There's no doubt that customer expectations are on the rise. Today's customers are no longer impressed by a good customer experience or even a great one. They expect a first-rate experience, and if they don't get it from you, there are plenty of other brands ready to reel them in.
Modern-day customers want instant communication via the channels of their choice while expecting seamless service. They expect companies to anticipate their unique needs and efficiently answer their questions whether they asked them via email, phone, social media, or chat.
And brands are struggling to meet this demand for an increasingly flexible yet cohesive experience. While 88% of companies feel it's important to have a complete view of customers across channels, only 15% say they have the ability to make use of these insights.
How do you offer scalable service across multiple channels without losing the consistency and personalization that customers crave? Enter customer engagement platforms — software solutions that help businesses offer proactive communication when and where the customer needs it while managing customer data across all touchpoints.
What is a customer engagement platform?
A Customer Engagement Platform, or CEP, is like a digital multitool for your business that focuses on enhancing customer relationships. It integrates the features of a help desk, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, and a communication platform into one powerhouse package.
It essentially combines three integral components:
Unified Communication Hub: Acting as a sophisticated help desk combined with a marketing automation tool, a CEP centralizes all customer interactions from different channels into one accessible place. This ensures you never miss a beat when it comes to addressing your customer's needs.
Advanced CRM: Like a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, a CEP collects valuable customer data. However, it doesn't stop there. It allows data from different sources to interact, giving you a comprehensive understanding of your customers' profiles and needs.
Customer Journey Optimizer: A CEP observes user behavior, collects feedback, and learns from it. This intelligence is used to provide personalized experiences and refine the customer journey continuously. From first interaction to loyal customer, the CEP helps to optimize every step along the way.
In essence, a CEP is your one-stop digital hub that enables your business to understand, manage, and respond to your customers better. Whether you're a small startup or a large corporation, using a CEP can streamline your operations and provide a personalized experience for each customer.
What is the difference between a CRM software and customer engagement platforms?
A customer relationship management (CRM) system is a software tool that tracks and manages every interaction between your company and your potential or existing customers. A customer engagement platform also tracks customer interactions but has a newer, customer-first approach. While CRMs have traditionally focused on gathering customer data, customer engagement tools take this data and looks for ways to engage customers at every touchpoint throughout the customer journey.
How customer engagement platforms benefit different teams within your company
There are many sides to customer engagement. At any given business, multiple teams are involved in and stand to gain from a tighter engagement strategy. Here's how customer engagement software can benefit the different teams in your organization.
Your support and success teams
Gain a better understanding of customers—With an in-depth view of every customer's interactions history, your support and success teams can better understand your customers, predict their pain points, and offer proactive service. They can also ask customers for feedback on recent support tickets and uncover ways to improve their processes.
Offer personalized, multichannel support—With a variety of ways to contact support (e.g., live chat, social media, SMS), customers enjoy a more dynamic service experience. And by tracking each customer's habits, your agents can engage with customers using personalized messaging on their preferred channel.
Scale your success and support programs—With a CEP, agents can automate chosen support processes and provide self-service resources. This helps them streamline their workflows and offer better customer service at scale — for a fraction of the cost.
Your sales team
Uncover upsell opportunities—By tracking customer behavior, your sales team can easily identify opportunities to upsell to existing customers. For example, a sales agent can use a customer's recent activity or purchase history to recommend a feature they think they'd enjoy.
Streamline the sales cycle—A CEP helps your sales team track and optimize their efforts across the sales cycle. Using various channels, like live chat and customer communities, sales reps can identify and reach out to prospects and answer their questions to start a conversation.
Nurture leads—By integrating with lead management tools, a CEP helps your sales team nurture leads and turn them into conversions.
Analyze marketing campaigns in real-time—Your marketing team can monitor campaign performance and use customer insights to target their efforts directly to the right people.
Your product team
Collect customer insights about your products—Data gathered from every customer interaction (e.g., support tickets) allows your product team to better understand product issues and uncover ways to improve.
