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Is customer engagement just another industry buzzword? You may be tempted to think so—after all, it’s tough to define and certainly gets thrown around a lot in the jargon-heavy world of marketing.

Walt Whitman might have said that customer engagement “contains multitudes.” It means so many things at once that implementing it successfully is a challenge unlike any other. And the fact that it’s tricky to grasp doesn’t make it any less important, it just makes it easier to get wrong.

Think about every time “customer service” has let you down, and think about how different each of those experiences were. See? It’s complicated.

Which is why this month’s DC Marketing Tech Talks Meetup, hosted by CHIEF, sought to address customer engagement best practices with a two-pronged approach: first Rich Toohey, President of Resolvere Insights LLC, kicked off the event by establishing a conceptual framework for the term and giving the audience a glimpse of what it means for a company like Marriott, where he worked for 22 years.

DC Marketing Tech Talks at CHIEF

Then, data visualization expert Graham Kerster, of Excella Consulting, took us on a journey of customer engagement through the lens of a very specific project: a data platform built with “human-centered design” as the guiding mantra.

Between the two presentations, a number of connected principles emerged:

Customer Experience Matters

If you don’t think it matters how your customers experience transacting with your business, think again: engaged customers provide a 23% average premium in terms of share of wallet, revenue and profitability compared to average customers. A margin like that can make you or break you.

It’s for this reason that, according to Graham Kerster, “human-centered” is the future of design: a waterfall approach that allows clients to demo new products and feel a sense of ownership is the B2B tech version of a winning customer engagement strategy.

It’s All About Employee Pull-Through

The employees on the front lines of client and customer relations are the ones making the biggest impact: through authentic interactions with audiences, they have the power to inspire loyalty and positive association. On the other hand, they can also be “engagement killers” if there’s a lack of interest or effort. Good training is the difference-maker!

But what happens if you can’t have a face-to-face interaction with every client? Graham and Excella circumvented that problem by creating a helpful R&D version of their platform to generate feedback, easy to access and good at making a first impression.

Use Customer Knowledge

This concept proposed by Rich is particularly relevant to the digital engagement of today’s customer experience landscape, where drawing on data and takeaways from previous touchpoints is crucial. It came up, too, in Graham’s presentation—the R&D prototype of his data platform included comment buttons and a “like” system, so that clients could rank interest and level of approval in real time. Learning from this data made the final product that much stronger.

Taken together, these two presentations painted a picture of customer engagement that brought attendees closer to an understanding of what it entails, and how to succeed in practicing it. By the end of the evening, Rich’s take on a definition of customer engagement (below) seemed a lot less like a riddle and a lot more like words of great wisdom.

Customer Engagement Definition

“Customer engagement: the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer.”

Do you agree with this definition? What’s your definition of customer engagement? Let us know in the comments below