By Sean Harper, CEO/co-founder at Kin Insurance.
Engaged customers tend to be more loyal. They tend to be more satisfied. They tend to buy more. Because of these tendencies, most companies strive for high levels of customer engagement, consistently looking for ways to stay “top of mind.”
At Kin, we don’t.
Here’s the thing: Customer satisfaction and loyalty may correlate with engagement, but they’re not necessarily linked causally. That’s an important distinction.
What’s even more important is remembering that customer engagement is not an end in itself. If your goal in engaging your customers is purely to keep them from forgetting about you -- that is, if the engagement brings no additional value to their lives -- you’re doing it wrong.
What’s Your Ideal Customer Experience?
I founded Kin after a really terrible experience buying homeowner’s insurance. Did I want to buy homeowner’s insurance? No. I had to. Did I know the answers to all the questions on the application? Nope. And the worst part was, because I have a background in tech, I knew the answers were available online in a place where the insurance company could have gotten them if it wanted to.
So to me, a home insurance customer, the ideal scenario is that I think about homeowner’s insurance once a year when I renew, and the rest of the time I’m living my life. I’m relaxed and comfortable because I trust that if anything goes wrong, my insurance company will take care of me.
An even better scenario is that I’m happy because I know my insurance company will get in touch with me if (and only if) it has a really good reason to do so. In other words, my ideal experience as an insurance customer is one with very little engagement. It’s one that’s built on trust, sure, but it’s also more or less under the radar.
If I were running a restaurant or a retail outlet, I would want a wildly different engagement experience for my customers. The same is true if I were selling SaaS or photography services. The point is that high customer engagement shouldn’t be a default metric we all strive for. Every business owner should take a step back and ask themselves what an ideal engagement scenario is for their business.
High Engagement Does Not Always Equal Satisfaction
High engagement tends to work well for businesses that rely on user-created content (like review sites), businesses that are frequently updating or changing their offerings (like SaaS platforms) and retail businesses where impulse purchases are a reasonable expectation.
It shouldn’t be an expectation for those of us who sell things customers only need once in a while -- eye doctors, for example, or window vendors.
In fact, attempting to increase engagement when you’re in one of these industries can have profoundly negative effects. For example, let’s say you go to your eye doctor for your annual exam. Your vision hasn’t changed and you don’t need a new prescription. Great! But then you start getting emails from the doctor’s office -- marketing emails telling you about the new frames they have, the latest styles in eyeglasses, their renovation and more.
You find this content annoying so you unsubscribe. And then you miss the email reminding you to make an appointment next year -- the one email that would have actually been useful.
If the eye doctor had instead sent emails only to remind you to make your next appointment (and maybe to remind you of that appointment as it approached), you would have been less engaged but ultimately more satisfied.
When Engaging Makes Sense
Of course, if and when it’s possible to make customers’ lives better through engagement, I’m all for it. Some good reasons to engage include:
- Introducing a new product or feature
- Announcing a sale
- Sharing news that affects customers
- Asking for feedback (once)
- Requesting information only the customer has
- Requesting necessary input from the customer, like a signature
For example, Kin currently has a pilot program with a partnering system that helps people detect water leaks in their homes. If a client is a match for the program, we’ll make contact to offer it, as it can help save money on both insurance premiums and water bills.
Focus On Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty
Remember, customer engagement is important because it’s a proxy for customer satisfaction and loyalty. Forgetting that engagement itself isn’t necessarily a marker of success can lead to disastrous results.
No matter your industry, it’s worthwhile to ask yourself how customer satisfaction and loyalty can best be measured -- and then take steps to boost those metrics. This can be difficult, in part because it requires a mindset shift. But investing in things that boost loyalty and satisfaction -- user-friendly technology, excellent customer service, relentless improvements to your core product or service -- will yield much better results for the long term.
Sean Harper is CEO and co-founder at Kin Insurance, www.kin.com.