Features to look for when choosing customer engagement software
Choosing the right customer engagement platform will depend on your needs and objectives. But here are some key features to look out for:
The more you can individualize your customer experience, the better. According to research by Salesforce, 56% of customers expect every offer to be personalized. Some customer engagement tools offer strategic customer segmentation that lets you target your approach to particular groups of customers.
For example, customers can be divided according to factors like demographics, firmographics, user personas, or stages in the customer journey. They can even be segmented based on the particular ways they use your product. This functionality allows you to offer powerful experiences like customized onboarding and tailored messaging.
An omnichannel approach
A platform with an omnichannel engagement strategy focuses on integrating customer interactions across multiple channels like email, social media, phone, and chat. This is hugely important, as 53% of customers say that most support interactions are fragmented, and 60% say it feels like they're communicating with isolated departments instead of one company.
An omnichannel approach allows brands to create consistent messaging across many touchpoints and a smooth customer experience. It also helps reduce friction since support reps have access to any previous issues encountered by customers.
Beyond generic email sequences, a great customer engagement platform supports automation that's triggered by customer behavior. For example, a customer activates a new product feature and a friendly email is sent to them with tips and resources to help them use it. This simple communication arrives just when the customer needs it and helps them successfully move along the activation funnel. A CEP should also use stored data to ensure that any automated messaging is tailored to each customer's preferred channel and current needs.
Efficient support ticketing
A support ticketing system helps businesses efficiently manage customer queries. A sophisticated ticketing system can be run in the background, unbeknownst to the customer. For example, a customer can start a conversation with a chatbot and — without knowing it — automatically trigger a support ticket that gets tagged, assigned a priority, and shared across the support team. If the system is well-organized, a customer can even be passed along to different agents without having to repeat their question or start their conversation over.
For a seamless experience, you'll want a CEP that can integrate with the tools and apps you're already using, like your CRM or analytics platform. This improves your operations immensely because you'll have complete customer data automatically integrated without having to manually import it. This helps you to unlock seamless multi-channel touchpoints, and you'll be in a better position to offer your customers useful and individualized communication.
A great CEP is designed to track and analyze customer behavior. By observing the way customers interact with your brand across multiple channels, CEPs can monitor detailed data like engagement statistics (e.g., most used features, frequency of use), sentiment statistics (e.g., customer satisfaction) and real-time analytics (e.g., the product a customer just purchased, the channel they're currently on). This data will help drive your decisions in ways that best engage every product user.
Customer communities: The new generation of customer engagement platforms
Businesses are increasingly embracing customer communities as ways to engage their customers, manage their interactions, and provide them with timely support. Sound familiar? That's because a customer community accomplishes many of the same goals as a customer engagement platform.
A customer community platform is like a modern-day CEP, but with a few key differences. Like a CEP, a community platform helps you manage the customer lifecycle and is a goldmine for customer analytics. But at its core, it's a shared online space that helps bridge the distance between brands and customers. Communities facilitate one-to-many interactions and help businesses embrace the voice of customers through user-generated content. Let's take a closer look at the advantages of customer communities.
Key advantages of customer communities:
Reduce the burden on customer support.
Customer communities are a support team's greatest ally. These platforms can be equipped with all kinds of self-service support options so customers can get the help they need — 24/7 — while freeing up your support agents. These self-service options can include extensive knowledge bases, FAQs, video tutorials, and forums.
What's more, since communities enable customers to interact with each other (e.g., commenting on each other's discussion posts) customers can help each other solve product issues by answering questions and sharing tips.
Collect customer feedback through surveys, polls, and discussions.
Collecting customer feedback has never been easier. Inside the community, customers can respond to polls and surveys and share their feedback in dedicated forums. This is particularly useful for the product team, who can directly ask customers to share their feature requests or divulge any snags they're running into with your product. These valuable insights can then be incorporated into product development and improvements.
Improve user engagement with events and gamification.
