What is a customer engagement platform? Top platform features 2021
A customer engagement platform is software that helps businesses manage complex customer relationships. In turn, the real connections with customers that result can improve customer satisfaction, sales, and retention.
Published June 1, 2020
Last updated September 2, 2021
Customers live in an omnichannel world. When they engage with a company, customers want fast, personalized service, meaningful marketing, and smart, thoughtful recommendations. And they want all of this on their terms:
- phone and email
- social media platforms
- live chat
- SMS and messaging apps
Customers expect to engage with a brand using the same communication channels they use to connect with their friends and family.
One of the most powerful software tools that a business can use to manage complex customer relationships is a customer engagement platform. Read on for actionable insight into the importance of your customer engagement software.
What is a customer engagement platform?
A customer engagement platform is software that helps companies manage, analyze, and optimize the customer journey. It does this by automatically sending personalized messages to customers across multiple devices and platforms.
Customer engagement tools can let a brand connect all their customer data in one place and deliver a highly personalized experience for customers. That is based on all kinds of variables, like:
- the device they are using
- their order history
- the status of a support ticket
- activity on social media
What's the difference between a CRM and a customer engagement platform?
Many companies consider their CRM as their customer engagement platform. With a CRM platform like Zendesk, businesses can combine their customer support software with all the other customer engagement tools their teams depend on, such as a marketing automation tool, social media management software, and more. This ensures everyone in the business has a single source of truth for customer information, which enables more personalized customer experiences and saves teams time from having to toggle between different systems and software.
Examples of what customer engagement platforms can do
A customer engagement platform makes it possible to:
- send a customer a customized welcome letter after they’ve created an account
- send a customer a link to download an app for their mobile device
- send customers push notifications for important events
- send customers a personalized push notification letting them know that an item they’ve liked on social media has gone on sale
Companies can even fine-tune the experience with more complex actions, like automatically pausing marketing messages for customers who have an open support ticket.
Companies that want to improve customer relationships can use powerful analytics in engagement software to:
- gain real-time insights
- track things like click-through rates
- understand the impact of their work
This makes it easy for a business to gauge the effectiveness of a customer engagement platform and unlock new areas to improve customer relationships.
Customer engagement software also provides a business with a holistic view of its customers, bringing data together from all the disparate systems that a company uses. That could be social media, sales and marketing automation systems, customer support help desks, or sales databases.
When a business has all of its customer data in one place, it's easier to understand the customer journey and how to improve customer experience.
The best customer engagement platforms for 2021
Companies that are interested in customer relationship management should evaluate customer engagement software on a number of criteria, including ease of set up and use, its ability to connect with other systems a company uses, like a CRM database, and the amount of customization it allows in creating a personalized customer experience.
It's also important to choose a solution that is cost-effective and is able to scale as the company grows. For many companies that means a cloud-based software solution that is managed off-site, features robust security protocols, and offers flexible features and pricing options.
Here are the top features of customer engagement platforms:
- Meets customers where they are
- Enables personalized experiences
- Supports remote teams
- Empowers customers to self-serve
- Integrates with your existing software
- Is easy to set up
- Provides a 360 customer view
- Arms teams with data
- Can be easily adjusted
Customers shouldn't have to climb a ladder to engage with your brand. A great customer engagement platform empowers businesses to meet customers where they are, such as on messaging channels.
Relationships are critical to customer loyalty. To deliver personalized experiences, businesses need a customer engagement platform complete with customer context, like a customer's support history, account type, and order preferences.
Engaging customers requires engaging employees. The best customer engagement platform arms support teams with the right tools to do their jobs well.
Customers have preferred to help themselves for a while now, and rely on companies online resources even more in our digital-first world. When customers can self-serve, they get answers to simple questions faster, and your agents don't have to spend time resolving repetive issues.
You want a customer engagement platform that integrates with all the tools and software your teams need, from marketing automation software to social media monitoring tools. When different tools are connected, teams can do more with the combined capabilities. For example, by integrating their customer support software with their email marketing tool, teams can send segmented emails based on support history.
Customer engagement platforms that are easy to set up, and easy to use, ensure you can focus on engaging customers, instead of adminstrating a tool and training teams to use it.
With a customer engagement platform that unifies all your customer data, wherever it lives, your teams can anticipate customers' needs and offer a better-personalized experience. A 360 customer view ensures every team, from marketing to customer support, has a holistic understanding of your customers.
Learning how to improve requires data. When teams can understand trends in how, and where, customers interact with the business, they can glean insights into improving customer engagement.
Businesses today need customer engagement software that allows them to be agile. They need to be able to quickly turn channels on and off. And with plug and play apps, they can unify all their customer data without having to wait for IT teams to make custom integrations.
How customer engagement platforms improve the overall customer experience
Customer engagement software puts the customer experience at the heart of the customer journey, which ultimately is beneficial for customers and companies alike.
We're guessing that with every interaction you're aiming for higher customer satisfaction, whether it's chatting with your customers on Facebook or helping the odd website visitor who might become a customer or the next person your sales reps talk to.
Engagement software makes it seamless for customers to engage with a company. The software creates an almost magical sense that customers are getting the support and the attention they need without even having to ask for it, with smart, thoughtful recommendations, answers to their most common questions, and fast, personalized resolution to their problems when they contact support on their preferred channels.
Companies that use engagement software earn trust, loyalty, and sales from customers by delivering fast, personalized service in the channels customers care about most. It lets teams create customer journeys that are as unique as their business, and automate much of the work it takes to engage customers.
This not only lets companies be there to support customers when they need it most, but it frees up teams to focus on finding new ways to support customers, delight them with thoughtful service, and solve more complex problems.
The customer engagement model, defined
Once a company has 360-degree views of its customers, it can define its customer engagement model. A customer engagement model is a way of thinking about all the customer interactions a company has in their customer journey.
Customer engagement models generally follow customers through five stages of interacting with a brand:
And once a company understands its customer engagement model, it’s able to create a customer engagement strategy that speaks to customers’ unique needs.
Customer engagement management is critical to managing the customer experience at all five of these steps.
Why customer engagement platforms are so important
While it can be challenging for a business to keep pace with customer expectations in this fast-moving multichannel universe, it also offers companies more ways than ever to create customer loyalty and develop long-term relationships with customers.
With so many channels and ways to engage, it’s all about creating a great customer experience with an engagement strategy focused on delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time.
By engaging with customers in the communication channels that are most important to them, a brand can create emotional connections with customers. These emotional connections can improve customer satisfaction, sales, and customer retention.
There are also powerful new opportunities for marketing teams to find new customers and engage with existing ones. And by proactively connecting with customers when they need help the most, companies can earn trust, loyalty, and solve problems before customers are even aware they exist.