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Customer Engagement Platform: Features, Importance, and Best Tools
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Elevate Your Customer Engagement Strategy

Customer Engagement Platform: Features, Importance, and Best Tools

Sep 26, 2023
    |    
8 min read
    |    
Hiver HQ
Nidhi Lohia

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Every business today wants to not just attract customers but also retain them. To do this, it’s important to understand customers: what they’re looking for, how they feel about products or services, and how they like to communicate. 

This is where a customer engagement platform comes into the picture. 

These are tools designed to help businesses connect with their customers in meaningful ways. They offer features that allow companies to interact with customers, analyze their journeys and preferences, and even send them tailored messages or offers. 

By using these platforms, businesses can build stronger relationships with their customers and drive critical metrics like loyalty and retention rates.

In this article, we’re going to dig deeper into:

  • Features of customer engagement software 
  • Discuss why they’re so crucial for modern businesses
  • Highlight some of the best customer engagement tools available
Make Customer Engagement Super Seamless See how Hiver works

Table of Contents

What is Customer Engagement?

Customer Engagement refers to the process of actively building, nurturing and maintaining a relationship with customers. It’s a broad term that encompasses a wide range of interactions and touchpoints between a brand and its customers, which can occur both online and offline. 

Successful customer engagement means understanding customers’ needs and preferences, and then meeting or even exceeding them in order to create a positive, lasting impression.

What is a Customer Engagement Platform?

A Customer Engagement Platform (CEP) is an integrated suite of software solutions specifically designed to manage, streamline, and enhance all interactions between a business and its customers across various touchpoints and channels. Its primary function is to centralize and interpret customer data from diverse sources, ensuring that businesses can engage with their customers in a consistent and personalized manner. 

Through the consolidation of data, a CEP allows organizations to understand customer behaviors and preferences, enabling more targeted and meaningful interactions. It serves as a holistic system, bridging the gaps that might exist between different communication channels.

For example, consider a hypothetical online retailer, “E-Shop Universe.” This retailer interacts with customers through their website, mobile app, email campaigns, social media channels, and customer support chat. Without a CEP, all of these interactions might exist in isolation, with separate data silos and potentially inconsistent messaging. 

With a CEP, however, “E-Shop Universe” can unify all these interactions, ensuring that a customer who browsed a product on the website and later inquired about it on social media receives consistent and context-aware responses, enhancing their overall experience and interaction with the brand.

Difference between a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System and a Customer Engagement Platform

Today, businesses have an array of tools at their disposal to foster relationships with their customers. Two of the most popular ones are Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and Customer Engagement Platforms (CEP). 

While they might seem similar at first glance, they serve distinct purposes. Below, we delve into the key differences between CRM and CEP: 

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) System

  • A CRM system primarily focuses on managing a company’s interactions with its current and potential customers. It aids businesses in organizing, automating, and synchronizing sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support processes.
  • CRMs centralize customer and prospect information across sales, marketing, and support teams, allowing businesses to maintain detailed records of interactions and track leads as they move through the sales funnel.
  • CRM tools are predominantly used by sales and marketing teams to manage leads, prospects, and customer details. They provide functionalities like lead scoring, sales forecasting, and email marketing automation.
  • CRMs often emphasize the collection of historical data. They keep track of past interactions, purchases, and communication, building a retrospective view of customers.

Customer Engagement Platform (CEP)

  • A Customer Engagement Software is a broader tool designed to manage, streamline, and enhance all interactions between a business and its customers. 
  • While CRMs focus on sales and marketing, CEPs cover the entirety of the customer journey. This includes awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy. They provide tools for personalizing customer experiences. 
  • CEPs offer an omnichannel approach, ensuring that customer engagement is consistent and integrated across various channels, whether it’s web, mobile, social media, or in-person.
  • Unlike CRMs which are mostly reactive, relying on historical data, CEPs can be both reactive and proactive. They leverage real-time data to predict future behavior, allowing businesses to proactively engage with their customers.

