Client Engagement

Some consultants struggle to get themselves and their customers out of a transactional mind-set. Engagement as a pursuit strategy seeks to accomplish just that.

Engagement Defined

At the consulting level, customer engagement can be defined as gaining traction within business teams, program offices, and most importantly, executive suites. Client companies are also starting to think about this kind of interactive involvement.

Customer Engagement has four components:

1. involvement

2. interaction

3. intimacy

4. influence

The Goal

The goal is for both you and your customer to recognize that value comes not just from transactions but also from the actions people take to influence others. Using the engagement concept, you get a holistic appreciation of your customers’ actions. Once engagement takes hold, marketing becomes a series of conversations between trusted allies.

Measuring Engagement

The behavioral actions supporting the components of engagement—involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence—can be measured:

  • “Involvement” looks at frequency of customer visits, time spent, and issues covered.
  • “Interaction” looks at customer comments, quantity/frequency of meetings, conversations, and written communication.
  • “Intimacy” tracks sentiment, confidences, and opinions expressed by customers.
  • “Influence” assesses likelihood to recommend, brand affinity, and number of referrals.

It can be a challenge to find the right mix for each individual’s level of engagement. You need to develop an engagement index, which shows some of the how’s and why’s. Since engagement is not transactional, you need to understand whether and how someone is engaging, and use that knowledge to determine the behaviors on your part that are most likely to influence customer decision-making regarding service purchase.

Developing Customer Advocacy

Customers who advocate for the firm are an invaluable asset. Advocacy only happens when consultants create opportunities for customers to become advocates. Once the consulting firm understands that customers are a primary channel for influencing each other to buy—particularly in the instance of intra-enterprise purchases—the result should be an increasing level of value-added interaction.

Emotional connection—the value beyond just the cash-for-products exchange—is what creates an advocate. Advocacy happens because your services are meaningful to talk about and to recommend, beyond just getting a task done. That requires a trusting relationship, focused on issues.

Turning Customer Engagement Into Action

An emotional connection makes the customer more likely to decide in our favor based on intangible perceptions such as loyalty, trust, and confidence.

It’s useful for our purposes to categorize customers as binary decision-makers who buy with one of two distinct personalities. One is the indifferent-objective personality, where the customer perceives the service purchase as a task, and shops to get the best tradeoff between price and convenience. In this instance there is very little emotional involvement and virtually no brand loyalty.

The other customer personality—the one we want to create and do business with—is engaged-emotional. This customer type advocates for your services because doing so is meaningful and valuable to them.

This is the advantage of engagement: turning customer involvement into advocacy and engaged-emotional decision making in favor of our services.

Engagement Case Histories

Hewlett-Packard has an engagement strategy designed to build trust and advocacy. HP’s style in this instance can be described as very up close and personal. HP showcases proposed solutions over a two- to three-day period, giving visiting customer executives a chance to see prototypes of custom solutions before committing to a contract. This high-touch, hands-on experience creates the kind of in-house influencer on the client side needed to move from proposal to purchase. “Customers have said at the end of the sessions that they don’t feel they have been sold HP, but that they are sold on HP,” says the director of the program in EMEA.

TiVo uses a broader approach by turning some of its most knowledgeable customers into trusted experts who assist the wider customer base. It’s able to capitalize on the strong connection its customers make with the way the product changes the television experience. “We still have very much a word-of-mouth kind of product,” says TiVo’s manager of customer service, “but because more and more DVR products have come onto the market, we have to have evangelistic people who will help us sell over other DVRs.”

The company’s strategy is to invite select TiVo enthusiasts to become support all-stars providing valuable support and influence for new customers and TiVo prospects for a specified period; there’s now a waiting list of advocates to fill slots as they become available.

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