Customer engagement is about encouraging customers to take actions that drive beneficial results for them and your organization. Effective customer engagement is about everything from how you communicate with customers, to – in the case of online payments – their experience receiving and paying a bill. For the majority of billing organizations, there are very few touchpoints you can leverage to engage with customers. That’s why it’s so important to get every customer engagement right.

Well-designed customer engagement strategies create operational efficiencies by driving increased customer self-service. In the long-run, this means reduced workloads for your staff, as well as increased customer satisfaction.

How can your organization make sure it’s getting customer engagement right? Let’s start by taking a look at the current trends that are impacting customer preferences.

The Growth of Digital

The shift to digital is evident everywhere, from the growth of e-commerce models to online ordering from restaurants and grocery stores, to the growth of mobile and contactless payment methods. When it comes to interacting with your organization, customers expect to easily make payments online or on a mobile device. They also expect the option to enroll in digital services, like paperless billing and AutoPay.

As the current climate forces increased focus on remote, contact-free services, customers who previously did not use digital channels are beginning to do so. In fact, 2/3 of Americans say they are “more inclined to try new digital offerings now than before.” And it’s becoming clear that migrating to digital drives significant results for the organization. Recent research shows that 56% of CEOs say their digital improvement efforts have already resulted in higher profits.

Increased Focus on Mobile First

Optimizing channels for mobile is no longer optional. More than half of consumers make mobile payment transactions from their smartphones every year. This means your organization should design every engagement point with a mobile-first mindset. What does this look like? It’s about removing obstacles like login screens, assessing layouts, and making sure the experience is as simple and streamlined as possible.

Realized Cost-Savings from the Cloud

Many organizations have already realized that there are extensive costs and labor requirements needed to maintain hosted or on-premises software. That’s why organizations are migrating to true Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. These cloud software platforms update automatically and are highly configurable to meet the unique needs of your organization — without costly upgrades or time-consuming updates.

Increased Customer Self-Service

As a result of the growth in digital channels, customers expect to be able to self-serve across every industry. Your organization’s self-service capabilities are being measured against technology companies and retailers, rather than just those competitors within your own industry.

The most impactful way to drive results for a billing organization is to get more customers to self-serve. Increased self-service means fewer customer service calls, improved staff focus on higher value work, and fewer headaches.

How to Improve Customer Engagement

Mastering customer engagement can drive significant positive results for your organization. Here are three tips for getting started.

1. Use Intelligent Communications

Customer engagement starts with how you communicate with your customers—about when their bills are due, how to pay them, changes to their accounts, and more.

Improve customer communications by:

  • Optimizing for every channel. You already know that customers want to pay on the channel of their choice. The same is true for communication preferences. Some customers want the option to set a reminder for themselves, while others would prefer to receive a text message or outbound (IVR) notification.
  • Driving action. Clear calls to action (such as ‘Click here to pay’ buttons) are important in customer communications. They ensure customers can easily access and pay their bills, without having to search.
  • Enabling simple, easy payments. When customers receive a bill notification, they should be able to easily make a payment through the notification. Simple, ‘one-click’ payment options from bill notifications drive the highest levels of self-service.

2. Provide Simple, Consistent Experiences

Consistency and ease of use are two key components in delivering successful customer interactions. This relates to everything from the user interface, to your omni-channel payment options. Your organization already knows that customers want options when it comes to interacting with your organization and making payments. Delivering this means creating omni-channel experiences that engage your customers consistently across multiple channels.

The importance of designing interfaces with your customers in mind cannot be overstated. Clunky user interfaces that are difficult to use increase calls to customer service and drive up manual collections. If customers cannot figure out how to use your payment platform, they will abandon self-service routes. Requiring extra steps like registration for a customer to pay online creates unwanted friction.

3. Maximize Every Touchpoint

Every single customer interaction is an opportunity for engagement and conversion to self-service. This means your organization needs to optimize both online and offline channels to encourage customers to enroll in time and cost-saving services like paperless billing and AutoPay.

Here are a few channels that are commonly overlooked:

  • One-time or guest checkout route. Almost half of all payers use a one-time payment or guest checkout route to pay their bills. A guest checkout is where a payer does not need to register to make a payment, so they never login to an account. Optimizing this channel means prompting payers throughout the checkout process to enroll in self-service options.
  • Post-payment. Even after a customer has made a payment, your organization should be prompting them to enroll in self-service options. This includes online and e-mail payment confirmation screens.
  • Offline channels: paper bill. For customers who are not already making payments online or enrolled in paperless billing, the paper bill is still a key engagement point. Use the bill itself or an insert in a bill to inform customers about their payment options and how to make an online, mobile, or phone payment.

To Improve Customer Satisfaction, Focus on Mastering Customer Engagement

For most organizations, improving and maintaining customer satisfaction rates are critical for decreasing customer churn and staying ahead of competition. One of the most effective ways to improve customer satisfaction is to focus on how your organization engages with customers. While this certainly isn’t an easy area to master, it’s one that has the potential to drive significant positive results in the long-run.