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Customer engagement. This is a term which I often encounter, and immediately wonder why we need another new term. Because in my opinion, it is just that: a new term. It is certainly not a new concept, let alone a new underlying challenge. Upon googling ‘customer engagement’, I read: ‘speedy, simple, personal service over all channels’, ‘truly impacting customers on the basis of subconscious customer experience’, ‘direct involvement with customers’. Wasn’t that what we meant by customer experience 5 or 10 years ago? And customer relationship management some 15 years ago?

The targets remain unchanged

In my opinion, the idea behind CRM/CEM/customer centricity remains the same, namely to achieve your corporate targets: loyal, satisfied customers, cost efficiency and therefore profitability. The road to those targets also remains unchanged: good, speedy service, efficient customer processes, comprehension of customer needs and proactive gearing of your products and services accordingly.
Instead of asking ourselves why it is so difficult to successfully implement this concept in practice, we think up another new hype, in this case: customer engagement. The same applies to omnichannel: what really sets this aside from cross-channel or multichannel? The only factor which has changed is the number and type of channels involved. Once again, the targets remain the same, namely a consistent, good experience over all channels.

And the consumer is still to blame

As for the claim that consumers are becoming increasingly more demanding and critical, I wonder. According to research by VODW management consultants and the MarketResponse market research agency, more than 75 percent of customers is thinking about switching insurance company, telecom company, energy supplier or retailers. A large majority of these customers indicates that this is due to poor customer experience. Surely your first reaction as a company is: “Whoops, I’m being punished for my poor customer experience”. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
If we consider the actual switching behavior in those same branches in 2013, it was 13 percent in the energy market and 6.5 percent among healthcare insurers. More than 80 to 90 percent is still a customer! Only yesterday, I spoke with someone who said: “I should really just leave bank A because of their poor customer service, but it’s such a hassle, so I won’t bother”.

So what should we be talking about?

For the past 10 to 15 years, I’ve seen exactly the same themes within the large b2c service providers in the Netherlands. So maybe the time has come to sit back and actually take the time to give the service a proper makeover. And the organization likewise. Not in terms of its structure, but rather its cooperative lines. Apparently consumers have enough patience, so let’s spend the time effectively instead of flapping around like headless chickens.
Maybe we should be asking ourselves, why it is so difficult to think outside of our own box? Why does the marketing department not oversee the end-to-end customer journey? Why is our steering information for the end-to-end customer journey still far from complete? Why is it essentially so difficult to change but one thing: to observe services from the customer’s perspective for a change. After all, it’s not rocket science to devise and do.

Personal leadership

That rocket science lies in personal leadership, (the courage) in taking time, daring to look beyond your own targets, sometimes simply standing still and disconnecting from what we’re doing, seeking cooperation for the customer, contradicting preconceptions, even if this means that your own KPIs may receive less attention in the short term. We won’t need to think up new terms every few years, and instead can invest that energy in actually continually listening to customers and adjusting our services accordingly. How about starting by reserving half a day per month for this purpose? Surely that’s doable?


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