Customer Experience and Customer Engagement Management: Defining the Difference

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Remember in high school geometry when you learned that a square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t always a square? Understanding the difference between customer experience and customer engagement management is a little like that. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In the not-so-distant past, customers played a much smaller role in business. In terms of movie casting, they were the supporting best friend to the brand’s central character. But times changed, and so have the dynamics. Today’s customer is no longer satisfied with playing such a bit part, instead preferring to take the lead in strategy and overall direction in exchange for their business and loyalty. In fact, 73% of consumers rank customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions, according to PWC research, with speed, convenience, ease-of-use, and friendly service the most important elements cited. And 59% of customers say tailored engagements based on past interactions are critical to retaining their business.

The line between customer experience and customer engagement management can, for obvious reasons, be a little blurry at times. Decidedly more so as brands intermittently exchange terminology based on their understanding and use of the phrases. However, there remain a few key differences between these two customer-focused concepts, the understanding of which can determine how you shape your strategy now and in the future.

Strategy vs. goals for engaging customers 

The easiest and most obvious place to start is simply by defining the terms. While customer experience can be summed up as “the perception the customer has of your brand,” customer engagement management is a more robust concept. It is the totality of your brand’s strategic engagement throughout the entire customer journey, the building blocks of your relationship with your customers. What does that mean in plain English? Every communication, touchpoint, and transaction is aggregated together to equal your engagement. And the strategy that you put in place to cohesively interact with your customer can be the difference between winning and losing their business.

Connecting the dots on better customer engagement 

The crux of any successful customer engagement management strategy is the thread of connection tying together every interaction. While customer experience can exemplify anything from a moment to a lifetime with a brand, customer engagement management specifically focuses on the holistic picture of a customer’s engagement with you—from winning over to win-back, it’s the journey that defines the strategy.

This requires personalized omnichannel marketing at each stage of the buyer journey, measuring these interactions and behaviors, and then optimizing the next engagement based on the results of your previous efforts. In essence, a robust customer engagement management strategy helps deconstruct silos so you can deliver cohesive, consistent communications across touchpoints. 

Return on (customer) investment

Investing in either customer experience or customer engagement management can deliver your brand significant ROI. Understanding the depth and breadth of return, though, is dependent upon your brand’s goals and overall business strategy. While customer experience offers the promise of improved brand awareness, higher Net Promoter Score, and overall customer perception (as we just discussed above), customer engagement management can bring about significant improvements in both revenue generation and—the more difficult to measure—customer loyalty.

Customer experience trends for 2023

It’s a new year in an unstable macroeconomic climate. Even if consumer spending is projected to drop, with more shoppers focusing on needs over wants, the customer experience your business delivers can still make a difference. Some trends in particular to take note of when it comes to customer experience include:

  • Phygital: As it sounds, phygital is the blending of both physical and digital experiences. If you’re reading this thinking, But I’m not a retailer with a typical storefront, think again. Phygital is set to expand to new industries, particularly banking and insurance, in 2023, says customer experience futurist Blake Morgan. This might look like innovative experiences for customers looking to complete large purchases, such as buying a car or a house. It also might mean thinking of new ways to engage customers across channels, as they will need more assistance during questionable economic times.
  • Increased technology spend: Despite economic uncertainty, customer experience technologies are in demand. Research by Metrigy shows that customer experience is the number one priority for companies increasing their technology spend in 2023. In fact, more than two-thirds of companies plan to increase this spend by an average of 24 percent.
  • Omnichannel expansion: Businesses now know how imperative it is to offer consistent, authentic experiences across channels. The most powerful omnichannel strategies retain 89% of customers compared with weak omnichannel strategies that retain just 33%, according to research by REVE Chat. 

Should you use a customer engagement platform?

There are technologies that exist with the main purpose of helping you execute your customer engagement management strategy and capitalize on the above trends. These systems help integrate both channels—including online, like websites and email, and offline, like print mail—and data so you understand how customers are responding to different marketing and transactional messages. As a bonus, these platforms can often help you get more out of simple, mandatory tasks like getting customers to pay bills on time and helping you up-sell or cross-sell using incentives and personalized messages delivered at the precise moment.

Customer engagement platforms are predicated on:

  • A single, integrated system with which you can launch omnichannel campaigns, track the corresponding behaviors they produce, and tweak them for the future
  • Centralized, not siloed, data that offers a 360-degree view of each of your customers
  • Focusing on the customer, not the brand, to better understand and address their needs, preferences, and behaviors 

It goes without saying that these customer engagement management systems should be easy to set up and use. That means low- or no-code technology implementation, drag-and-drop templates, and flexible, bespoke solutions that don’t rely on IT. 

Learn more about customer engagement management 

At the core of everything we’ve talked about in this post remains the most critical piece of any business puzzle—the customer. Ready to see what customer engagement management has to offer? Click here to schedule a demo.