My learnings from Uber, Google, and other tech giants on customer engagement

Divya Murugesan
Oct 25, 2018 · 7 min read

In a world filled with dancing cats, polka dots, and harlem shakes; with Ed Sheeran‘s carpool karaoke video having 2000% more views than a SpaceX rocket launch video, it is quite a daunting task to strategize a customer engagement process that works amidst all the noise.

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Where do you find your potential customers? How do you reach out to them? How do you identify what they want to watch, read, and talk about? In true sense, how do you decode customer engagement for business?

This is what the internet is all about, people. A killer song, a stupid meme, a nostalgic throwback to 2001 and, most importantly, bites of dumb hilarity that come in 30-second bursts.

– Huffington Post, Feb 2013

Considering this overwhelming acceleration of engagement, where both consumers and brands are constantly creating content, your engagement strategy should always have its wiper on, to avoid getting lost in smoke.

Customer engagement — a concept that has been transforming businesses, betting on empathy, great content, and meaningful conversations as its strongest field players, has been growing rapidly in importance. So much, that businesses and brands gauge customer engagement as their prime modus operandi for success.

Companies like Uber, Google, Amazon, Airbnb and other giants have been acing customer engagement for quite some time. I’ve curated my learnings from these businesses into four commandments, that will help you and your business master the course of customer engagement. Read along!

Create an engagement pyramid

Historically, engagement strategies have always revolved around broadcasting, viewership, and response, with most attention given to ‘exposure’. Brands are used to reaching out to a large viewership, out of which 5% would be interested in their product or service, and out of this 5% would reach out to them. The classic funnel.

Well, it’s time to chuck the tradition. Some of the hottest brands like GoPro, Starbucks, Amazon, Warby Parker, Google, and Uber have flipped their funnel. They believe in engagement over exposure.

They ideally follow an ‘engagement pyramid’ in place of a ‘marketing funnel’. The engagement pyramid isn’t about retention and growth of the existing customer base. It’s about starting with the 5% who will be most interested in what you have to say and are most willing to speak for your brand and focusing on them. Here is an example pyramid shared by Erik Starck from Lean Forward on Medium. Focus on the top of your pyramid and then move down.

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Why don’t we flip that 100% winnowed to 30% winnowed to 5% funnel? Rather than starting by thinking about how to reach or broadcast to as many people as possible to get to those who matter, what if we began with engaging those who are the most likely to care?

– Tara Walpert Levy, Media Solutions, Google

These brands believe in prioritizing the top 5% of interested audience and strategize their engagement around their preferences and requirements. They learn from interactions and lean on customer advocacy to expand their reach in a smarter way. This way, you wouldn’t be abandoning “reach”; instead, you would be reorienting your strategy towards greater “engaged reach”.

Once you have identified the top of your pyramid, it’s important for you to drive participation and promote interaction amongst the top 5% that have been identified. This can happen through engaging blogs that address problems faced by them. Hosting interactive sessions on social media, sending out targeted campaigns, collecting feedback and acting on the problems, publishing their testimonials, and incentivizing your advocacy plan are few ways to target your top 5%.

Be present, ALWAYS

Whether searching for hairbrushes or cars, customers want the best and they’re constantly looking for instant recommendations, guidance, and engagement; all of this within the website or mobile app.

Leading companies like Google, Amazon, Airbnb, and Twitter use instant messaging and voice assistance as a way to be available for their customers at all times. Live chat and Chatbots are gaining popularity in the B2C and B2B segment.

To market in the age of assistance there are three ways brands can prepare themselves. Be seen, be smart and be speedy

– Harry Davies, Head of Performance Ads Marketing Google EMEA

Customers approach businesses through live chat and voice search options to find answers to their queries, explore how to do something, research a place or location, understand a product or service, and discover something new. Check out Invescpro’s survey results on why people use live chat tools.

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Live chat increases conversions by 20% for B2B software and customers who chat are 3x more likely to buy than those who don’t chat. 73% of people agree that they search more on their phone for recommendations and how-to guides after the advent of voice assistants.

