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The New Frontier of Customer Engagement

The new world order on customer engagement entails turning frontline staff into researchers and journalists.

The New Frontier of Customer Engagement

Since mid-2007, smart devices have empowered today’s customer, who is now armed with more knowledge and information than at any other point in history.

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In tandem, social media’s disruption has leveled the playing field, turning us all not only into recorders of history, but potential subject matter experts and/or trusted sources of information as well.

Yet, all this information can leave customers overwhelmed, needing help navigating, deciphering and analyzing the plethora of information in order to make informed choices. A Forrester report that reviewed the top 15 customer service trends in 2013 found that knowledge management is becoming the jewel in the customer service crown.

Gallup reports that fully engaged customers represent an average 23 percent premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth over the average customer. Actively disengaged customers represent a 13 percent discount on the same measures.

The new world order on customer engagement entails turning frontline staff into researchers and journalists, enabling staff to become curators of information as well as trusted guides across the omni-channel environment to provide real value to customers.

Burberry is an example of a retailer that’s down this path. The iconic global British brand, known worldwide for its luxury retail experience, wanted to raise the bar by providing a more personalized in-store experience. So, it rolled out tablets to all sales associates across more than 300 stores, enabling its in-store staff to be armed with the tools they need to effectively interact with customers. The tablets continue to deliver results, now driving almost 30 percent of the online business.

It isn’t that customer-facing team members need to know it all. That’s a near impossible task these days. More so, they need to be taught the skills that reporters normally learn in journalism school – sourcing information; analyzing, digesting and synthesizing information for today’s 140 character culture; getting the facts right; focusing on objectivity and accuracy; and most importantly, building trust.

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There’s a unique opportunity here for retailers to distinguish themselves and show up differently, which has to do with library management, Boolean search skills and driving a culture that craves information. Knowledge is power indeed. Not to mention profits.

Shafiq Jamal is a senior vice president at Edelman Vancouver specializing in reputation and brand management.

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