Customer Experience and Customer Engagement: Do You Know the Difference?

We all have a love-hate relationship with business talk. On one hand, it gives a standard set of terms that allow us to communicate efficiently, and there’s no denying that this is a big time saver, no matter how tempting it is to make fun of business lingo. The issue with business-speak is that, while it helps bring everyone on the same page, it can also be really misleading—especially when two terms sound very similar, and often get used interchangeably.

This is the case with customer experience and customer engagement. Both are incredibly important for establishing healthy, symbiotic brand-customer relationships, but this would only help when the appropriate goals are set and course of action is determined to suit the correct term. We tend to overestimate our knowledge, so to test yourself, here’s a short quiz to see if you know the difference between customer experience and customer engagement.

A customer writes an online review about your brand, saying that they enjoyed the latest campaign that contributed to the overall “fun” feel of the company. Is it appropriate to describe this as a customer engagement or customer experience situation? Answer (highlight to see): customer experience

A customer success representative reaches out to an existing customer with a request to rate their latest social media interaction with the brand. Is this an example of customer engagement or customer experience? Answer (highlight to see): customer engagement

A brand sends a survey to multiple customers, asking to describe their perception of the company using one word. What term best describes the end-goal of this practice, customer engagement or customer experience? Answer (highlight to see): customer engagement*

I’ll let you in on a secret: that last item was a trick question. The act itself is best described as engaging the customer, but the survey question is trying to get the picture of customer experience. If this quiz caused you to pause and think, it won’t hurt to brush up on your knowledge of the difference between customer experience and customer engagement.

Customer engagement

The term ‘customer engagement’ is most often used to describe the customer’s direct interaction with the brand. This can be initiated by either the customers themselves—for example, by reaching out to the brand’s customer service department, visiting a retail location, or @mentioning them in a Tweet,—or from the brand’s side. Brands can also limit customer engagement to offline interactions at retail locations and mandatory customer satisfaction checks, such as surveys and point-of-sale promotions. However, doing so may be hurting the brand’s customer experience and loyalty in the long run. Thus, it’s important to consider opportunities for customer engagement throughout their journey with the brand.

With new frontiers presented by the adoption of social media by most major brands and small businesses, best customer engagement practice is to engage with customers in a way that relates to their daily lives.This is made easier with social media channels, which allow brands to have unlimited access to customers and their daily lives. In addition to open lines of communication, social media offers the benefits of analytics, which help brands zero in on their target audiences and figure out the effectiveness of their messaging; social customer service, an additional, real-time outlet for problem-solving and suggestions for improvement from the customers; social media campaigns, which increase brand awareness and reward customer loyalty; and many more. If you’re looking for more ideas on engaging your customers on social media, you’ve come to the right blog—we deliver inspiration for ways to reach your customers on social on a daily basis.

Customer experience

While customer engagement typically happens at certain touch-points, such as the sale, the satisfaction check, and—if you’re good—regular check-ins on the brand’s social channels, customer experience (CX) describes the individual’s impression about the brand as a result of all those encounters. Customer experience is built throughout the customer journey, and includes every step within that journey, from the first moment awareness to the end of the relationship with the brand.

You can imagine, as something that involves so many stages of customer journey, customer experience management is a science in itself. Whether you own a small business or manage a part of customer experience in a large organization, your main customer experience management weapon is the knowledge of your brand’s key differentiating factor: what sets experience with your brand apart from others? This entails possessing the knowledge of your customer base, knowledge of your product and services, and creation of a unique brand culture.

This may seem like a tall order, but wide adoption of social media for customer engagement actually allows businesses of any size to develop a customer experience management strategy that is effective and easy on the budget. Start thinking about this purpose for your brand’s social channels from the very beginning, in the planning stages of your social profiles. Determine which profile will be used to showcase company culture, and which will be primarily used to tell stories behind new products or services. Of course, all of your channels should be used for customer engagement, but you may want to go even further and create a separate Help account specializing in customer inquiries and problem-solving. Finally, your social media channels are a great way to boost your email marketing strategy, whether you use it for newsletter distribution or customer experience surveys.

TL;DR: the main difference between customer engagement and customer experience

While these terms are often used interchangeably, the difference between them can make or break your brand reputation. Customer experience is an emotional connection, or how the customer perceives your brand—and this is something you cannot control. However, you can help shape customer experience into a positive one by engaging with the customer beyond the point-of-sale—by means of social media, regular surveys and questionnaires, targeted ad campaigns, etc. All of the mentioned examples fall under the category of customer engagement.

Learn how to connect with customers like never before at Connect via Hootsuite, our virtual conference. Register for free to learn how to use social media at every stage of the buyer’s journey—from engagement and brand awareness, to driving leads and closing sales.

Connect via Hootsuite takes place October 5, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. PT/11:30 a.m. ET/4:30 p.m. BST

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