The Art of engagement

The primordial nature of every business is engagement. You cannot do business alone.

Engagement is the act of relating to someone or something with your full awareness. A Sufi engages with life utterly and completely, surrendering himself to the whole. Because in the heart of deep engagement with anything, lies the seed of its understanding.

In our over communicated society, the need for engagement might seem an oft repeated remark, but the fact remains that the quality and not the quantum of engagement defines its success.

An inordinate amount of time in business is spent in engagement, be it with our customers, vendors, investors or employees. Yet instances of miscommunication and misunderstandings abound in most interactions.

With the advent of social media, the art of meaningful engagement has acquired a whole new dimension. There are innumerable customer interactions taking place everyday on Social Media sites including Twitter, Facebook, Pin interest, YouTube and on a vast number of customer support forums and online communities.

Now business engagements are no longer defined as one-way communications, where the company is trying to extol the virtues of its products to a passive audience.

There is a vital shift to company-customer interactions to customer-customer interactions that influence company-customer relationships

According to a recent Frost & Sullivan report, this is projected to grow exponentially over the next 5-6 years as the usage and number of active users of Social Media sites and forums continues to grow.

It therefore becomes essential for companies to redefine their model of business engagement to listen in, learn from, join in, support their customers and ultimately find ways to use social conversations to achieve sustainable growth.

To ensure meaningful engagement, few tips:

  1. Define your purpose – Identify and articulate your key objectives before every engagement, whether its social media interaction or meeting a customer over coffee. This will help you to plan your communication better, ask the right questions, save time and apply the knowledge gained in a proper manner. For example, gaining 5000 likes on your FB page might not give any indication of your actual increase in customers. 
  1. Meet at least 2 key customers in a week –  80% of our business is given by 20% of our customers. Yet in the daily rush of endless activity, we often ignore this segment. Make it a point to meet at least 2 important customers every week over coffee or dinner. It will the best way to know what your customer really wants and gain key insights about your market. 
  1. Two Way street – Engagement is a two way street. Having a well-defined feedback mechanism in every engagement is imperative to endure its success and impact on business. Ensure your engagement model gives ample scope to start a dialogue with the customer, gain key insights, as well as a tool for collating and applying these insights to better performance.
  1. Keep the spontaneity alive – Though keeping a well-defined engagement model in place is vital, don’t let it become an obstacle. A rule is only as good as its relevance in protecting the integrity of the idea. Insights often come from unlikely places. So remain alert and alive to everything that transpires in a meeting including non-verbal cues. Once during a business meeting, I sensed a prospective customer was hesitating to make eye contact with me even though he seemed to be saying all the right things. On gently probing further, I realized that I had been too quick in estimating his requirement and he had been too polite to address his real concerns to me. 
  1. Keep an objective approach – Bill Gates said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” There  might be instances where your customer might share uncomfortable opinions about your or your business. Remain objective and focus on the hidden scope for improvements rather than being overwhelmed by the emotional packaging.

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