If you, like me, are a fan of the long-running CBS-TV reality show, "Undercover Boss," you watch with particular interest when a wig-and-makeup-clad CEO is compelled to interact directly with the company’s customers.

It is at this moment that the CEO often gains a "game-changing" perspective--an "a-ha" moment that leads to new practices, policies and benchmarks for customer experiences.

For those of us without the gimmick of a TV show, we have to find other ways to ensure we are truly engaging our consumers. Brands with highly engaged consumers, according to a recent Rosetta Consulting survey, enjoy 50 percent more revenue as a result of their customer loyalty.

With real dollars at stake, let's pledge today to become an "Out-From-Undercover" Boss--someone who has the vision, perspective and tools to cultivate market-leading brand loyalty from your customers.

Here are the three keys to ensuring you are engaging your consumer "like a boss":

1. Community

Humans are an interesting lot. On the one hand, we love to hide behind our new tech tools to anonymously interact and transact. But at the same time, we crave attention, particularly from the companies that have earned our business.

A great first step for your community-building exercise would be a peer-to-peer support forum focusing on your product or service. Invite members, partners, and industry leaders to share their experiences, and best practices with your customer universe.

The companies that are best at building communities seem to be inherently there when needed. Examples include Zappos, with its insightful product suggestions and flexible return policies and JetBlue, which immediately "tweets" back when a traveler is experiencing a concern. Even better, many such companies create communities on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope or Google+ and then toss the keys to the customers.

2. Content

Content marketing helps drive customer engagement and loyalty. It is a very effective way of answering customer questions and providing other helpful and relevant content.

Uniqueness and exclusivity of content help with trust-building and, as a bonus, offers benefits like increased organic search engine visibility and enhanced social sharing by impressed readers. Content can be made exclusive by requiring users to subscribe to the site; these can be no charge subscriptions.

An excellent way to start? Solicit suggestions and co-create with your customers. Customer generated content, in particular, adds authenticity and builds trust. Lenovo community members contributed more than 1,200 Knowledgebase articles, resulting in a large amount of rich and insightful content.

Consider turning some recent product feedback into your first blog, microsite or eBook, and reward participation. (To see how some worldwide corporate leaders unlock the power of content marketing for ROI, check out this recent Inc. "Vision 2020" article.)

3. Gamification

Today's empowered consumer wants evidence that their opinions and suggestions are valued, and they want you to reward them for their continued loyalty. One of the most contemporary and resonant ways to do so is through gamification: turning engagement into "fun-gagement." Starbucks, which bestows stars, progress bars and levels to frequent patrons through its app, and Waze which showers points and custom avatars on the users of its navigation app, have mastered the use of game-like features to incubate loyalty.

Gamification is not limited to consumer-focused companies alone. StackOverflow, GitHub, and SAP are all using gamification to encourage engagement.

For the less advanced, simple contests that reward feedback with prizes can be just as effective. And, by posting thoughtful questions on your website and social media platforms, consumers will respond with helpful answers--and gratitude for allowing them such a direct voice.

Make 2015 the year that you truly engage your customers. It won't take an enormous amount of effort to implement even one of these strategies; deeper engagement with customers and revenue growth will follow.

 

 

Ameeta is Chief Marketing Officer at PlatformQ Health, a digital media company focusing on the healthcare sector. PlatformQ Health produces live, interactive, on-line engagement platforms in partnership with leading academic medical institutions and association partners. Ameeta is a Springboard alum and past chair of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge. @ameetasoni

Published on: Aug 21, 2015