Key Features of a Customer Engagement Platform

A Customer Engagement Platform (CEP) is designed to manage and enhance the interactions between businesses and their customers across various channels and touchpoints. Let’s delve into the key features that define a robust Customer Engagement Platform:

  • Unified Customer Profile: A CEP consolidates data from various sources to create a 360-degree view of the customer. This unified profile can include demographics, purchase history, interaction records, preferences, and more. 
  • Omnichannel Integration: One of the standout features of a CEP is its ability to provide a seamless experience across multiple channels. Whether customers interact with your company via social media, email, web chat, SMS, or in-app messages, their experience remains consistent.
  • Real-time Analytics and Insights: CEPs help businesses monitor engagement metrics. These insights can reveal customer preferences, potential issues, and emerging trends, enabling timely and informed decisions.
  • Automated Workflows and Campaigns: Automation is key in managing large customer bases. With this feature, businesses can set up triggers based on customer criteria, ensuring timely and relevant interactions without manual intervention.
  • Feedback Collection and Management: Understanding customer feedback and sentiment is vital. CEPs often come with tools that facilitate feedback collection, whether through surveys, feedback forms, or direct interactions. 
  • Self-Service Capabilities: In today’s world, customers often prefer to find solutions independently. CEPs might offer knowledge bases, chatbots, and other self-help resources, empowering customers to address their queries without having to reach out to the support department all the time.
  • Security and Compliance: Given the sensitive nature of customer data, a robust CEP comes with stringent security measures. This includes encryption, access controls, and compliance with data protection regulations.

How Customer Engagement Platform Elevates Customer Experience

A Customer Engagement Platform (CEP) serves as a dynamic tool that helps businesses build strong relationships with their customers. The benefits of using such a platform are aplenty:

  • Seamless Multi-channel Experience: Users expect consistent interactions, regardless of the platform or channel they use. A CEP ensures this uniformity, allowing customers to transition smoothly between devices and platforms without losing context or experience.
  • Proactive Customer Service: With the ability to anticipate customer needs and respond in real time, businesses can address concerns before they become issues. For example, if a customer frequently pauses during an online checkout process, a CEP might trigger a chatbot to offer assistance.
  • Efficient Use of Resources: By automating various engagement processes, businesses can save time and reduce operational costs. Additionally, insights from the platform can guide resource allocation towards the most impactful initiatives.
  • Informed Decision Making: The wealth of data processed by a CEP provides actionable insights. Companies can leverage these insights to adapt their strategies, making decisions that align more closely with customer expectations. 
  • Increased Revenue Opportunities: Personalized recommendations and timely engagement can lead to higher conversion rates. For example, based on a user’s browsing history of winter wear, a CEP might highlight a limited-time offer on winter boots, nudging the user towards an additional purchase.
  • Feedback-Driven Improvements: Continuously collecting and analyzing feedback allows businesses to evolve based on customer expectations. For instance, after several users mention the need for a tutorial on a platform, the company quickly rolls out a series of how-to videos.

7 Best Customer Engagement Tools

Here are the 7 best customer engagement platforms for businesses: 

1. Hiver

Hiver is designed to transform Gmail into a central communication hub where businesses can effectively engage with their customers. With Hiver, your company can interact with its customers across multiple channels – email, chat, phone, knowledge base, and Whatsapp – right from their Gmail inbox. 

The biggest advantage with Hiver is that it’s super easy to set up and get started with. The platform also offers white-glove onboarding for all users, at no additional cost.

customer-engagement-platform
Hiver

Key Features:

  • Email Management: Hiver turns emails into actionable tasks which can be assigned to dedicated team members. This way, every email query or request gets an owner. It ensures accountability for every email and offers visibility into task ownership. 
  • Collaborative Tools: Hiver enhances teamwork by allowing internal teams to leave notes on messages and discuss responses internally. This reduces the back-and-forth communication and ensures that customers get swift responses.
  • Smart Routing: Based on preset rules, Hiver can automatically distribute incoming customer messages to the right team or individual. This ensures that each message is handled by the most suitable person, leading to faster and more accurate responses.
  • Performance Insights: Hiver provides detailed reports that give an overview of team performance, average response time, and customer satisfaction levels. This data helps businesses identify things they’re doing well and areas that need improvement.
  • Quick Responses with Templates: For frequently asked questions, teams can use pre-written templates in Hiver. This speeds up response time and maintains a consistent tone in replies.
  • Knowledge Base: Hiver also helps companies build a knowledge base. This empowers your customers to self-serve and easily find the answers to their queries. 

2. Help Scout

Help Scout is primarily a customer support platform, but it’s designed with a personal touch. 

