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Buyers, Sellers Value Engagement, Struggle to Find Common Ground

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While 97% of small and medium-sized businesses agree that customer engagement is a top priority, they admit they come up short.

How does your business engage customers? According to research from MyCustomer, BusinessZone and Microsoft, the top two tactics used by businesses include building rapport through frontline staff and personalizing communication, based on preferences a customer has provided.

Changing customer preferences, and behavior, are forcing businesses to adapt. As channels of communication have expanded, so have customer expectations; modern customers want to receive desired information in their favored format, at a time and with a frequency that fits their lifestyle. Building loyalty through telephone or in-store service pales to the explosion of options available online.

While research indicates that four out of five medium-sized and smaller businesses have a presence on social media, 79% of businesses surveyed said they were better at engaging customers offline; almost half acknowledged they didn’t make the most of social media, even though they’re using it. Why? According to the research, challenges include a lack of understanding of customer demand, an absence of customer insights and an inability to prioritize sales leads or identify high value customers.

If you’re ready to kick your engagement efforts up a notch, recent Better Business Bureau (BBB) data can shed light to help you craft content that’s most relevant to your customers. The data was collected from 2,021 U.S. and Canadian consumers through a Nielsen survey commissioned by BBB and compiled in 2015. Not surprisingly, 36% of respondents were most interested in news about savings, deals and bargains, while 19% preferred news about technology and electronics and 16% hungered for information on food, healthy food and food safety. The study also revealed differences among audiences in the news they crave.

While men and women of all ages were most interested in news about savings, adults 35 and older preferred food and food safety news next, yet millennials sought information on electronics (22%) and entertainment (13%) instead. Older consumers were more likely to desire news and information on apparel than were their younger counterparts. Male shoppers were far more likely to care about news on electronics (30%) than females (8%).

Customer service isn’t dead. To the contrary, frontline employees can still make or break a purchase experience. But these days, many customers meet that frontline employee on the other end of an online chat session after receiving a targeted communication about a product or service they care about.

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. She can be reached at 410-347-3990 and abarnett@greatermd.bbb.org.