The real role of customer engagement officers

The real role of customer engagement officers

Think it’s customer service by another name? It’s about so much more than that, as Fiona Scott, head of customer engagement agency Psona, explains.

How does customer engagement differ from customer service?

Customer engagement is about building a complete journey for the consumer, from initial browsing to actual purchase, and the principles are the same whether they’re buying toothpaste or a car. It starts by building awareness and understanding of a brand, which leads to considering it as a viable option, steering them to purchase and re-purchase, before they finally become loyal advocates. It’s about understanding that customers want to be supported, informed and recognised by brands; they can inspire and entertain too – but that’s the icing on the cake. They need to get the basics right first.

The customer engagement officer is responsible for the success of the communications channels and points of contact between an organisation and its customers. But what does a customer engagement officer really do?

It’s about tapping into what a customer needs and wants. For example, consumers often make purchasing decisions in a social and digital space away from the brand – effectively, at this point, they’re invisible. A huge amount of initial research is done online without going anywhere near the brand, which is why you need an active social and digital strategy, so that you get to the customer early. We use something called Method Planning to really get into the customer’s shoes – that is, actively live a day in the life of our customer, so that we’re exposed to the same buying experience they are. We recruit people to take that journey and did so recently for a car client – we carried out the online research, read the blogs, visited the dealership, took the test drive and were able to feedback on all of it, which helped us advise the client on areas where they were lacking. The whole customer buying experience has to be tip-top – every point in the chain needs to be really strong.

How does customer engagement fit into a wider marketing picture?

Clients ask us questions such as: what do we do with our data? How do we change perception of our brand? How do we drive more sales, and customer loyalty? How can we be more active and relevant on digital and social channels? Each of these areas is a discrete marketing function, whereas customer engagement acts as a wrapper for the marketing experience as a whole, bringing all the pieces of the puzzle together. It puts the customer at the centre of the purchasing decision, and understands that the relationship is a two-way interaction.

What is the priority of a customer engagement professional – to drive sales or cement a certain brand position?

It depends on the brand. If there’s low understanding of it, the initial task is to develop and make it into something relevant and meaningful for the customer – this is who we are, this is what we say and this is why we say it. We help brands engage with the customer in the most effective way possible, helping them understand the long-term objectives.

What makes a great customer engagement officer?

It takes a mix of right and left-brain skills. It’s someone who is able to analyse the data, while being sensitive to the emotional triggers behind a purchase. They are ruthless about insight, and able to build what we call a technical data stack, which informs you when and how to communicate with which particular customer. They break down the silos, understanding that marketing, operations and digital need to work together. Ultimately, it’s someone with vision. This person is an evangelist for your brand.

To learn how you can overcome the challenges of engaging with customers through multiple channels in today's 'always on' world, attend CIM's Summit on The Changing Face of Marketing. 

Claire Lavelle Journalist and Content Creator
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