Bottom-line, utilize tools like live chat, chatbots, and voice assistants to be able to engage with your customers proactively, and be present whenever and wherever they need you.

Let them see what they want to see

Ensure that you have your eyes and ears open when your audience is asking for something from you — either passively by reading or watching related content or actively by searching or subscribing. Also, make sure that what you have to say adds real utility or magic to their experience.

In this digital age, customers don’t like to be talked at. They’d rather like to be involved in discussions where they are heard and responded to. This generation cares more about expressing themselves and are biased towards brands that empower them to do so.

Consider this; do you remember the transport scene in a pre-Uber era?

It was a mere service. Cabs with grumpy drivers took you from point A to point B. You sat there tolerating the AC temperature unable to voice out your opinion, the whole time feeling like a big burden to the world.

Well, it’s not the same anymore, is it?

With Uber, your transport scene becomes a rosy experience filled with engagement. Uber has an app that lets you book a cab, blog that gives you suggestions on where to go and what to do, social media profiles to interact with you, in-app popups to take your feedback after every trip, email campaigns that send customized offers, and lastly, newsletters that provide fun facts like “samosa chole” is the most ordered dish in India!

If you don’t optimize for the consumer on the Internet, you’re dead.

– Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, Uber

Uber doesn’t sell a service, it offers an experience and sells a mindset. It has translated itself into a brand that stands for opportunities and promotes ambitions. Their content talks about how much of a change Uber has brought about in our lives. Starting from the “doors are always opening” campaign on YouTube to providing ‘localized’ trip ideas and weekend plan suggestions on their blogs, and lastly entering our hearts through “Year with Uber” where they published interesting travel stats specific to countries, Uber has thoroughly become a part of our lives through effective engagement; giving us what we want.

Coke’s Wendy Clark calls this meeting people at their truth.

It’s imperative that companies and brands don’t simply dispense their truth. We have to engage, get into the dialogue, meet our consumers and constituents at their truth and help them to understand, accept, and embrace ours.

– Wendy Clark

End of the day, it’s all about building content around customers milestones, instead of our own product updates or releases.

Set goals and measure your outcomes

Measuring the outcomes of your engagement strategy plays a vital role in understanding if your efforts are working or not. A lot of companies spend so much time in driving their engagement plan that they fail to realize the true potent of whether it worked or not. In most cases, it is observed that even though a brand has good visibility online, it doesn’t necessarily translate into conversions. This leads to an engagement black hole, with a lot of effort going in and nothing coming out in terms of ROI.

We found that 86% of marketers think engagement is important, but only 46% say their company is actively measuring and managing it.

– The Engagement project, Google

For example, Papyrus, the stationery and greeting card retailer homed in on Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), recognizing that its loyal Perks members are 66% more valuable than other customers. Aligning this insight with their engagement strategy, Papyrus increased profits by 10X in just three months.

Most people would agree that measuring customer engagement goes beyond traditional factors such as email opens or Facebook likes. But what constitutes engagement often seems ambiguous.

In order to effectively measure customer engagement, you need to consider a holistic view of all the touch points. Also, another important factor to note is to have insights of metrics like sentiment and loyalty.

Here are some of the metrics to consider — click through rate vs bounce rate, frequency of return users, number of active users- daily vs weekly vs monthly, time spent, user journey, customer lifetime value, net promoter score, and loyalty score.

That being said, we need to understand that engagement should still be considered as a qualitative goal to achieve than a quantitative goal.

We ran an AMA on measuring customer engagement, that will give you different perspectives on measuring engagement in different scenarios. Check it out here.

Q6. Extending lagging and leading indicators, what other metrics do you often use to measure customer engagement? #freshchathour

— Freshchat (@freshchatapp) October 23, 2018

With all the noise around customer engagement, it is important to be inspired by the best, learn from their successes and failures, and incorporate those learnings into our strategy to achieve great results.

Customer engagement helps in building a strong bridge between customers and brands, thereby creating a cobweb dependency between the two. It helps you be a part of your customers life and add value. Use these strategies to ace your customer engagement journey and share your stories with us!

Originally published at on October 25, 2018.

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