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Customer engagement strategies focus on mobility, loyalty programs

The Miami Heat and JetBlue both use mobile apps and loyalty rewards programs to engage their customers -- inside their places of business and at home.

Today's consumers have more choices than ever before, with organizations on every street corner -- and in every corner of the internet -- vying for their attention. Businesses need a way to distinguish themselves from everyone else and connect with customers.

But various customer engagement strategies can help businesses cut through the noise to reach the consumer.

"Customer engagement matters so much to customer experience because it forms such a big part of it," said Nicole France, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research in Silicon Valley, Calif.

Keeping sports fans engaged

The Miami Heat basketball team's biggest customer engagement strategy is a mobile app that has been in use for five years. Through the app, users can purchase and see all of their tickets, view exclusive articles and videos, livestream games and receive push and personalized notifications while they are in the arena. The Miami Heat uses the Adobe marketing stack to personalize messages, based on what users have purchased and where they live. The organization also collects information from the arena, website, app and other channels to engage fans.

The Miami Heat is a championship team, but company leadership knew that at some point there would be a downturn, said Edson Crevecoeur, vice president of strategy and data analytics for the Heat.

Customer engagement matters so much to customer experience because it forms such a big part of it.
Nicole FranceVice president and principal analyst, Constellation Research

"In preparation for it, we realized we needed to become a digitally innovative data-driven organization," he said.

The organization rolled out the app to drive engagement in the digital space, and it then became a source of lead generation and social campaigns to win back buyers. The average game purchaser attends approximately two games per year, and the team wanted to identify and engage those fans, Crevecoeur said.

The Heat also engages fans through its loyalty program, which it rolled out in 2019. The program enables the sports team to track users and their purchases so it can offer more personalized messaging.

"Our goal is to be the most digitally forward and data-centric organization not just in the NBA, but the tech industry," Crevecoeur said.

Customer engagement channels chart

Staying in touch with travelers

JetBlue airline also uses an app as a customer engagement strategy, on which travelers can book, check in and track flights. The airline uses web chat, SMS messaging and in-app chat to engage customers, made possible through a partnership with Gladly, a platform that helps businesses personalize customer service across all channels of communication.

The airline wanted to give traveling customers other options to reach JetBlue on their channel of choice, said Laurie Meacham, manager of customer commitment at JetBlue.

"It didn't take long before we had a lot of volume coming through all of them," Meacham said.

Regardless of what channel customers choose, JetBlue can access the conversation history, Meacham said. The Gladly platform integrates with JetBlue's reservation system, loyalty rewards program and local systems, pulling in customer information to give contact center agents a complete view of the customer in real time. This helps tailor the service customers get when airline employees interact with them on a flight or via their channel of choice.

"We want to treat the customer truly as a human and not just somebody in our database," she said.

JetBlue recently ran a test program in three airports -- Boston Logan International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International and Westchester County -- using the in-app chat. During a snowstorm in Boston, there was an influx of travelers at the customer service desk due to delayed and canceled flights. To head off increasing customer irritation, JetBlue employees handed out cards to stranded passengers, inviting them to reach out to additional crew members through the in-app chat to rebook flights instead of waiting in line.

"You might be tired, you might be frustrated, but it gives that channel to reach out," Meacham said.

For the most part, customers will choose what forms of engagement and outreach work best for them, France said.

"But where it's done well -- and when it reaches the appropriate audience -- this is a key part of building durable customer relationships," she said.

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