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Engage your customers from the inside out

Customer engagement requires more than a response by the marketing department, yet many companies struggle to create an integrated approach that is stitched through all departments and geographies.

In the McKinsey Quarterly, consultants Tom French, Laura LaBerge, and Paul Magill of McKinsey & Co. offer six steps for superior customer engagement:

1. Hold a customer-engagement summit

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Your company probably brings together senior managers from business units and main departments such as finance and marketing once a year or every six months to discuss strategy and planning. But the consultants note that few firms host a similar process to discuss how to engage with the lifeblood of all companies: customers.

The focus of this gathering should be on customer engagement, which they stress is not the same thing as customer experience. This goes beyond managing the customer experience at the various touch points where they connect to your company, and instead includes all the ways that the firm motivates customers to invest in an continuing relationship with a product or brand.

2. Focus on three factors

The summit should address three key factors. The first is to align everyone on the vision for engagement – the relationship you want with your customers. Second, participants should co-ordinate the activities required to reach and engage customers across the full range of touch points. That means, for example, the customer experience in a call centre must be co-ordinated with the behaviour of frontline employees in stores. Third, you must agree on the elements of the customer-engagement system that should be undertaken in-house and those that will involve outside partners.

3. Create a customer-engagement council

You need an continuing forum to discuss and co-ordinate customer engagement at all those touch points. That may be carried out by an existing committee, such as your strategy group or brand council. But you might need a new operational and decision-making body to oversee this push. A prime issue will be deciding how often to meet. "When conceived, constructed, and operated correctly, these customer-engagement councils play a critical role in breaking the "silo" mindset that diminishes the effectiveness of customer engagement in many organizations," the consultants write.

4. Appoint a chief content officer

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Companies need to create a steady supply of sophisticated, interactive content to meet demand from consumers for information and engagement, as well as managing the content you will want consumers to generate themselves. This must be sensitive to emerging hot-button issues in the minds of your prospects and customers.

5. Create a listening centre

Engagement involves conversation, but too many companies are not in the loop because they aren't plugged in to social media. Your listening centre should monitor what is being said about your company, products, and services on blogs, forums and other social media.

6. Adjust your budget

Too often, companies see these steps an additional expense that doesn't seem affordable. But the consultants urge you to recognize there is money available, but it is currently in the wrong places. Study current expenditures on customer engagement and look for radically cheaper ways to undertake them with a more effective game plan.

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More


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