Customer engagement plays a critical role in your company’s growth and depends on your customer experience.

As Steve Jobs once said: “You have to start with customer experience and work your way back toward the technology, not the other way around.

steve jobs customer experience

What he really should have said was, “You have to start with measuring customer engagement and then work your way back toward the technology.”

Customer engagement and experience are closely intertwined – how you engage with your customers and what they see when they engage with your product will inevitably affect their experience.

But how do you measure it?

Every SaaS company has its own approach to tackling customer engagement – but few ever get it right.

So in this post, we will debunk some myths around it, show you how to measure it, and most importantly – how to improve it with an omnichannel customer engagement strategy.

Table of Contents

TLDR

  • Customer engagement is the ongoing relationship between your customers and your company and the quantity and quality of these interactions.
  • Customer engagement plays a critical role in your retention rates and your capacity for growth.
  • To measure customer engagement for product companies, you need to avoid vanity metrics like MAU and session numbers. Focus on feature adoption, onboarding completion, and NPS score.
  • Use the insights from these measurements to improve your product experience. This can be done through a step-by-step approach to your in-app experiences.
  • To improve customer engagement with a product-driven approach, start with personalizing new customer onboarding. Include video and make it interactive for the customer’s use case. The second step is implementing secondary onboarding techniques like tooltips to point them to an advanced feature they haven’t tried or a productivity workaround they haven’t used. Try out-of-the-box solutions like gamification and customer loyalty programs. Measure all your tactics effectiveness through in-app NPS surveys, and reiterate based on what you discover.
  • To create a seamless customer engagement experience, you can implement an omnichannel customer engagement strategy through your product adoption platform.
  • Use your product adoption platform (like Userpilot) to create unique experiences for your customer segments for specific pages they visit in your app or key actions they take.

What is Customer Engagement?

Customer engagement is the “relationship between your company and customer.” It is both the frequency and the quality of your customers’ interactions with your company and product. And that’s why it’s pretty difficult to define in measurable terms.

Why?

Well, because it looks different depending on your product and company.

For a SaaS companies, the customer engagement will differ depending on the stage in the user journey.

The further down the road your users are, the more quality shared experiences you have, the more engaged and loyal your customers will be.

user adoption flywheel

So in a sense: to define customer engagement for your company, you need to:

– define the different touch points and milestones in your user journey (especially the ‘key activation points’. These are the specific actions your users need to perform or features they need to adopt to move to the next stage in their user journey – e.g., from a basic user to a pro user.)

– understand what factors affect your customer engagement at each of these points and how to improve the relationship accordingly by removing roadblocks and adding personalized support.

– learn how to delight your customers to enhance their engagement

Now let’s see why customer engagement is so critical. (Hint: It has to do with your customer success and business growth).

Why is Customer Engagement Important?

As Steve Jobs mused, your technology/product comes secondary to customer experience. You could have the most fantastic product in the world but if you leave your customers without any support and zero interactions then your capacity for growth will always be limited.

In fact, a study by Hall and Partners “Engager” shows that up to 2/3 of a brand’s profits may rely on effective customer engagement.

As more and more SaaS companies realize the need for customer engagement they rely on customer success solutions. Just look at customer success’s interest as a search term in the last 15 years.

customer success interest

Source: Insided.com

The more engaged customers move along the user journey the more likely they are to recommend your app (drive WOM), leave positive reviews, and upgrade to a higher plan (expansion revenue).

  • The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.
  • Existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and 30% more likely to spend more than new customers.

Establishing an emotional connection with your customers through engagement will increase trust and make it easier to retain them.

The less connected customers feel with your product, the more likely they are to churn and take their business elsewhere.

Now that we can see the obvious benefits of investing in customer engagement let’s see the metrics that will help you measure how well you interact with your customers and what to avoid.

How to Measure Customer Engagement?

There is a certain nuance to measuring how engaged your customers are as well.

The metrics that a company will use depend on what the product does and what the customer needs and wants to achieve.

In a survey we conducted with product managers (mostly in the software industry), we found that the overwhelming majority of SaaS companies focus on product usage metrics and their app’s stickiness to measure their customer engagements.

customer engagement measurement methodology

Source: LinkedIn.com

Other product usage metrics can include:

  • Number of Sessions per User
  • Sessions per day (Activation)
  • DAU, MAU
  • Time Spent in the Product
  • Onboarding Engagement
  • Feature Adoption
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The problem with the first four metrics: number of sessions per user, sessions per day, DAU and MAU, and time spent in the product is that they only tell half the story.

Let’s say that you invite a bunch of friends to a party and have everyone spend $10 on food and drinks.

Now, everyone shows up with their cash in hand, and the party pops off without an issue.

