Customer Experience and Customer Engagement: Same, Different, or Just Other Terms for CRM?

There are a couple of buzz words in marketing these days that just seem confusing to most people: Customer Experience and Customer Engagement. What are these terms? What do they mean? Are they the same or are there differences?

Let’s discuss each of them and find out.

First, both of these concepts seem to have their roots in CRM: Customer Relationship Management. CRM has been around for a long time. This is a concept that first gained popularity in the early 2000’s. However it started, the concept was quickly claimed by marketing, sales and customer service. They each had their definitions, applications and tools.

CRM is a term that can be applied to any functional business area that deals with managing customer touch points and evaluating results. This can start at the lead or prospect level and work its way through the customer lifecycle. Agencies, consulting firms and brands began to tout their experience and expertise in CRM. It was (and still is) a big buzzword. Diagrams, charts, and many Power Point presentations espoused the brilliance of the presenter in the CRM concept.

Then, somewhere around 2010, two new terms seemed to spawn from CRM – Customer Engagement and Customer Experience. Again, sales, marketing, and customer service all flocked to these concepts and tried to claim them as their own.  Agencies were now branding themselves at “customer engagement” experts and brands were gushing about how they provided “unparalleled customer experience”.  To further complicate things, now we have two terms fighting for the same acronyms!

Wait. So what changed? Are the two really that different? Or did we just give CRM a paint job? Let’s compare these two concepts and see if there really is a uniqueness or this is just another concept shuffle to keep us from getting too comfortable.

Example interactions between Customer Engagement and Customer Experience.

Example interactions between Customer Engagement and Customer Experience.

Customer experience is about the feelings you invoke in your customers regarding your brand. These are driven by all of the touch points that customers have with your brand, including those that you control and those that are outside of your control. Customer experience is arguably the most important driver of loyalty because, as the old adage goes, perception is reality.

Customer Engagement refers to a marketing strategy for how to interact in a two-way communication ecosystem with your customers. It’s both a strategy and a suite of tactics that companies use to create positive customers experiences and long-term customer loyalty.

So, the basic difference between these two concepts is that marketers use customer engagement to impact customer experience.

A company that is focused on customer experience will have a very keen understanding of their customers using data gathered through observation, data collection, and research. They will employ customer engagement strategies and tactics to improve their customer experiences, measuring the outcomes through increases in behavior and/or attitude.

Bottom line…Customer Experience and Customer Engagement are indeed unique concepts. Like so much other jargon, they are often used incorrectly and interchangeably. So keep these distinctions in mind the next time you hear someone talk about Customer Experience and Customer Engagement.

Sarah Orlando

The JAY Group

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