamental human desires for achievement, competition, and rewards, gamification transforms mundane interactions into captivating experiences.
Whether it’s earning loyalty badges for completing tasks, competing on leaderboards, or conquering challenges, these game mechanics not only inject fun and excitement but also fuel motivation, encouraging users to return to your product consistently. The beauty of gamification lies in its ability to cater to a wide range of user preferences and behaviors. It fosters a sense of accomplishment, triggers dopamine releases, and creates a sense of progression, all of which hook users and keep them coming back for more.
SoulCycle, the iconic indoor cycling studio, has redefined the fitness experience by weaving gamification into its offerings, ensuring robust user engagement and product stickiness. At the heart of their strategy are the milestones and achievements, where riders earn badges and celebrate their dedication with every ride, fostering a sense of accomplishment and encouraging riders to keep coming back for more. Additionally, their innovative “SoulBeat” feature, which provides riders with a beat match score for each session, turns every workout into a challenge and an opportunity for a post-workout app check-ins.
Riders can strive to improve their scores and reach new personal bests, transforming their customer journey into an addictive game. These gamification elements not only inspire competition but also create a strong reason for the user to continually return to the app and the studio for a sense of progress and accomplishment.
Personalization plays a pivotal role in keeping users glued to a product. This approach involves tailoring the user experience based on individual preferences, creating a sense of uniqueness that fosters customer loyalty and retention. By curating content and interactions, typically through the use of an intelligent algorithm, personalization ensures that users consistently find relevant, engaging, and valuable content within the product.
Pinterest exemplifies the effectiveness of personalization by analyzing users’ past interactions and preferences to suggest pins, boards, and trends that align with their interests. This means that every time a user logs in, they’re greeted with content that resonates with their needs and interests, increasing the likelihood of engagement.
This proactive approach not only provides users with a more helpful experience but also keeps them coming back for more as the personalized feed is continuously updated on a regular basis. Pinterest’s dedication to personalization stands as a testament to its commitment to user-centricity, ultimately resulting in a stickier product that caters to the individual needs and desires of its user base.
3. Community building and social sharing
By integrating social features that allow users to connect, interact, and share experiences, a product transforms from a mere tool to a social hub where users feel a sense of belonging and community. Take CoStar, for instance, the astrology app that has seamlessly woven social elements into its user experience. CoStar enables users to add friends and connect with others based on their astrological profiles.
This not only fosters a sense of camaraderie among users but also encourages them to return regularly to check on their compatibility with friends or explore astrological insights together.
CoStar goes a step further by allowing users to share daily updates and insights from their horoscopes with their friends and followers within the app. This interactive feature transforms the app into a social platform where active users engage in discussions, share their positive experiences, and seek advice. This not only keeps users engaged but also transforms CoStar into a daily ritual, enhancing its stickiness.
The social elements within CoStar illustrate how creating a sense of community and enabling social interactions can significantly boost product engagement and retention. Users return not only for the astrological insights but also for the social connections and interactions the app facilitates.
4. Content recommendations
Content recommendations play a pivotal role in enhancing user satisfaction and fostering product stickiness. By offering users tailored content suggestions, a product not only keeps them engaged but also solidifies its place in their daily routine.
A prime illustration of the role of relevant content recommendations in boosting product stickiness can be found in the Calm meditation app. What sets Calm apart is its ability to recommend meditations based on the time of day, aligning with users’ specific needs and routines. For instance, it might suggest a morning meditation to kickstart the day or a sleep story in the evening to promote relaxation.
These recommendations anticipate and cater to users’ preferences, simplifying their decision-making process. Users don’t need to sift through a vast library of content; instead, Calm provides them with precisely what they need at that moment.
Calm’s content recommendations also serve to create a habit-forming pattern. Users begin to rely on the app as a daily companion, turning to it at specific times for relaxation, focus, or sleep aid. This consistency transforms Calm into an indispensable part of their daily routine, reinforcing product stickiness.
5. Push notifications
Push notifications are also incredibly effective in boosting and maintaining product stickiness (more so than many other communication channels); according to a study, 61% of new app users receiving push notifications launched the app within the first month, which is more than double the 28% of installers who did not receive push notifications within the same time frame.
Since push notifications appear on the user’s screen even when they are not actively engaging with the app, it serves as the perfect user engagement strategy to incentivize users to come back to the app every time one is sent. Push notification copy can be tailored to incentivize certain user behaviors, meaning that you can customize them to the exact messaging that’s most likely to capture the attention of a certain user segment.
There are many different types of push notifications, but the most common ones that most established mobile apps and brands will have are: welcome pushes, purchase pushes, transactional pushes, reengagement pushes, and milestone pushes.
Here is an explanation and example of each of these push notifications.
