You love your customers.
But do they love you?
Do you even know how to tell?
Since you’re here, your company probably relies, like most businesses, on interactions with its customers for long-term success. Good interactions = happy customers. And happy customers = recurring revenue. That’s why customer engagement is important.
So how can you tell how these interactions are going? Are you interacting with your customers effectively?
These are big questions. And while you might have an inkling of what the answers are, the only way to answer them is with one or more good customer engagement platforms.
Table of Contents
- What is a Customer Engagement Platform?
- What to Look for in Customer Engagement Platforms
- The Best Customer Engagement Platforms
What is a Customer Engagement Platform?
What is a customer engagement platform exactly?
Well, it’s a platform that helps you manage customer engagements.
Very helpful, I know.
So let’s break it down.
You know what a customer is. So, what is customer engagement?
A customer engagement is any kind of meaningful interaction with a customer. It could be a conversation between your customer and a customer service rep. It could be the customer’s exposure to an ad. It could even be a prospect reaching out to your sales team via live chat on your website.
A customer engagement platform, then, is a software tool or app that allows you to perform or facilitate customer engagements. Using a customer engagement platform, you can start conversations. You can delegate tasks surrounding them. You can monitor them. Measure them. Analyze them. You can even automate some of them.
What to Look for in Customer Engagement Platforms
There are lots of customer engagement platforms to choose from these days.
And while it may make your decision harder, that’s a good thing.
It means you’ll be able to review your options and select a platform that has some or all of the following:
Your customers want to reach you in a lot of different ways. That’s because different people have different preferences. Some want to email so they don’t have to wait on hold. Some want to talk on the phone because they have trouble articulating themselves in writing. Others want self-service because they’re too busy to wait for a response… or maybe they’re embarrassed about something. Whatever.
My point is that your customer engagement platform should have omnichannel coverage – in other words, it should help you communicate with customers no matter where they are or how they want to communicate.
Marketing, PR, and sales functionality.
You won’t have customers without sales. You won’t have sales without marketing and PR. Customer service, sales, marketing, and PR should all cohesively work together. At least, in a perfect world.
While we’re dreaming about that perfect world, let’s imagine we have a platform where we can engage in all these strategies at the same time. Many of the platforms on the forthcoming list will have all these functionalities in one.
Rich customer data.
The right customer engagement platform will be a massive source of customer data as well. With it, you’ll be able to analyze your previous customer engagements. You can conduct market research. You can submit surveys to your current customers.
You can do all kinds of cool things, all of which help you understand your customers better. And that better understanding can lead you to better products and services, better sales, better marketing – better everything, really.
Ease of use.
Okay, let’s be honest. If the platform is hard to use, you’re not going to use it. If you want a good platform, it needs to be easy to use. An easy, intuitive app will be more frequently and consistently used by your team.
It will also have a lower percentage of errors – and you’ll have fewer grumbling employees, too!
Ticketing and delegation.
You probably have lots of people on your team who engage with customers on a regular basis. If you want the best results, you’ll need to make sure they don’t step on each other’s toes – and that you don’t drop any customer conversations or lose people in the process.
That’s why the best platforms have built-in options for ticketing and delegation; you should be able to assign conversations and tasks to other people on your team.
Automation makes everything better, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not everything. But any automation can simplify your life in at least some way. Automation removes manual tasks, freeing up time that you can spend on something more important.
It also prevents things from being messed up by a human mistake. Choose a platform that gives you enough automation to make your life easier.
User role management.
Though not strictly necessary, a customer engagement platform can be more effective with a good user role management system. If you have salespeople, marketers, customer service reps, and admins all using the platform at the same time, can they see different things and get access to different tools?
Or is it one big confusing cluster?
Integrations and compatibility.
Do you use Salesforce? Or other platforms? That’s cool and all, but it can be a pain to add another platform into the mix unless they can integrate with each other.