That doesn’t mean that everyone had a good time or was engaged. They still chipped into the food and drinks but maybe they didn’t actually enjoy it. Perhaps they absolutely hated the music or got into an argument with another guest over who was the better footballer.

The point is that you can have customers logging into your app but it doesn’t mean they are engaged or satisfied with their experience. When another product comes along that is more engaging they will refuse to renew their subscription or won’t see the value in upgrading.

Just like your friends at the party, the next time you invite your customers to renew, they will politely decline.

Ditch the vanity metrics and focus on actionable data

Userpilot Features View

Source: Userpilot Feature Engagement Analytics – why not try it in your app?

It might come as a surprise, but customer activity and engagement is more than just logging in. You want to know how deep is their love.

They need to engage with your key features regularly to truly become advocates for your product-and be willing to renew or upgrade your subscription.

By focusing on metrics like feature adoption, onboarding engagement, and qualitative surveys rather than just the NPS score, you will get a clearer picture of how your customers engage with your company and product-and the quality of those engagements.

The usage of these features is directly tied to your business success. You should be basing your customer engagement on that activity to gain insights and develop strategies to increase that engagement.

What do we measure at Userpilot?

At Userpilot, we believe strongly in that approach and base our customer engagement on things like:

  • How many customers are creating experiences, checklists, NPS surveys, segmentation, and using the analytics dashboard.
  • How many experiences were created, how many checklists, how many user segments.
  • Tracking our month-over-month NPS score.
  • Word of mouth in customer development calls.
  • Tracking our support tickets for each customer over time. Customers are usually hesitant to reach out to support because they don’t expect a quick resolution to their problems. We make sure we totally overdeliver on our short support times. If our support delights the customer a few times, they eventually ask the customer to leave a review, which verbalizes the customer’s satisfaction. This of course, leads to higher customer engagement.
  • Using analytics tools such as Heap. It helps us greatly in tracking our product’s usage and gives us early alerts if something is going south. Then, we create reactive onboarding experiences that nudge the ‘lost’ user in the right direction, and if that doesn’t help – send them over to our Customer Success team.
  • Investing efforts in the customer success team to make sure we have a base of highly engaged customers. Tracking any customer that we feel is not fully engaged.

As we see it, measuring customer engagement should primarily be value-focused, at least for the SaaS industry.

We look at how much value our customers are getting for their money based on their feature adoption, positive experience with our company, and how proactively we respond to the customer’s falling short of reaching their goal.

If you already know where your company stands on this front you should also have specific strategies in place to improve these metrics. Maybe you want some more ideas.

If you don’t, now is the time to start tracking those KPIs and develop solutions to address the gaps you discover.

Customer engagement is never finished as it holds the keys to enhancing your growth and maintaining your established customer base.

How to improve customer engagement?

Based on your customer engagement data you should know what aspects of your product should be highlighted more.

Now is the time to brainstorm and think about what product managers can add to the roadmap and what the company as a whole should add to the experience.

Here is a simple Customer Engagement Blueprint that can be implemented both inside and out of your product.

STEP 1: Personalize New Customer Onboarding

Use Welcome Screens to elicit information about their role and goals

The first step to giving your users an experience that fosters customer engagement is creating the right welcome screen. What I mean by the right welcome screen is one that elicits information from your users that will allow you to personalize their onboarding experience later on. Just like this one:

customer engagement welcome screen

Source: Userpilot

Do you want to start boosting your customer engagement with welcome screens like this that can be launched for your customer segment? Book a free consultation today.

The welcome screen is usually the first place where SaaS businesses trip themselves up, and the first missed opportunity to boost user engagement later on.

If you include a micro-survey in it to elicit the customer’s role and use case, you can tailor the onboarding process for each persona later on.

This is super-important as the more personalized your onboarding is, the faster you will nudge your user to achieve their goals, and the shorter their time to value will be.

Look at this example from ConvertKit:

Convertikit welcome screen customer engagement

What follows are two utterly different onboarding flows. Whether you’ve used email marketing before or if you are a complete beginner, your goals and to-dos will be completely different.

As a complete beginner, you will need to collect your subscribers. If you’re moving from another tool, you will have to, well, move. Your onboarding should be tailored to your use case to help you do what you need.

This seems obvious – and yet, 40% of SaaS businesses didn’t even use a welcome screen at all-according to our State of SaaS Onboarding 2020 research. And from those who do – very few use micro-surveys.

This gives you a unique opportunity to gain an upper hand over your competitors at customer engagement from the very first interaction.

Using video in your onboarding

customer engagement basecamp onboarding

Source: Basecamp.com

Another sure-fire way to make your onboarding more personalized and engaging for your customers is by including a personal video intro/walkthrough.

