A 6 step approach to better customer and employee engagement


Some 18 months ago (Oct 2012), I had the pleasure of interviewing Get Satisfaction’s then CEO, Wendy Lea (she’s now their Executive Chairman) in True customer engagement is not based on click throughs or contests. In the interview, we talked a lot about the changing nature of business, social technologies, customer engagement, and what it means nowadays to build sustainable and loyal relationships with your customers.

Following our discussion, Wendy asked me to write a guest post to explore the topic of engagement (my perspective on what engagement is, what it should and could be and how it will evolve in the future) a bit more in a guest post for the Get Satisfaction blog.

Now, originally I was going to start with the following situation:

Imagine that you’re a business and you’ve got a growing number of friends, connections, fans, followers, customer and subscriber email addresses, etc, etc. You also do a lot of digital and social media networking and marketing but the results are not what you hoped for and you are now thinking…..Now what?

I had then planned to a share a few thoughts, tips, and strategies from current practice and what I see working, history, and my experience regarding what we should be doing as businesses to help us build better relationships with our customers and advocates.

I wanted to do that.

I really did.

But, before we can do that, I believe, we first have to go back and review we are and then go further to the basics of relationships, if we are to get the most out of our engagement efforts.

What I mean is….when I think about more broadly about relationships, relationships of all types and in all parts of my life, the following words probably come to mind:

  • Love
  • Respect
  • Honesty
  • Loyalty
  • Trust
  • Recognition
  • Communication
  • Play
  • Affection
  • Understanding
  • Forgiveness
  • Patience
  • Appreciation
  • Empathy
  • Support
  • Helpfulness
  • Care
  • Encouragement
  • Belief in one another
  • Attraction
  • Interest
  • etc, etc

What do you think? Do these words cover how you would describe your relationships too? Or, what other words would you add?

Now, not all of our relationships will have all of these elements, but I think it is useful to think about, and be honest about, the sort of relationships that we have and those we would like to build.

To do that, we need to audit the relationships that we have. We have to understand, honestly, where we are with the relationships that we have if we are to take responsibility for them and then make a plan for building those relationships.

Only if we do that will we have a chance to achieve the level of engagement that we desire with the people in our lives, including our customers and our employees (Note: it is your people that have the relationships with your customers, not your brand. It’s always an individual thing).

However, there is a health warning attached to this that was best explained in another interview. That interview (What makes first direct so successful) was with Mark Mullen, CEO of firstdirect, an online and telephone only bank in the UK that is feted for it’s level of customer service and the loyalty and advocacy of it’s customers. In our interview Mark and I discussed how they have developed such healthy levels of engagement and he said:

“We must understand the limits of interest of our customers.”

Sage advice.

It’s all very well doing blue-sky thinking about the sort of levels of engagement with your customers that you would like to achieve. But, if your customers are not interested, then all of your efforts will be in vain.

Therefore, if you want to build your levels of engagement with your customers, here’s what I would advise you to do:

  1. Conduct an honest audit of the relationships that you have with your customers and your people;
  2. Plan out what sort of relationships you would like to have;
  3. Give this a reality check against the interests of your customers;
  4. Review your plan based on your reality check;
  5. Design your marketing, engagement, community and service efforts with your relationship goals in mind; and
  6. Review on a regular basis (relationships are dynamic things and will change over time).

What do you think?

This was originally posted on GetSatisfaction’s blog back in Dec 2012 under the title: Back to Basics: 6 Steps for Excellent Customer Engagement. This is a (slightly) edited and updated version.

Photo Credit: Ken Whytock via Compfight cc

6 comments On A 6 step approach to better customer and employee engagement

  • Interesting take on relationships (and parallel to personal). I think the major thing companies need to consider is not taking a one-size fits all approach. Where one type of relationship with one company might be really effective (in dollars and cents), another might be better for your company. This should be defined by what will most impact the customers decision to buy from you. Good example — There was a time when Walmart decided it was going to make a bunch of investments targeted at improving the customer experience (they’d received increasing feedback that there was room for improvement). So, they made changes such as increasing the number of staff on the floor in certain parts of the store, widening aisles, new training and so forth. After all of these changes they didn’t see any correlating increase in revenue. Want to know why? Because that’s not why people shop at Walmart (for the customer experience). It’s not like Nordstroms where people expect that level of service. People go to Walmart for the prices and no amount of improvement in service will change that.

    Thanks for the great article Adrian!

    -Ashley Verrill

    • Hi Ashley,
      Thanks for the example…….seems to emphasize the importance of point 3: “Give this a reality check against the interests of your customers”


  • Adrian,

    I think you hit the nail on the head. The one thing that is the umbrella over all of the relationship attributes that you listed, the one thing you need for success: that it’s a two-way street.

    Annette 🙂

  • Yes…

    And the approach works for just about anything you want to improve. But for me I think the key word you raise is in point 1:


    Without that you are only kidding yourself.


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