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Engagement, Intent Driven Involvement

Recently, friend Paul Greenberg penned a short post (ok, a not short, 2-part series very worth reading) where he talked about the end of one era transitioning to the beginning of a new one.  The points are sound. But, I would like to explore a different viewpoint, or maybe just add my own perspective.  I believe that when we look back in a few years, we will see that the transition is going to take a bit longer than we imagined it would (In other words, it is not “the End” but it is “Ending” slowly). I am not going to nit-pick on words, this, is not about that. I might even suggest to Paul that he consider updating a Wikipedia entry (more on that in a minute). I will say that a more meaningful mutual benefit can be achieved if each side is willing to give more, as the value exchange equation is always a bit one-sided.

What is really being described here is a maturity model; on BOTH sides of the equation, this is new. If Social CRM is about a companies programmatic response, then engagement on the customer’s terms defines the format of the response. Therefore, Social CRM is different for every type of business. In order for it to work, both sides need to mature and be willing to invest emotionally and intellectually.  Since the customer will mature at his or her own pace, we <company> are often left to guess where they are along the maturation curve. It is also important that a distinction be made between engagement and involvement. For the sake of this discussion (ie, no primary research references) I will draw the distinction along a continuum, where involvement occurs first and then by the addition of an emotional element engagement happens. Engagement is a deeper level of involvement, by being ongoing (As Paul notes) or emotional, possibly even intent driven.

A Bit of Research

Looking at Wikipedia as a starting point, as I remembered friend Prem Kumar referencing Employee Engagement in a post a while back. The Employee engagement Wikipedia entry is rather nice, while the Customer version is utter crap.

First the Customer side:

“Customer engagement (CE) refers to the engagement of customers with one another, with a company or a brand. The initiative for engagement can be either consumer- or company-led and the medium of engagement can be on or offline.”

Feel free to look for yourself. It misses the mark totally.  Friend Graham Hill had some thoughts on the topic as well -  Graham challenges the Inside-out marketing team only approach, and I agree. That said, what if the customer is able to define (control, augment) the rules of engagement, then maybe something has changed in the past 5 years, no? Conclusion; the maturation of the Social part of CRM part of the equation is to carefully manage actual engagement. Actual engagement is an actual bi-directional conversational flow/dynamic, input and involvement.

What if we tried to adapt the Employee engagement model for the customer? There would need to be some very obvious changes, but it is a much better place to start – and if after you take a look at this and then take another look at Paul’s post, you can see he is onto something. Take a look at the below and think about whether it is possible to alter some of the words, replace a few and begin to change the poor Customer Engagement definition above.

“Employee Engagement is the extent to which employee commitment, both emotional and intellectual, exists relative to accomplishing the work, mission, and vision of the organization. Engagement can be seen as a heightened level of ownership where each employee wants to do whatever they can for the benefit of their internal and external customers, and for the success of the organization as a whole.”

Employee Engagement impacts Customer Experience

There are lots of people writing about engagement, a term that is becoming as nebulous as social itself; but at least there is some history to work with here. Respected analyst/researcher Bruce Temkin has published a report regarding Employee Engagement as well. Bruce has spent many years thinking about Customer Experience. In the report, he draws a strong link between Employee Engagement and Customer Experience:

“The analysis uncovers a strong connection between employee engagement and customer experience as well as between employee engagement and productivity.”

Great, but…Where is the link between Employee Engagement and Customer Engagement? Does strong Customer Engagement lead to a more positive Customer Experience? I am not going to speak for Bruce, but I am going to hazard a guess that the link is not there because Customer Engagement is nebulous at best and as I have stated very poorly defined with competing agendas. Employees have, in theory, a specific mission: do a job and help the company grow, right? According to Gallup, 86% of engaged employees say they very often feel happy at work, compared to 11% of the disengaged. There is also a direct link to the bottom line according to research.

In the end, being Social is about being human. Social Media and Networking are really just new channels that we are all trying to figure out how to use a bit better. ie. How can we be as human as possible using electronic means. The technology is new, we are just trying to figure it out. As we become better at the usage of the channel, then we can move from demands to requests, from hyperconnectivity to right connectivity and from being social to being engaging. Engagement in this context is not like the picture above, because it can end at any time, quite easily. While technology is only a part, it is still an important part.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mark Tamis January 12, 2012, 6:16 AM

    Great Mitch, but the big question remains about how to bring about Employee Engagement if this is the lever to pull to deal with those customers willing to engage more deeply? Customer Engagement or or Employee Engagement are not switches you can just turn on, but could be the outcome of the programmes you put in place to create the right conditions to bring it about (training, incentives, measuring and rewarding the appropriate KPIs).

    Also I think (like you) that the programmatic response is not just about providing the right tools and putting the right work processes and flows in place – it is also about looking and modifying the value flows to support the outcome. Too many will just go down the road of software in a box that will force people down a cowpath even when this will lead them over the edge of a cliff.

    I posit that Employee Engagement is just as nebulous as Customer Engagement, as it offers no guidelines as to what type of behaviour is beneficial nor in which measure and in which situation. Engagement is good but what is the link to the outcomes, and why? Will we have an NPS for Engagement, like Klout is for influence or what Dachis has done with its Social Business Index which says more about software adoption than anything else? All this is nebulous at best, and no Cloud-based software will change that ;)

  • Mitch Lieberman January 13, 2012, 8:45 AM

    Cheers Mark – Great comments.

    Something which really sticks out, a topic which we could all do a bit of research on and come back with some more details: “looking and modifying the value flows” this goes along with a bit of an ambiguity I put in the post, one which no one called me out on “the value exchange equation is always a bit one-sided”. I never said which way it was one sided on…

    Your description, using the word flow, adds a bit of evenness to the process. One party will always be the beneficiary at any point in time. Likely, more than the other. As a whole, things should even out over time. It is when things become too uneven that people start to gripe.

    Now to your other point about Employee Engagement being as nebulous, I am not sure I agree. I am not saying it is simple and always clear cut, but Employees should have goals and objectives which can be measured. Engagement can and should be put into that mix. Whether that happens or not, is not clear. Nor, as you state, can tools be the answer.

    Mitch

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