You’re Not Just a Garden Center, Not Anymore.

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“Most companies must realize that they are no longer competing against the guy down the street or the brand that sells similar products. Instead, they’re competing with every other experience a customer has. This presents an opportunity for forward-thinking brands to create positive experiences that customers want to talk about to others. It also suggests that customer experience professionals should be monitoring the experience at a wide variety of companies and industries for inspiration.” said Dan Gingiss, author and customer experience expert.

According to, 73% of customers say that an extraordinary experience with one company raises their expectations of others.

So, what is customer engagement and what does it really mean for your business today? A quick google search will tell you that customer engagement is the means by which a company creates a relationship with its customer base to foster brand loyalty and awareness. This can be accomplished via marketing campaigns, new content created for and posted to websites, and outreach via social media and mobile and wearable devices, among other methods.(footnote)  In order to uncover what that means for your business, surveyed more than 8,000 consumers and businesses across the globe for their third edition of the “State of the Connected Customer” report.

If you would rather not read the report, you can see below some interesting things that came from their research. 

  • Customers’ happiness depends as much on the quality of a company’s engagement as the quality of the product or service they’re buying
  • Customers are increasingly open to companies using new technologies to improve their experiences
  • Personalization, timeliness, and connectivity are the three foundations of exceptional customer engagement
  • Ethics and trust are key to winning customers’ business and loyalty

54% of customers think companies need to fundamentally transform how they engage.  New technology allows cutting-edge companies to engage with their customers in completely new and better ways.

So, what do we know about the sort of things customers now expect?

  • Customers expect companies to understand what they want BEFORE they ask. That might mean serving up a personalized offer or proactively reaching out to prevent a potential issue that might arise for customers.
  • Customers expect to pick the time and place. The best companies engage with their customers on the channel or device that the customer prefers, not the one that’s most convenient for the company — whether that’s online, over the phone, via a smartphone app, or a voice assistant.
  • Customers don’t care about your organizational model. Basically, if a customer talks to someone in marketing one day, they expect customer service to know about it — and use that information to help them — the next day. That means it’s crucial for companies to build a single, database of their customers, shared across all departments.

As people familiarize themselves with exceptional new digital customer experiences, they start to expect the same standard from everyone they do business with.

It’s crucial that companies meet that standard. “Customers have so much power now.  In the consumer world of social platforms, every single person has a voice. The rewards of harnessing your most ardent fans are amazing, but customers will also be very vocal when they are displeased. So, knowing your customers and understanding their needs has become critical to success, no matter what industry you’re in.” said Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, EVP of Industries at Salesforce.

Every time Amazon raises the bar in retail, for example, it also does so for banking, healthcare, hospitality, and every other industry. 

“We have a divide.  There are some companies and some products we use that provide such a perfect, seamless experience that they have raised the bar. In fact, they’re so easy and seamless that we kind of forget to be impressed. But that is making the ones that don’t have that kind of great experience all the more obvious.” said Dr. Susan Weinschenk, Chief Behavioral Scientist and Chief Executive Officer at consulting firm The Team W.

Their research found that 84% of customers say the experiences provided by a company are as important to them as its products and services. That’s up from 80% in last year’s survey. In other words, the quality of customer experience you can deliver is becoming a powerful leading indicator of your future success.

Mark Nelms is a Business Development Manager for Soft Intelligence.  He has conducted over 400 interviews with retailers from almost every vertical and size.  In prior roles he’s assisted clients like Cumberland Packaging Corporation (Sweet N’ Low), The New England Patriots, and NCR (National Cash Register.)