Making it stick
Crafting a sticky product—one that captures users’ attention, fosters loyalty, and keeps them coming back for more—is an art and a science. We’ve explored five potent user engagement strategies that can help you achieve this goal:
- Gamification: Incorporating game-like elements to make using the product enjoyable and rewarding.
- Personalization: Tailoring the user experience based on individual preferences and behaviors.
- Community building & social elements: Building a sense of community and connection within the product.
- Content recommendations: Providing tailored content suggestions that align with users’ needs and routines.
- Push notifications: The timely nudge that keeps users engaged and coming back for more.
These strategies, when thoughtfully implemented, not only elevate user engagement but also cultivate lasting relationships between users and your product. They transform casual users into devoted enthusiasts, ensuring that your product becomes an integral part of their daily lives. As you navigate the ever-evolving landscape of digital products, remember that the key to product stickiness lies in understanding your users, anticipating their needs, and continuously innovating to offer them value. By doing so, you’ll not only make your product sticky but also set the stage for long-term success in today’s competitive market.
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How to improve frontline employee retention and engagement
In today’s dynamic business environment, the success of a company often hinges on its ability to provide exceptional customer service. This is even more critical for organizations that rely on frontline employees—such as retailers, shipping companies, or healthcare providers.
But what happens when your frontline staff is constantly changing, leaving a revolving door of newly trained employees for your customers to encounter? The answer is simple—customer satisfaction takes a hit, operational costs soar, and your business’s reputation may be at stake.
In this article, we’ll discuss frontline employee retention and engagement—in particular, why they are the key to maintaining consistently exceptional service, cost efficiency, and building a positive brand image. We’ll also discuss actionable strategies for improving frontline employee retention and engagement and even explore some tools and technologies you can use to amplify your efforts in this area.
What is frontline employee retention and engagement?
Before we dig into the importance of engaging and retaining frontline employees, let’s define both concepts. Frontline employee retention is the process of keeping your essential team members on board for as long as possible. Frontline employee engagement, on the other hand, focuses on a frontline worker’s involvement, enthusiasm, and commitment to their job. Together, these two concepts form the backbone of a dedicated and reliable frontline team.
Retention of frontline employees is all about creating a work environment that keeps essential employees happy at work, so they stay with your company rather than seeking employment elsewhere. Engagement, meanwhile, deals with how invested your frontline workers are in their roles. Engaged employees are more likely to go the extra mile to satisfy customers and contribute positively to the workplace.
Companies that are unable to engage and retain frontline employees will certainly be experiencing high turnover rates. This attrition can wreak havoc on your business. Here’s why it can be so detrimental:
Inconsistent customer service
When your workforce is in a constant state of flux, it’s nearly impossible to maintain consistent customer service. New employees need time to get up to speed, which can lead to miscommunications and errors. In contrast, a stable team can deliver a consistent and high-quality customer experience.
Hiring and training new employees can be an expensive process. Each time an employee leaves, you need to invest in recruitment, onboarding, and training for their replacement. High turnover rates drain your resources and increase your operating costs.
New employees are not as productive as experienced ones, which can hinder your operations. They might take longer to complete tasks, make more mistakes, or require more supervision. This impacts your overall efficiency and productivity as a company.
Damage to company reputation
A high turnover rate among frontline employees could tarnish your company’s reputation. Customers who encounter different faces each time they visit may perceive your business as unstable or unprofessional. A strong, stable frontline team, on the other hand, can enhance your brand image and customer trust.
Investing in frontline employee retention is a proactive approach sure to reward your company with a multitude of positive outcomes. Rather than dwelling on the negative impacts of high turnover, let’s explore the opportunities that come with a focus on retaining your frontline workforce.
Knowledge transfer and continuity
Retaining your frontline employees means retaining valuable expertise. Seasoned employees who have been with your organization for a long time are better equipped to understand your products, services, and customers—and they’re usually able to provide more personalized and knowledgeable assistance. Additionally, a familiar face creates a sense of trust and comfort, further enhancing the overall customer experience.
Positive workplace culture
Employee retention helps create a positive professional environment where employees feel secure, supported, and motivated to excel. This atmosphere can lead to increased job satisfaction, improved collaboration, and a more engaged workforce. A positive workplace culture is a powerful asset that attracts top talent and encourages existing employees to thrive and develop.
Increased employee loyalty
When you invest in frontline retention, you’re sending a clear message that your company values its employees. This appreciation develops a sense of loyalty. Loyal employees are more committed to their jobs and the company. And as a result, they’re less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere, reducing the costs associated with recruitment and training, and help contribute to a more stable and dedicated team.
Now that we understand the importance of retaining and engaging frontline employees, let’s dive into some strategies to achieve these goals. Employee retention strategies often hinge on setting clear expectations, providing great work-life balance, and creating a work environment that is supportive and uplifting.
