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What are the four “P”s of customer engagement?

Customer engagement: the four ps

Mastering the art of delighting customers is a skill that transcends departments. Whether you’re in marketing, customer service, product development or engineering, caring deeply about the experience provided to customers will always serve your career. These standard four “P”s are regarded as the key components of a well-established customer engagement strategy: personalization, proactivity, promptness and people.  

Michael LeBoeuf said it best when he stated, “All company’s greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company.” However, if everyone who is responsible for customer engagement acknowledges these four “P”s, how do you stand out from the crowd? What establishes your strategy as a cut above the rest? We’ll dive into what they mean, how you can level up beyond the standard and truly delight your customers, so you earn their loyalty. 

Personalization: Understanding your customers

Personalization is the largest moving target and opportunity for surprise and delight. What businesses can do to personalize can feel like it expands daily, especially with tools and technological developments. Personalization is more than: 

  • Your customer’s attributes 
  • Your customer’s name 
  • Your customer’s last transaction or action 

Those who touch customer engagement at your business are likely using the above as methods to understand who your customers are and what to say to them and when. The data available in these solutions are often looking at historical data and using a combination of past behavior, demographics and intent to inform and suggest what to do next. While the adage of past behavior is the greatest predictor of future behavior can be true, Psychology Today, broke down the conditions needed to make that true. They are: 

  • High-frequency, habitual behaviors are more predictive than infrequent behaviors. 
  • Predictions work best over short time intervals. 
  • The anticipated situation must be the same as the past that activated the behavior. 
  • The behavior must not have been extinguished by corrective or negative feedback. 
  • The person must remain essentially unchanged. 
  • The person must be fairly consistent in his or her behaviors.

Humans, and their behaviors don’t fit within these rigid parameters. A missed payment for the customer who forgot to update their credit card number and the customer who is already behind are different. The way businesses communicate in that moment should vary for these individuals. However, a missed payment is an event. So, for most systems, this would result in both customers receiving the same message. Looking beyond the last event and understanding behaviors can morph is integral to driving personalization at the human level. It’s also key to anticipating needs. 

Proactivity: Anticipating needs

Let’s continue with our example. Noting that behaviors shift, and the situational realities are different. Now, we know that the first customer has paid every bill on time for the past five years. In other words, this is the first time they’re late in their tenure. They likely feel they’ve built a reputation with their provider that demonstrates their commitment. Now, imagine if that customer received an auto generated email because of an event trigger (ie. Missed payment). Depending on what that email says, how it addresses their needs and what it assumes, this is an opportunity to delight.  

The immediacy of the notification is important. The content of the message is important. The channel the outreach goes out on is important. In this case, could you offer a few options for this missed payment that apply for both customers. Options include: 

  • Pay now 
  • Make a partial payment 
  • Update payment details 
  • Connect with us 

With the above, you’re providing an array of self-select options for customers to choose. It doesn’t assume to understand, yet it empowers customers with the decision. Without the right wording, you could inadvertently offend the long-standing (and paying) customer by making them feel like you don’t understand them.  

According to a study by HelpLama, 89% of consumers say that proactive customer service is a pleasant surprise. More importantly, 81% of shoppers say a good experience increases the likelihood of repeat purchases. That’s what we all want—long term relationships and loyalty to your brand. 

Promptness: Time on your side

We’ve all been on the receiving end of an email with a coupon code minutes after we made a purchase (argh!). Or our account has been the subject of a breach only to find out months later in an email asking us to update our password. The timeliness of these outreaches is frustrating. Frustrating because we were not notified within our window of opportunity. Engagement is the result of the series of communications you deliver to customers. Every touchpoint matters. Delivering information your customers need to know at the exact time that they need it is important. 

In the case of the coupon code, it’s a great way to encourage repeat purchases but it’s also a fast track to potentially annoying those who just spent their hard-earned money on something they had been researching for weeks. We don’t want to do this. 

Scientifically, the proof is there too. Take this study from the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education that looked at the perception of personal value of faculty and students based on the timeliness of their communication. Interestingly, the students (77%) indicated that a faculty’s response time to their text or phone call impacted their perceptions of feeling valued and important. If the timeliness of your messages has the potential to affect how customers feel their value, then naturally, this is an important consideration in your strategy. 

People: Here for the long-term

The customers you serve and the employees that serve your customers are the same, their people. Relying on technology to support the automation or assistance in daily tasks frees up time so you and your team can focus on building and fostering meaningful relationships. Word of mouth is tops when it comes to marketing – in fact, Nielsen found that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms when making a purchasing decision.  

To further promote word of mouth, consider referral programs and incentives for both customers and employees to share your business. This could look like a reward for every referral or for employees, their ability to recommend products and drive signups. It’s a win-win for you and for your customers and employees.  

Focusing on your customer engagement and the relationships you have built means providing them with the resources and information that they need. This will help foster trust and ultimately lead to them recommending your products or services to people they know. 

Recapping the four “P”s

Mastering the art of delighting customers requires a multifaceted approach that extends beyond the generic and otherwise “zombie” approaches we see today. While acknowledging the importance of the standard four “P”s—personalization, proactivity, promptness, and people—it’s essential to go beyond the basics to truly stand out. Ultimately, success in customer engagement hinges on appreciating the human element that is essential to building lasting relationships. By prioritizing people—both customers and employees—and fostering meaningful connections, businesses can earn trust, drive loyalty, and thrive. 

Download our 2023 consumer report, Decoding Billpayer Behavior, to discover more about what’s on the minds of your consumers and how you can gain their mind and wallet share.