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The One Thing Killing Your Customer Engagement

“Engage” is one of those words that everyone uses, but that could mean a million things. You can engage in battle, engage in a contract, engage in a conversation or engage in a moment. Engage can also mean start, attract or interlock.

I hear engage frequently used in business. Namely, the context of customer engagement. Forrester Consulting defines customer engagement as "creating deep connections with customers that drive purchase decisions, interaction, and participation, over time".

In the name of customer engagement, businesses set a course for customers by engaging them at multiple levels. It is complicated and costly. You can invest all of your time and money, but if the rest of your team is not on board, then your carefully crafted engagement plan will not work.

Related: Make Onboarding a Part of Your Next Culture Initiative

The Problem with Customer Engagement Plans

Regardless of how awesome your customer engagement plans may be, the only way they will be successful is if they include provisions to build and maintain internal engagement.

Sounds simple, but I am convinced that few companies get it right. For example, there are times that I dread going to an actual store or having to call a company for assistance. Why? Because I know from experience that I will be dealing with someone that is not engaged.

Disengaged employees will disengage customers. They erase the time and money spent on the clever ways used to prep customers for engagement. The disengagement not only wipes out the effort put into up-front engagement, but also puts you at risk of not having that customer again. You might also have to deal with potential fallout in the customer’s sphere of social media influence.

Related: How to Create a Clear and Cohesive Internal Message for Employees

There is a widespread employee engagement problem in the U.S. and it can counteract your customer engagement efforts enterprise-wide. Providing customers with an engaged representative that has the backing of an engaged staff sets you apart and gives you an edge over your competition.

Employee engagement plans are not one-size-fits-all, but there are some key ways you can begin to implement an employee engagement piece to your overall engagement plan.

Focus on employee strengths. Employees are most engaged with your company when they are trusted to “do what they do best every day.” If you don’t already know your employees’ strengths, use a strengths finder test to help you understand where your employees will best thrive within your company.

Make your engagement goals realistic. Your internal and external engagement goals have to be realistic for you to see success. This seems like a no brainer, but many companies set outlandish goals and become upset when their employees don’t meet them. For example, if your employees fall within the 41 percent who don’t know what their company stands for, maybe your first goal should be internal brand awareness instead of having your employees become brand ambassadors.

Coach managers and hold them accountable. When managers focus on their employees’ strengths and actively engage with their goals, employee engagement skyrockets from 30 percent (U.S. average) to approximately 61 percent. Train managers to recognize and utilize employee strengths and then hold them accountable for staying engaged themselves. Employees learn by example, so if their manager isn’t engaged, they won’t be either.

If you update your customer engagement plans to include your staff, you might just find that the best solution for customer engagement is employee engagement.

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