- Hire right from the start— Start by hiring individuals who are a good fit for the job and your company culture. Look for qualities like enthusiasm, empathy, and a customer-centric mindset during the recruitment process.
- Provide clear progression opportunities —Employees are more likely to stay when they see opportunities for growth within your organization. Offer clear career paths and provide training and development programs to help them advance.
- Offer competitive compensation —Competitive wages and benefits can go a long way in retaining frontline employees. Ensure that your compensation packages are in line with industry standards.
- Recognize and reward exceptional work —Recognize and reward outstanding performance. Implement an employee recognition program to show your appreciation for their hard work. This can boost morale and motivation.
- Support work-life balance —Balancing work and personal life is crucial for employee well-being. Offer flexible scheduling options and reasonable work hours to help your employees maintain a healthy work-life balance.
- Listen well and act on feedback —Create an environment where employees feel comfortable providing feedback and suggestions. Keeping your frontline staff in the loop about company news and giving them a voice to express their concerns and ideas creates an environment where collaboration thrives.
- Supply numerous development opportunities —Invest in continuous training and development to keep employees engaged and motivated. Learning opportunities can make the job more interesting and fulfilling.
- Encourage collaboration —When employees experience a strong sense of teamwork and support from both their leaders and peers, the bonds they form become a powerful retention tool, making them more likely to stay with your organization.
Technology can be one of the best amplifiers for investments in improving frontline retention and engagement. Consider implementing the following tools and solutions to promote communication and collaboration, support professional development, and provide tools that support frontline employees’ wellbeing.
Employee experience platforms (EXP)
An EXP is a comprehensive digital tool designed to enhance the overall experience of employees throughout their journey with an organization. It serves as a central hub that brings together various HR-related functions, resources, and communication tools, with the aim of creating a more satisfying and engaging work environment.
Corporate communication apps
Tools for scheduling and communication, such as employee shift management apps , can help frontline employees access critical company information, collaborate with colleagues, and connect to the organization’s goals. This helps bridge the gap between frontline employees and organizational leadership, creating a sense of belonging and cultivating a more engaged workforce.
Learning management systems (LMS)
Frontline employees can use an LMS to access training materials and other resources at their own pace, promoting self-directed learning and skill improvement. By enhancing employee competence and confidence, LMS tools not only improve job performance but also boost employee satisfaction and retention, as they demonstrate the organization’s investment in their professional development.
Data analytics tools
Data analytics tools allow organizations to identify trends related to turnover , such as when, where, and why employees are leaving. By examining this data, organizations can pinpoint areas that require attention and take proactive steps to reduce turnover.
To effectively measure employee retention, it’s crucial to use a combination of these metrics and methods. By monitoring and analyzing these data points, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of your organization’s employee retention efforts and identify areas for improvement. Additionally, using employee feedback and conducting regular assessments will help you proactively address retention challenges and create a more engaged and stable workforce.
Here are some approaches to assessing and quantifying both indicators.
How to measure frontline employee retention
- Turnover rate —Calculate turnover at your organization by dividing the number of employees who left the organization during a specific period by the average number of employees during that same period.
- Tenure analysis —Analyze the average length of time employees stay with your organization. This helps you understand the stability of your workforce and identify trends.
- Promotion rates — Assess how often employees are promoted from within the organization. A lack of internal promotions may indicate a lack of growth opportunities, which can contribute to turnover.
- New hire survival rate —Record the percentage of new hires who remain with the company after a specific period, like six months or one year. A higher survival rate indicates effective onboarding and retention efforts.
How to measure frontline employee engagement
- Employee satisfaction surveys —Surveys, such as employee engagement surveys, pulse surveys, or corporate culture assessments are a great way to gauge how content your employees are with their jobs, workplace, and overall experience. Lower satisfaction scores may also indicate retention issues.
- Absence and tardiness rates —High rates of absenteeism and tardiness can be early signs of employee disengagement or job dissatisfaction, which can lead to turnover.
- Productivity —Engaged employees are more productive and more likely to achieve their goals at work. However, if frontline productivity is declining, this could be a red flag that engagement is also dropping.
- Performance reviews —Evaluate the results of performance reviews to identify patterns related to employee engagement and retention. High-performing and engaged employees are more likely to stay with the organization.
Frontline employee retention and engagement are essential elements for building a successful, customer-focused business. The impacts of high turnover among frontline workers are felt not only in terms of costs but also in customer satisfaction and your brand’s reputation.
By investing in frontline employee retention strategies—such as offering career development opportunities and leveraging technology to support your frontline workers—you can build a stable, motivated team that consistently delivers exceptional service. Those who master both elements will find success, earning customer loyalty, reducing costs, and becoming an employer of choice. It’s a win-win situation that any business should strive to achieve.
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