Using video reduces that cognitive load involved in learning a new tool compared to textual product tour (think: watching Netflix vs. reading a novel – which one requires more effort?). Using a personalized video takes it to a whole new level, though – it shows you really care. Taking a few minutes to say hello to your customer, using their name, and putting that in their onboarding sequence will win you a lot of slack later on when e.g., your user discovers a bug, or you slip up in any other way.

There are actually several tools that help you do just that – boosting your customer engagement with personalized videos, e.g., Bonjoro.

bonjoro customer engagement

Make your primary onboarding flow personalized and interactive

Now, after welcoming your new users, you want to make sure they wrap their heads around the features that will allow them to get the most value out of your product in the shortest possible time.

According to our research, 29% of products still use a traditional, linear product tour. Most users hate product tours, and that for a good reason.

hate product tours

Who wants to be dragged through all the features of your product if they only want to do this one thing?

I hope you’re getting my point.

So what’s the alternative to the linear, boring product tours?

An interactive walkthrough.

Instead of dragging your user through your entire product – and making it entirely about you – point them to the features they need to adopt to reach the key activation points, make sure they perform the action required to activate, and then celebrate their win with a success message.

key activation points in Userpilot

Make sure to include only the points necessary to activate – and leave the advanced features for later, not to overwhelm your user.

This brings us to our next step in our Customer Engagement Strategy…

STEP 2: Develop a Secondary Onboarding Strategy

Getting your new customers activated is only half the battle in customer engagement.

Unfortunately, many companies forget about it and leave their users to their own devices as soon as they activate.

Hence – a lot of users never discover the secondary (but not less valuable!) and advanced features of your product and never derive as much value from your product as they could.

This leads to lover customer engagement over time and, ultimately – higher churn.

How to prevent that?

Ensure you take care of your users at every stage of their user journey, not only at new user onboarding!

If you add secondary onboarding experiences to increase the adoption of advanced features, your chance of bolstering customer engagement and eventually converting customers into company advocates will increase exponentially.

user journey stages for customer engagement

Source: Userpilot

Secondary onboarding is particularly important if you have a complex product with a variety of features.

Show your activated users a relevant tooltip pointing them to an advanced feature they haven’t tried or a productivity workaround they haven’t used:

customer engagement driven actions

Source: Userpilot

You can easily do it in Userpilot as you can segment your users by the experiences and features they have (or have not) interacted with yet.

Here’s an example of how you can target specific secondary onboarding experiences to a very specific audience:

audience targeting userpilot

Why is this kind of narrow targeting essential for building customer engagement?

Think about it.

Wouldn’t seeing precisely the right helpful tip in the tool you’re using, in the propercontext and at the right time (when and where you need it), delight you?

It probably would.

And it probably will delight your user, as it will show you really care about them getting the most value possible out of your product and building your relationship even after they have already parted with their money.

Let’s have a look at another tactic that can add an extra edge to what we’ve discussed above.

STEP 3: Introduce Gamification

One shortcut to increasing customer engagement is gamification.

Gamification turns non-game tasks into a game with a specific end-point (an accomplishment or a desired behavior).

What’s so powerful about gamification for increasing customer engagement is that it quite simply makes the tedious tasks more compelling and often puts a smile on your user’s face that you really tried to make their experience fun.

Here’s how StayFocusd makes their notifications personal and amusing, making me both more engaged, and more likely to achieve my goal:

Stay focused in app notification

So: Using Gamification is a win-win.

Once the user completes the gamified task they receive a ‘reward’ – an incentive encouraging the desired behaviors.

The most common reward elements include:

  • Points
  • Badges (or other encouraging tokens of appreciation – likes, shares, emoji reactions, etc.)
  • Leaderboards
  • Discount coupons
  • Elements of rivalry between different users
customer engagement checklist

Source: Postfity

Gamification makes your product experience more engaging by appealing to your customers’ psychology – and inner child. It has been demonstrated to improve activation rates and feature adoption.

You can incentivize feature adoption for your most active customers with medals that show they mastered a particular product area.

Hubspot has pioneered this approach with its certification program.

hupspot medals

STEP 4: Gather (and Listen) to Feedback

Now, would you feel engaged in a conversation with a person that is obviously not listening to you?

Nothing is more engaging than feeling like your voice is actually heard.

By asking your customers for their feedback on your product you are including them in making the experience better for everyone.

This is the final step in converting customers into advocates and is a tertiary onboarding tactic.

The easiest way to gather and listen to feedback is through in-app surveys.

customer engagement in-app survey

Find out how you can launch in-app surveys with no code by speaking with one of product specialists! You can deploy NPS surveys or get feedback on specific features for your customer segments in seconds.

Your customers are your greatest asset in improving your product so you are actually killing two birds with one stone: boosting customer engagement and creating a better customer experience.

