The 3 Biggest Sins of Customer Engagement Blind check-ins and failing to build relationships before complaints arise are behaviors of the past. Use data to understand clients, proactively preparing for interactions.

By Guy Nirpaz

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Recently, a small resort town in Colorado, Steamboat Springs attracted The New York Times' attention when it decided to take drastic action to improve customer service there.

The town's main resort had noticeably low visitor survey results from fall of 2013, which corresponded with a decline in tourism. In response, the resort decided to give the whole town a customer-service training session, inviting local restaurateurs, small-business owners and municipal employees to participate.

While it's too soon to measure the results of this unusual effort, it points to a growing trend: Customer experience affects brand loyalty.

According to Walker Information's "Customers 2020 Report," customer experience will overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator by 2020. Every single interaction a customer has with your team factors into whether they remain loyal -- or switch to a competitor. Below are the biggest mistakes companies make when engaging customers and how to avoid them:

Related: Will Your Company Be a Leader of the Customer-Service Revolution?

1. Making a useless call merely to check in.

Too many representatives call their customers just to "see how they are doing" without having an objective. