What is real time customer engagement and how will AI better your game?

Natalie Smithson
AI enthusiast | Tea addict | Focused on using AI assistants to win the working week
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In today’s connected world, customers expect a quick and personalised service. They’re used to getting what they want at the touch of a button and so naturally expect the same level of convenience from your organisation ― it’s a lot of pressure. The key to meeting these expectations is real-time customer engagement and delivering exceptional experiences that drive loyalty and growth, but how do you achieve that? We’ll explore what real-time customer engagement is, share some tried and tested methods, and show you how AI can help you be more efficient in elevating your customer experience to suit a constantly active online environment.

What is real time customer engagement?

Real time customer engagement is about seizing a moment. The moment when your customers need you the most or are most deeply engaged with your product or service.

Being there for a customer in real time, rather than waiting for them to reach out to you, means recognising and responding to customer actions immediately to help satisfy their every need. We already know satisfied customers are more likely to stay loyal to your brand.

You can also start to deliver a deeply personalised service, suggesting the next best action for every individual customer. As people come to rely on that more heavily, feeling able to trust your lead because it feels like you ‘know’ and value them, it naturally enhances your brand reputation.

It’s impossible to meet every customer face to face, get to know them as well as you’d like to or hear directly about the choices they make, but you can use real time marketing and sales to get as close to that as you can. It’s a way to be right there in a flash of time with your customer wherever they might be, whatever they want to do right there and then.

What are the benefits of real time customer engagement?

Improving engagement can quickly help bolster strong relationships with your customers, simply by showing up as an approachable, caring brand that listens and supports. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. You can increase customer engagement on a tight budget, and if you can be there in real time too, you establish yourself as a brand that chooses regular communication and positive connection over impartiality or distance, and keeping close is vital. Salesforce found almost half of customers say they’ll “stop buying from a company if they have a subpar experience”.

They also found 52% of marketers use real time customer engagement and “high performers are 1.9x more likely than underperformers to engage customers in this way“ across one or more channels. It works because real time engagement shows you what customers want there and then, which means you’ll use less of your resources trying to figure it out further down the line or retrospectively. When you’re not wasting any time, your marketing efficiency can improve, which in turn strengthens your performance in getting more done for less.

Sales can then increase too since you’ll know straight away how to satisfy the needs of your customers. When customers are satisfied, you already know they’re more likely to stay loyal to your brand and make repeat purchases. All of this enhances the credibility of your organisation, as one people can come to know, like and trust ― a well-regarded marketing concept that’s often credited with helping to build trust in your organisation and long-lasting relationships with customers.

Overall, real time customer engagement can significantly help to improve your:

  • Business efficiency
  • Sales and revenue
  • Company credibility
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer loyalty

Besides the steady financial gains (and the benefit of hitting your team’s OKRs!), real time engagement also helps to humanise your business. People enjoy the convenience of taking actions online, but when they lose their way or have a question or get overwhelmed, they need you to be there for them. If you can pop up on request or respond to their click or action in real time, it’s a more personable experience and encourages people to stick around. That close connection gives you a competitive edge too, where AdWeek found 70% of people who “feel a connection to a brand spend twice as much as those who don’t”.

27 ideas for real time customer engagement you can start using today

Practising real-time customer engagement is a valuable way for you to differentiate yourself from other organisations in your field and create positive customer experiences while you’re at it. There are plenty of methods to choose from, depending on what industry you’re in and what resources you have, but most importantly, what you believe will matter the most to your customers today.