Track your survey responses in an NPS dashboard and compare them with your product analytics. You can even organize the responses by tagging them with keywords for the features or issues your customers are commenting on

userpilot feature tagging

Source: Userpilot

Once you collect the information, send them a personalized message that addresses an issue they commented on and show that you are committed to fixing it.

So we have discussed all of the opportunities to increase customer engagement from within your product. Now we can discuss the elements that you can offer as a company.

STEP 5: Customer Engagement Marketing – Loyalty Programs

If you are looking for a more holistic approach to improve customer engagement, then there are different company programs/marketing strategies that are available to test.

The most common is creating a loyalty program for your company. When thinking of a loyalty program the first thought that comes to mind is airline companies. However, these programs are filled with conditions that don’t really fit with the message of SaaS companies-simplicity.

You want your loyalty program to be straightforward and easy to enroll for any of your subscription holders.

The most common are tiered programs like in Amazon prime.

Amazon prime

Source: Amazon.com

You probably already have tiered system for your subscription so why not provide extra rewards for your most elite members?

Or referral programs like at Dropbox:

dropbox referrals

Source: Dropbox.com

Dropbox permanently increased their sign-ups by 60% with their referral program, and 35% of their daily sign-ups come from it.

You also want to offer rewards that are relevant to your product and your customer persona.

Sending candy doesn’t really make too much sense for a marketing automation tool.

Offering an extra feature, a free month, or discounted pricing all work to establish a connection with your customers that stick with you for more than a year.

These programs work to utilize the networks of your most engaged customers and provide a platform for them to advocate for your product. With Userpilot, you can advertise them within your product without any coding!

Now, let’s take a look at how to bring all these actions together into one cohesive message across your platforms.

How to create an Omnichannel Customer Engagement Strategy for your SaaS

So you now know how to define customer engagement, what metics to use, and how they will point you towards the strategies that will help you improve it.

To bring everything together, the last thing we will talk about is using an omnichannel engagement strategy. This will make your interactions with your customers seamless.

Essentially omnichannel customer engagement brings together your customers, employees, and customer service channels to provide consistent messaging and service regardless of where they are interacting.

According to a study by the Aberdeen group:

“Companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared with 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies.”

So what does this have to do with Userpilot?

Well, we are glad you asked because we are about to walk you through how your product can deliver an omnichannel experience with simple product marketing tactics.

1. A new customer enters your product for the first time since converting from a free-trial, and this new user data is piped into your user segments.

2. You can then use the segment to target an experience in Userpilot:

User segments

3. Userpilot triggers an onboarding experience that is targeted to paying customers who signed up less than 7 days ago.

Customer engagement slideout

5. After the onboarding experience, a checklist pops up for the user to pave the road for feature adoption.

Creating a checklist

6. After the user finishes certain tasks in the checklist, the customer success team can reach out with a personalized message.

“Hi Anthony,

I noticed that you just created a new user segment! Congratulations, and I hope you are right on your way to creating interactive experiences to engage your new users.

I am available anytime you have any questions or concerns!

Best,

Elena”

7. During the activation process, the user can get more education by using the Resource Center. Resource center can serve as an omnichannel platform here really well as it can direct to external URLs, trigger Userpilot content, search knowledge bases, trigger chat bots, etc.

customer engagement resource center

8. Lastly, let’s say this user performed a key action in the product. You can show tailored Userpilot content specifically when that event occurs.

E.g. A customer who is looking at a specific page in your app is shown a specific experience:

page trigger

Wrapping things up

There is no question that customer engagement is crucial to business success. It plays a vital role in retaining your customers and uniquely applies to the growth of your product.

Companies need to consider to measure their customer engagement through a more product-driven approach and rely less on vanity metrics like DAU and MAU.

Only then, will they be able to determine the correct strategies to improve customer engagement and implement them both inside and outside of their product.

FAQ:

Customer engagement is the emotional ongoing connection between the customers and the company.

It plays a critical role in your customer retention and product growth

Ditch metrics like the number of sessions per user, sessions per day, DAU and MAU, and time spent in the product is that only tell half the story.

Focus on feature adoption, onboarding engagement, and NPS score

Use the insights gathered from measuring customer engagement to develop experiences that will drive them to get more value from your product and push them closer to becoming advocates. Implement a step-by-step approach that starts with personalized onboarding experiences, moves to secondary onboarding like tooltips and driven actions, includes elements of gamification and measure the success through in-app NPS surveys.

Create consistent messaging and customer service inside and out of your app with your product adoption platform to provide a seamless experience. Start with segmenting your paying customers and develop in-app experiences based on their behavior and engagement with features. Show them your value through a consistent brand image, voice, and interactions with your sales and customer success teams regardless of where they are.