Effective communication and customer engagement will be the biggest predictor of success for brands in 2014 according to Pitney Bowes.

Andy Moy, Director of Customer Engagement Management, Pitney Bowes Software said, “In 2014 brands must up the ante with regard to customer engagement or risk being overtaken by competitors. Brands are under pressure to listen, understand and respond to customer needs. Customers today can engage directly with brands via multiple channels and they also communicate about brands in public forums. Thanks to social media, word of mouth now travels tweet-speed.”

Pitney Bowes has outlined some tips for great customer engagement in 2014:

  1. balance online and "offline" engagement.
    Understand how customers choose to communicate, and then respect that choice when interacting with the customer. For example, if a customer contacts a company via email, then it makes sense to respond via email. Likewise, a customer who telephones an organisation should have their call returned. The same is true when interacting via social media. On social media, it's important to balance what's seen by all of a person's friends and followers with one-to-one interaction. For example, if someone complains about a product on Twitter, the brand should respond publically so that the user, and anyone else who can see the complaint, knows that the organisation is aware of the issue and is addressing it. If addressing the issue necessitates the exchange of personal information, the company should use the social network to get permission from the customer to contact them via another channel, rather than immediately emailing or calling them. 
  2. monitor trust and satisfaction.
    Set goals and objectives to measure the success of customer engagement efforts. Create a benchmark to measure customers’ reactions and satisfaction levels and solicit feedback. Consumers notice and appreciate the brands that listen and respond appropriately. Conversely, a brand that solicits feedback and then fails to act on that feedback is sending a clear message that their customers’ opinions are not important to them. When measuring the customer engagement program’s success, it is important for companies to remember that brand awareness is not enough. Trust and overall satisfaction are far more important indicators of whether a company has been successful in engaging its customers.
  3. take advantage of data.
    Any customer engagement generates large amounts of data. Smart companies gather and analyse that data to make more informed decisions about everything from when to run sales campaigns to which areas to open new stores in and where to source new employees. They also feed that data to appropriate channels. For example, complaints about pocket placement on a pair of pants should be funnelled to product designers as well as customer service or sales representatives.
  4. always think about retention.
    Effective customer engagement requires an ongoing commitment. An engaged customer will continue to interact with, and buy more from the company over time. Brands that retain customers do so by constantly leveraging the details they know (including transaction data) and using them to uncover ways to improve future experiences. These brands always look to the future, planning new ways to excite and engage customers and keep them engaged.
  5. deliver on your promises.
    If a brand asks customers to provide information, use it to enhance the customer experience. In many cases, customers are more than willing to provide information to brands in order to make their experiences better. If a company fails to leverage that customer knowledge to deliver a personalised experience, the customer is likely to be disappointed and unlikely to continue a relationship with the company.

Andy Moy said, “Tomorrow’s winners and losers will be increasingly determined by a brand’s ability to listen and respond to their customers’ needs regardless of channel. 2014 will see a widening gap between the companies that do this very well and those that fail to do it. If companies follow these five simple tips then they will be well on the way to achieving successful customer engagement.”