Instead of emphasizing on ticket numbers and automated replies, it focuses on fostering genuine conversations between businesses and their customers. It organizes customer questions, concerns, and feedback under one roof, making it easier for support teams to provide timely and relevant responses.

customer-engagement-platform
Help Scout

Key Features:

  • Docs Knowledge Base: Empower your customers with self-service options, allowing them to find answers instantly.
  • Beacon: An on-site tool that combines chat, search, and knowledge base to assist customers in real time.
  • Reports: Detailed insights into team performance, conversation volumes, and customer satisfaction to continually refine engagement strategies.

3. Zendesk

Zendesk is a comprehensive customer service solution. It brings together different modes of communication, such as email, chat, and phone, into one unified platform. 

This means no matter how a customer chooses to reach out to your company, the conversation is captured in one place, helping your support team manage and resolve issues more coherently.

customer-engagement-platform
Zendesk

Key Features:

  • Omnichannel Support: A unified interface that pulls in communications from email, chat, phone, and social media, ensuring consistent and seamless interactions.
  • Answer Bot: Leverage AI to provide instant answers from your company’s knowledge base, scaling support and empowering customers.
  • Sunshine: A customizable CRM platform within Zendesk that offers businesses a 360-degree view of their customers.

4. Salesforce Customer 360

Salesforce Customer 360 is an extension of Salesforce’s vast toolset, dedicated to providing a complete, holistic view of customers. 

It collects and organizes data about each customer’s interactions, purchases, preferences, and feedback, enabling businesses to better understand and cater to individual customer needs and preferences.

customer-engagement-platform
Salesforce Customer 360

Key Features:

  • Single Customer View: Collate data across various touchpoints, presenting a unified customer view.
  • Personalized Journeys: Use AI to craft bespoke customer journeys, enhancing engagement and satisfaction.
  • Integration and Scalability: Seamlessly integrate with other Salesforce tools and third-party applications, ensuring adaptability and growth.

5. Intercom

Intercom is a customer engagement platform designed to facilitate seamless communication between businesses and their customers.It’s a tool that businesses add to their websites, allowing them to chat in real time with visitors. This can be for answering product questions, providing support, or even guiding a potential customer through a sale. Intercom also offers automation, so commonly asked questions can be addressed instantly.

customer-engagement-platform
Intercom 

Key Features:

  • Customizable Chatbots: These bots can qualify leads, answer queries, and even book meetings 24/7.
  • Targeted Messages: Send behavior-driven messages, engaging customers with the right content at the right time.
  • Product Tours: Guide users on how to use your product with onboarding flows, enhancing user experience and product adoption.

6. Drift

Drift is designed to enhance website interactions. It’s a chat tool that connects businesses directly with site visitors. The idea behind Drift is to remove barriers between potential customers and businesses. 

By offering real-time chat, it provides instant answers and can guide visitors towards making a purchase or finding the information they need.

customer-engagement-platform
Drift

Key Features:

  • Live Chat: Allows businesses to engage visitors while they’re active on the site.
  • Email Playbooks: Automates email sequences based on behavioral triggers, maintaining engagement even when users are off-site.
  • Account-Based Marketing: Recognizes high-value visitors and provides them with personalized experiences.

7. Hubspot CRM Suite

Hubspot’s CRM Suite is a collection of tools created to manage and improve business-customer relationships. It keeps track of all customer interactions, irrespective of the touchpoint and channel. 

This information helps businesses understand what their customers are interested in, and how best to communicate with and serve them.

customer-engagement-platform
HubSpot CRM 

Key Features:

  • Contact Management: Consolidate detailed records of customer and prospect contacts, tracking every interaction to fuel engagement strategies.
  • Marketing Automation: Deploy automated, personalized campaigns based on user behavior.
  • Conversations Inbox: Centralize emails, chats, and more, ensuring teams have full context during customer interactions.

The Final Word

When selecting a customer engagement platform, it’s essential to find the right balance between usability and a range of features.

Take the time to understand your business’s specific needs and choose a platform that aligns well with your current and future objectives. 

Hiver is one such tool, especially for those who already use Gmail. Picking the right platform, like Hiver, can make a big difference in building strong relationships with customers.
Get started with Hiver today. Free for 7 days.

A passionate content marketer, Nidhi writes value-driven, actionable content for various teams such as customer service, finance, IT and HR. Her expertise lies in helping these teams engage, collaborate, and manage their workload better - by shedding insights on best practices and industry trends. When not working, you'll find her tuning in to marketing and support-related podcasts, while also planning her next vacation.

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