Community platforms include countless features to engage customers. In addition to the many touchpoints to connect with the brand (e.g., live chat, polls, forums, messaging), many brands offer spaces to host live events and training. Some software offer additional gamification tools like leaderboards, custom icons and badges, and opportunities to earn reputation points and climb ranks.
Cultivate connection and build brand loyalty.
Communities are exclusive spaces where customers can gather with like-minded others and share their experiences. This group environment not only increases engagement but fosters a sense of camaraderie and peer-to-peer connection that's tough to replicate with other tools.
Within this unique space, businesses can develop a meaningful, emotional relationship with customers that feels like a one-to-one relationship. Customers feel like they're a part of the team, and businesses cultivate loyal brand advocates.
Top customer engagement platforms in 2023
Customer engagement tools, although all designed to engage customers and enhance their experience, can come in many different forms with unique functionalities. This table provides good insights for those planning to add a CEP to their tech stack:
Customer engagement tool
Community-focused customer engagement
$599 per month (Free trial available on request)
Targeting product or website users with timely messages
$74 per month per 2 seats
Businesses with a high volume of customer interactions
$55 per agent per month
Those looking for a simpler, more affordable version of Zendesk
Free plan with limited functionalities
Enhancing customer experience in contact centers
Not disclosed publicly
Collecting and unifying customer data
Free plan with limited functionalities
Gathering customer feedback effectively
Not disclosed publicly
Local businesses and brands looking to gain customer experience insights
Not disclosed publicly
Orchestrating multi-channel campaigns
Not disclosed publicly
Mobile-first businesses wanting to improve customer engagement
Not disclosed publicly
The next section highlights our top choices for a customer engagement solution and a rundown of their most noteworthy features.
Bettermode is an all-in-one community platform that helps you build a fully customized online space for your customers. Within your community, you can provide self-service support, drive customer success, and collect customer feedback.
When used as a CEP, Bettermode brings a unique, community-focused approach to customer engagement:
Interactive communication hub: Bettermode centralizes Q&As, product education libraries, knowledge base, public roadmaps, changelog and more into a customer community, and by doing so, it centralizes communication. This communication can be peer-to-peer as well as between the company and customers, and it's often on a personal level. This makes customer interaction more organic, engaging, and continuous.
Customer understanding: Bettermode allows a business to understand its customers better by observing the discussions, feedback, and interactions among community members. This can lead to more accurate customer profiles and more effective personalization.
Customer journey optimization: The interactive nature of Bettermode encourages customers to become more invested in your brand. The shared experiences, advice, and discussions can enhance every stage of the customer journey, driving customer loyalty and fostering a sense of belonging.
Bettermode's key features
Templates—Effortlessly build your community with customizable templates. You can start from one of Bettermode's professionally designed templates or create your own templates from scratch to suit your specific needs.
Design Studio—Select, arrange, and configure blocks to visually build your unique layouts with zero coding.
Embedding—Integrate your community into your mobile app or website for a better social experience. Build engagement and encourage participation as you meet customers on the channels they're already using.
Gamification—Showcase top members with a leaderboard system and incentivize participation by awarding badges to boost engagement.
Activity feed—Capture community members' attention and engage them with relevant content based on their participation, preferences, and connections.
Omnichannel notifications—Using integrations, send out notifications to third-party tools like messaging apps. This keeps members engaged with what's going on inside the community.
Built-in reports—Grow your community smarter with community analytics that help you measure the success of your engagement programs.
A free trial can be activated based on your unique use case — get in touch with our sales team to get started. Bettermode's monthly subscription plans include an Advanced Plan at $599 and an Enterprise plan with custom pricing. The Enterprise plan offers enterprise-grade security, audit log, and uptime SLA.
Intercom is a communications platform that helps you target your product or website users with personalized messaging and timely support. Intercom is known for its ability to strategically connect customer engagement to marketing and sales. Through live chat and email tools, the platform helps you build powerful relationships with potential and existing customers.
