Building deeper engagement with customers means more than likes or NPS

James Forbes

James is the head of marketing and digital for InfoReady. The pure-play information management and business analytics consultancy specialises in helping organisations transform data into actionable intelligence.

The range of tools available to help your organisation and its brand build deeper levels of engagement with customers is expanding exponentially.

Organisations have access to everything from Google Analytics through to social listening tools, 4Q, Kampyle, OpinionLab, KISSinsights and Clicktools. Then there are the likes of SurveyMonkey that allow brands to ask questions and get feedback directly from the customer.

But before you start investing in such tools, you should first understand what it is you’re looking to achieve from the ever-elusive concept of ‘engagement’. A lot of brands talk engagement, but when you ask them how they define or measure this, it’s often highly superficial.

Forrester’s Four Components are a few years old now but they are a useful basis in which to understand engagement. These are:

  • Involvement – Site visits, pages viewed, search keywords, site logins and time spent on site;
  • Interaction – Comments of site comment’s section, forum discussions, product reviews left on site;
  • Intimacy – A user’s engagement with your brand on third-party sites, along with sentiment tracking of internal customer contributions;
  • Influence – Net Promoter Score (NPS), product/service satisfaction ratings, brand affinity, content forwarded on to friends.

When you consider these four components , it’s pretty clear that vanity metrics, such as the number of Twitter followers or Facebook likes, are going to tell you little about real customer engagement. What is of greater value is capturing data around how customers are actively engaging with your brand, then understanding the relationship between the data sources you have captured from various sources.

Combined, this information will help you determine how you are performing in terms of engagement and what areas you need to focus on to improve. Ideally, you are going to implement this as an automated process and then ensure it is adequately resourced with skilled people. It’s only by doing this that you’ll make proper use of the customer engagement analysis tools you’ve invested in.

What you should be measuring

If Facebook likes and Twitter followers are of limited utility, what metrics should you be measuring in determining the KPIs and success of your engagement strategies? Sales as a result of each channel is the end goal, of course, but in terms of engagement, repeat purchases, repeat visits, repeat transactions, active customers, frequency, conversion ratio, CTRs, revenue/ visit, lifetime value, new versus returning visitors and number of referrals are all important. Because it’s this type of data that gives you a far deeper understanding of how your customers are engaging with you.

NPS has also become increasingly popular as a means for understanding influence in recent times, and its popularity has a lot to do with simplicity. NPS results in a single score - the higher the better – and is a concept that can be easily explained and communicated across even the largest organisations. As a result, it’s relatively easily to mobilise the organisation around how it is performing and get staff to rally behind initiatives to help improve NPS, particularly when it is baked into that organisation’s incentive or bonus scheme.

But be wary of putting all your proverbial eggs in the NPS basket. To date, there are still questions around the scientific validity of the NPS system, and academic debate around whether the research that supports it is valid. This is especially true of organisations looking to use NPS to achieve growth. Even the creator of NPS, Fred Reichheld, insists the link between NPS and growth is not there.

It’s also worth remembering that the simplicity of NPS also brings limitations. The NPS scale only accounts for three kinds of customers – Promoters (respondents to the survey question ‘would you recommend this product/service to a friend or colleague?’ of a 9 or 10 out of 10), Passives (7 or 8 out of 10), and Detractors (6 or lower out of 10). This reductionist approach to data doesn’t allow the organisation to understand the full breadth of opinion within the community. After all, a person responding with a ‘6’ is likely to have a very different opinion of the brand than someone responding with a ‘1’.

Some organisations proactively reach out to their brand’s ‘detractors’ to try and understand why they feel the way about the brand that they do, but by making good use of other sources of customer data, much of that research can be handled every bit as effectively within the marketing team. The subsequent reach out can then be a more positive one that can focus on resolution.

Having a deeper understanding of the customer through the wide range of analytics tools at your disposal can also be used to ensure the promoters remain promoters, where the NPS score provides no such insights into why they are happy with your brand.

In other words, NPS is too often the end of an organisation’s engagement strategy when it should be the starting point for a broader and deeper analytics discussion. Yes, NPS is simple and easy to understand, but if you’re looking for a deeper and more intense understanding of your customers and their relationship with your brand, you will want to understand and then adequately leverage the other tools at your disposal to determine and then optimise your customer’s Involvement, Interaction, Intimacy and Influence.

Tags: NPS, data-driven marketing

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