Be sure to check out this platform’s integrations and compatibility before finalizing your decision.
Excellent customer support.
Good companies support their products with new security features, new core functions, and even UI updates. Ask yourself: does it seem like this company is going to support their product for a long time to come?
Will they help you if you have an issue in the future?
Oh yeah, we can’t forget about price, can we? Whatever your budget is, you should be looking for the best possible platform within your range.
You also need to consider what your needs actually are – there’s no use paying extra money for a set of features you’re never going to use.
The Best Customer Engagement Platforms
Now let’s take a look at some of the best customer engagement platforms currently available:
Intercom makes its way to the top (or near it) of many of our tool/app round-ups, but it’s for good reason. It offers an unparalleled suite of customer engagement tools, such as live chat, ticketing, in-app and in-website announcements, pop-ups, product tours, email sequences, customer segmenting, and a full-blown CRM, along with various sales and marketing tools.
It can be expensive when you combine many of these functionalities, but it gives you a one-stop-shop and central location for all your customer engagements.
Freshdesk is primarily a helpdesk software platform that’s ideal for use in your customer service strategy. It offers options for practically every communication channel, including email, live chat, social media, and phone calls. You can also automate certain workflows, manage customer self-service, and review reports to see your strategy’s biggest strengths and weaknesses.
Another popular option, Zendesk is a similar customer engagement platform. It, too, offers communication through a number of different channels, and a built-in ticketing system that ensures no customer goes unheard. It’s also designed to be easy to integrate and use within a team, so your customer service reps and marketers should have no trouble learning how to use it.
Bold360 is customer engagement software built for live chat and AI-based communications. It can help you integrate all your customer-focused communication channels in one place and solve the customer experience problems holding your organization back.
SurveySparrow is primarily designed for market research and customer feedback. With it, you can design and implement in-depth surveys, which once completed, can tell you a ton about your current customers (and/or your general target audience).
You can also review your overall customer satisfaction level, and make adjustments as necessary.
Ebsta was created to build customer relationships and turn those relationships into measurable revenue. With it, you can efficiently manage your email inbox through a centralized platform and gain access to features for marketing, sales, and customer service at the same time.
It also provides built-in tools for collecting and analyzing customer feedback.
With ChurnZero, you can get automatic, real-time alerts whenever there’s a customer in need of attention. From there, you can delegate tasks to customer service reps, evaluate customer health scores, and track things like onboarding, expansion, and advocacy.
There are also built-in options for sales and marketing automation.
LiveChat has offered online chat options for businesses for many years. Today, it offers even more robust functionality, giving you a chance to reach out to customers through a number of different channels.
It’s also designed to be faster than conventional communication channels, and has built-in analytics tools to help you understand your performance.
Customer engagement along the customer journey can get complicated fast; Pega exists to reduce that complexity. It includes automation features, customer analytics, omnichannel management, and campaign creation tools to help you make the most of your customer engagement strategy.
Engati is all about customer engagement, whether it’s through live chat, a chat bot, social media, or another communication channel. You can create automated workflows to simplify your customer engagement strategy and train chatbots without any programming experience.
Phone calls. Live chat. In-person discussions.
Your customers have a lot of communication options and they’re probably going to use some combination of all of them. And you’ll save time and improve efficiency with one or more of the customer engagement platforms on this list. For more ideas, see our list of the top customer service tools!
But there’s one communication channel that stands above the rest in terms of popularity, utility, and efficiency: email. In fact, 86% of business professionals prefer email as a communication medium.
Why do we love email so darn much? Well, it’s fast. It’s convenient. It’s (semi-)permanent. But most importantly, it’s easy to measure – at least, with a tool like EmailAnalytics.
With EmailAnalytics, you’ll gain access to tons of metrics on your email behavior and history, like how often you send emails, your average response time, and more.
The best way to see how it works is to sign up for a trial – which is completely free! Sign up today and try it for yourself.
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.