Defining ‘Customer Engagement’

January 4, 2008

‘Engagement’ is a word with many meanings (vow, betrothal, involvement etc). In its use within marketing it can be boiled down to a single concept: one-way relation. If x is engaged with y, x is related to y, which is not to say that y is also related to x.

The concept of customer engagement furthermore deals with a particular kind of one-way relation. The kind of relation customer engagement refers to is delimited by the following:

  • Subject of engagement: The subject of engagement should not be limited to customers. Although ‘visitor engagement’ is better in that it takes into account non-customer visitors to your website/store, its focus on measuring people’s engagement with your brand on your own premises is too restrictive. It is important to measure the engagement of customers, prospective customers and detractors with our brand, in every space they choose to engage with it in.
  • Object of engagement: The subject’s relationship with a brand/company/ product/consumption topic.

Now that we have defined what kind of relationships customer engagement deals with let’s look at the criteria with which we can differentiate and classify the ways in which customers engage:

  • Kind: Positive or negative. Customers can be positively or negatively engaged with a company/product.
  • Degree: The degree of positive/negative engagement lies on a continuum that ranges from low involvement, namely, the psychological state of apathy, to high. An engaged person is someone with an above average involvement with his or her object of relatedness.
  Customer non-Customer
Positively Engaged

A1

B1

Non-engaged –Apathy

A2

B2

Negatively Engaged

A3

B3

A1 customers refer to what has been termed after McConnell and Huba as customer evangelists. These are your most valuable customers (not simply because of the recency/frequency of their custom but because they offer value that translates to revenue by means of a range of other behaviours such as advocacy).

A2 customers constitute the majority of most companies’ customers. These customers are not loyal to you – for whatever reason they are not really interested in your company/brand/product. They will defect if a competitor manages to interest them in their offering.

A3 customers are ready to defect. But that is not what is most troubling about them. They are keen to badmouth you whenever they get the chance.

The Chevy Tahoe viral ad spin-offs were a case of B3 engagement. All these people, creators and viewers alike, where passionately engaged with their fight against SUV’s.

Positively engaged non-customers involve all those people who for whatever reason cannot buy your product, be that a teenager love for a Lamborghini, or a 25 year old bachelor’s fondness of Mothercare products.

Apathetic non-customers are people who are aware of your brand but couldn’t really care less. Just imagine how many brands you know you are neither a customer of nor really have any feelings/thoughts towards.

Please tell me what you think.

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2 Responses to “Defining ‘Customer Engagement’”

  1. Joel Downs Says:

    Theo – do you have any posts/stories you can share on how you’ve measured customers’ kind of engagement? I’m curious to hear how you differentiate between positive, non-engaged, and negatively engaged. Is this done through surveys and polls, or have you tried more implicit measures?


  2. [...] Defining Customer Engagement – 4 Jan 2008 [...]


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