Intercom's key features
Customizable messaging tool—Add Intercom's messenger tool to your site, product, or app and adjust the style, content, and layout for a look and feel that matches your brand.
Campaign builder—Create a powerful onboarding experience and customer journey with a visual campaign builder.
Live chat and chatbot—Boost your conversion by connecting with website visitors right at their time of need using live chat and chatbot tools.
Intercom offers subscription plans for larger businesses and enterprises, all with custom pricing. They also offer a Starter plan at $74/month for small businesses of only two teammates — but be aware of extra fees for additional teammates and add-ons.
Zendesk is a customer service software that encompasses a host of tools to enhance your customer experience while streamlining your workflows. It supports multiple communication channels like live chat, voice chat, messaging, social, and email. Zendesk is known for its intuitive user interface and feature-rich ticket management system. However, it's a pricey option that's best for larger businesses.
Zendesk's key features
AI support bots—Let support bots powered by artificial intelligence quickly solve requests, guide customers to optimal solutions, or transfer issues to a live agent.
Help center—Build a help center with knowledge bases and a community forum. Let customers access self-service support and collect metrics to see which content users are most interested in.
Ticketing system—Organize your support tickets on a deeper level with a sophisticated ticketing tool. You can tag tickets with specific labels, group similar tickets together, and easily route tickets to specific agents.
Integrations—Get connected to more than 1,000 apps and integrations.
Zendesk offers monthly Support plans ranging from $19-$99 per agent per month and Sales plans ranging from $19–$150 per user per month. Zendesk also offers Suite pricing, which ranges from $49–$215 per agent per month. All plans come with free trials.
Freshdesk is a customer support software that is touted as a simpler, more affordable alternative to Zendesk. Freshdesk is known for its gamification features, robust ticketing system, and user-friendly interface.
Freshdesk's key features
Freshdesk Arcade—Improve support agents' productivity and reduce the monotony of routine with an extensive gamification system. Agents can earn points and badges as they complete support tasks.
Helpdesk In-Depth—Dive deeper into your support tickets to uncover important metrics and generate reports.
A stack of communication channels— Reach your customers through Twitter, text, WhatsApp, and Line, in addition to email, live chat, and chatbots.
Freshdesk's Support Desk has a free option for up to 10 agents. It also has monthly plans that range from $15–$79 per agent per month. Freshdesk's Omnichannel Suite ranges from $29–$99 per agent per month. All plans come with free trials.
So, how do you choose the right customer engagement platform?
Many factors go into choosing a CEP for your brand or business. Here are a few tips to get you started on your search.
Define your use case. Are you looking for a self-service support tool, a tool to provide customer support through chat, a multi-channel communication tool, or a platform to lead your marketing campaigns?
Nail down your desired communication channels. Do you want your CEP to support live chat, voice chat, push notifications, chatbots, mobile messaging, etc.? Do you want it to integrate with third-party social apps?
Consider community building. If growing a brand community is on your list of goals, consider choosing a customer community platform — an engagement tool focused on community-building.
Look out for hidden costs. If you have a smaller budget, look out for free options or simpler solutions that offer just the features you need. You also want to be aware of extra charges for additional features and platforms that charge per agent or user — these costs can quickly add up.
Think about ease of use. Consider how soon you need your platform up and running and look for software with a user-friendly set-up and helpful support team. If the platform is more sophisticated, you might also need access to a dedicated customer success manager.
Test it out first. Most platforms offer a free trial or demo which can give you a good idea of the usability and feel before committing.
Customer engagement is a complex process — and so are the solutions designed to support it. But the right platform for your business will help you meet rising customer expectations and offer customers a personal experience they'll remember. By consolidating data across all communication channels, you'll gain valuable insights that help you optimize your processes and provide unified service.
When deciding which platform is right for you, take your time. Read up on the solutions you like and look for trusted reviews. Then reach out to the teams behind your top choices and ask them your questions. Soon, you'll be taking advantage of the most cutting-edge engagement tool on the market.
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