  1. Use chatbots – Chatbots, and especially more advanced AI assistants, mean you can provide immediate answers to customer questions, but also save time and money by automating customer service tasks.
  2. Offer live chat support – Live chat support means providing people with immediate team assistance alongside AI, helping to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  3. Use social media – Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be used to respond to customer comments and messages. This can help you build relationships with your customers and improve your brand reputation.
  4. Send push notifications – Push notifications can be used to send personalised messages and offers to customers, helping to increase engagement and sales.
  5. Use email marketing – Email marketing can be used to send personalised messages and offers to people or to educate and support your community. You can go all out on this one to bed in your own style and tone to distinguish your brand from others.
  6. Offer personalised recommendations – These are relevant product recommendations based on the customer’s browsing history and preferences, so they’re accurate and genuinely helpful.
  7. Use webinars – Offer valuable information about your products or services using webinars, so people can see you and hear from you directly. This all helps to develop a stronger relationship with your customers.
  8. Offer loyalty programs – Actively rewarding people for their loyalty means people are encouraged to stay loyal, which further increases customer retention.
  9. Use gamification – Use gamification methods to give people a fun and interactive experience that encourages them to interact often with your brand. Celebratory badges or digital gifts are just two examples you can use to stay memorable.
  10. Use augmented reality (AR) – AR is a great way to present people with interactive experiences that allow them to visualise your products or services.
  11. Use virtual reality (VR) – VR offers immersive experiences that mean customers can experience your brand in a way they’ve never been able to before.
  12. Provide self-service options – Self-service options empower customers by giving them convenience and control. From transactions to bookings and finding out information, give your customers a way to access services in their own time, when they most have the incentive to act.
  13. Offer video chat support – Face-to-face assistance over video is another excellent way to turn up for people at the exact time when they need you the most.
  14. Use co-browsing – Sharing your screen is a great way to guide customers through a process or issue without causing any frustration going back and forth.
  15. Use live streaming – Offer a live demonstration of your products or services, introduce an offer, or host an Ask Me Anything event to engage viewers directly.
  16. Provide personalised content – Personalised content like blog posts, videos, and infographics can be used to share relevant information with the most appropriate segment of your audience.
  17. Use retargeting ads – Show people personalised ads based on their browsing history and preferences to keep content 100% relevant, always.
  18. Use SMS marketing – This can be used to send customers personalised messages or poignant offers via text message, straight to their phone.
  19. Offer mobile apps – Having people interact with your brand on-the-go means you can stay top of mind. Use in-app notifications like hints and tips or messages to keep people engaged.
  20. Provide live product demos – Live product demos allow you to demonstrate the features and benefits of your products or services and answer questions at the time when viewers are highly motivated to buy.
  21. Run interactive quizzes – Hosting an interactive quiz is an especially fun way for customers to engage with you in real-time, but results can also inform your understanding of who your core customer is to keep improving their experience.
  22. Offer a consultation service – If customers aren’t sure which of your products or services are right for them, a little real time diagnosis of their situation can help them recognise the right route and move quickly through the sales journey.
  23. Offer a quote estimator tool – If customers want to calculate the price of an item or estimate ROI before they commit to your offer, this is a fantastic way to remove objections in real time.
  24. Offer free shipping – Free shipping can provide an incentive for people to make that purchase they’ve been deliberating over, helping you increase sales and customer loyalty.
  25. Use customer feedback – Ask for people’s opinions and suggestions to help improve your products and services, so you can build stronger relationships with every customer.
  26. Create a digital community – Not technically a real time engagement technique, but a welcome space for customers to have meaningful discussions and engage with other like-minded people in their own time, which helps you all stay closely connected.
  27. Share user-generated content – Encouraging your customers to share their own content in real-time can help you build a more fluid sense of community if you or they prefer it.

How to capitalise on real time customer engagement strategies using AI

If real time customer engagement is about making every customer feel individually heard in the moment they need you most ― whenever and wherever that may be, AI can help you replicate this experience for tens of thousands of customers all at the same time. AI-driven reactions and responses to customer questions become instant and are available 24 hours a day.

It becomes easy with AI to provide a seamless omnichannel experience too, catering for every customer on every channel, whether they’re on your website, mobile app, social profile, messaging app, or any other channel you will benefit from offering.

Before AI, all of these touchpoints would sit within separate systems, you’d have to develop multiple interfaces and manage them all separately. With a smart next-generation AI assistant, everything stems from one central place.

AI assistant with customers central and multiple channels of communication

The AI assistant doesn’t change. It becomes a constant for you and your customers, building familiarity and dependency, which leads to loyalty. You just add to it as you go.

In return, your AI assistant works for you across all channels 24/7, in 160+ languages, to keep your messaging and your branding consistent.

Behind the scenes, your decisions about what channels to develop or which real time engagements methods to try can all be informed by your AI assistant. Being able to collect and analyse data from all your channels at once and analyse them as a whole means in this way means you get a comprehensive birds-eye view of what your customers are looking for and what they expect from your brand.

These are the insights you’ll use to create personalised and targeted real time engagement strategies tailored to each customer’s specific needs and preferences, like Coop, one of the biggest grocery chains in Sweden does. They use information collected by their AI assistant Cooper to offer people recipe ideas that complement their food shop.

Since Cooper remembers the purchase history and preferences of every customer, it knows not to suggest a bacon recipe to a vegan customer. If the customer buys yoghurt every week, but this week it’s missing from the basket, Cooper can put forward yoghurt as a suggestion. Or if the customer regularly buys Merlot and there’s an offer on their favourite wine at their local store, the AI assistant can send a push notification to let them know. When that recommendation comes from direct knowledge of your buyer’s habits, it will always be a beneficial and helpful notification.

AI assistant for retailers to help shoppers

Why getting started is easier than you think

Using AI as a wrapper around real time customer engagement makes it easier for you to get the most out of its many benefits ― at scale and across as many channels as you know will be effective.

You can use an AI assistant to create new channels or engagement points you’re confident your customers will not only use, but LOVE to use, with personalised suggestions, help and support. And these days, there’s no barrier to entry if you want to try it.

  • It’s quick and easy to dive into advanced AI with no technical skill required
  • You start learning about your customers the minute they start talking with your AI assistant
  • You only pay for your usage
  • And advanced AI assistants are built deliberately for scale ― the key to your growth

We’ve even got a cheat sheet to help you get buy-in from anyone who’s yet to recognise the impact real time customer engagement can have on your commercial success or understand the power AI can wield in transforming your approach.