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What Is User Engagement? Recently a friend of mine recounted an experience in which she needed a product to help her produce a brochure in a few days for an unplanned event that had a wide reach within her customer market. She tried to get this done quickly through products she found online, but
Recently a friend of mine recounted an experience in which she needed a product to help her produce a brochure in a few days for an unplanned event that had a wide reach within her customer market. She tried to get this done quickly through products she found online, but just signing up for these tools was so tedious, she wasn’t sure she could create what she needed over the weekend. She then stumbled on a product that gave her a quick login and allowed her to create a brochure to use without any charges for up to a week. This had her hooked, and this one-time user was soon converted into a customer. Essentially, what we saw is that user engagement was relevant.
User/customer engagement or product engagement is no longer just the goal of the product, support or sales team. The experience potential customers have with products start from the time they begin searching for a solution land on a product through any channel, whether it’s an advertisement, a website or even a spontaneous conversation with a colleague. It’s interspersed with customer experience across the customer life cycle.
In the graph below, Forrester provides metrics for marketing engagement that are relevant to the entire journey of your product becoming a solution, adding value to your customer’s business and continuing to contribute to their growth year after year.
Engagement can, therefore, be defined as the rich association users have with your brand because of the value they discover through your product.
How can you devise your user engagement strategy? Where do you start? Knowing both your product and customer well is where it begins. When customers are searching for a product, they are looking for a solution that meets their needs. You have built your product with a market in mind and tying your solution to their goals is the first step to starting this journey with your customer. Force-fitting your product to their solution will only take customers so far before they find an alternative in the market. User engagement strategy forms the foundation of customer success management, and this user engagement journey continues throughout the lifetime of the customer.
Post-sales, as you begin defining the customer success journey, a touchpoint like onboarding becomes the first test of the user engagement strategy. Robust onboarding sets the tone for how engaged your customers will be. Your strategy for onboarding should fundamentally lie in your own product and the service you want to offer. Some questions you could ask yourself include:
User engagement depends on how well the product communicates for you and the duration for value realization. Touchpoints are primarily through in-app messages with a quick help section that focuses on providing short videos that show customers how to use different features and help keep them engaged. This approach is for products that require very little configuration or are seamless in their use. Low revenue engagements are usually low touch. During organization-wide adoption, however, this might require a high-touch approach after onboarding.
Enterprise-wide software adoption for certain types of complex software requires this approach. High revenue engagements should help cover the costs of resources involved in high-touch onboarding. Onboarding could also be a one-time exercise that generates a one-time expense, then plateaus as product adoption improves.
Touchpoints during high-touch onboarding need to be well-planned since this could cause customers to feel underwhelmed if value realization is delayed or overwhelmed if the process is too long and drawn out. Considerations for high-touch onboarding that ensure active user engagement could be but are not limited to:
High touch during onboarding might lead to low touch after onboarding. Customer success managers can then use different approaches, such as identifying and evaluating user engagement metrics like daily app users, time spent on the platform and user retention (which varies depending on whether it involves a web application or a mobile app), to stay on top of customer journeys without using intrusive methods to ensure customers are getting their value and staying engaged with your product. It‘s important to focus on their growth as customers and the evolution of your product to accommodate more of the same.
This is essentially where user engagement metrics in customer success finds its ground. Engaged users improve product penetration within the organization. What becomes important here is the ability to show sustained value to the user. Value could mean different things to different sets of users. It could vary from something as simple as saving time on what they currently do to not having to traverse multiple systems. How many of us while switching tabs on an application have forgotten what we were really trying to do? One needs to assess what are the right metrics they need to track.
When you observe the behavior of users across a product, the pattern they leave behind often gives you a chance to engage them in several different ways. Blanket communication across users confuses them and often causes them to ignore any messages continuously directed at them. But when you see certain behavior across a user sample and have the ability to reach out to that specific sample, there is a higher chance that you will be able to help those users over a hurdle that is very relevant to them. This is where campaigns come in handy.
Once you isolate a user base, providing material like self-help videos and nudging without nagging helps them to stay involved with the product. Often narrowing down on the user base is a huge challenge. Then collating email ids and structuring communication to users, along with keeping track of how many received it and identifying those who consumed it might require customer success managers to use multiple systems. In a world with shorter attention spans and a deluge of information directed at users, the ability to reach out only when customers have a relevant need takes on a new meaning, and its effect is lingering.
Similarly, gathering customer feedback needs to be a tactical exercise. Regular users of a product might have to be quizzed on its usability and relevance to determine how the product is evolving. Managers can provide information on the value they are realizing as a team and other objectives they are basing product adoption on. Leadership teams would become more of a focus when there is a need to understand the impact of the product across the organization and identify opportunities for upselling or cross-selling using the NPS score.
The ability to gauge customer sentiment is an important user engagement metric that contributes to the lifetime value of customers. It’s a strong indicator of how things are and how things will come to be for the product and can fuel many decisions on the path the product needs to take.
Session duration: This shows the amount of time users spend on your app or website. This metric can be both positive and negative. If your product is like a training platform that requires people to spend more time on it to show they are engaged, long sessions are a positive indicator. If you are focusing on users trying to get an appointment, a long session might indicate an issue with the platform or usability.
Retention: This looks at how many users are returning to your platform. It’s an indicator of the stickiness of your app and is crucial to understanding if product adoption is progressing as expected and the best approaches to improving it. Additionally, it’s a great metric if you have both mobile and web versions of your product.
DAU/MAU: Daily active users or monthly active users show how many people use your product at least once in a day or month. This indicates whether people are using your product or losing interest. This could also be an indicator of problems in the user experience.
Lifetime Value of Customer: This represents the amount you are willing to spend on your customer based on the amount the customer invests in your product. For a customer who brings you high revenue, touchpoints need to be more frequent and thorough. 19
Effective user engagement strategy leads to well-defined touchpoints that help customers adopt a product in the most effective manner without being overwhelmed by repetitive outreach. For successful touchpoints, creating content that users can consume and quickly translate into actions to achieve their objectives is equally important. User engagement in customer success is probably the most unpredictable yet key factor in how successful a SaaS product will be. The ability to modify the touchpoint approach each time there are changes in patterns will keep you on top of customer requirements and ensure longevity in the market for which your product is made. Be sure to invest in a customer success management product that helps you stay at the top of your game.
Rakhin has over 10 years of experience driving business development and client services. In his prior roles, he stayed close to customers to understand their requirements and help them achieve their business goals. He is passionate about customer success.
Published March 19, 2020, Updated February 28, 2023
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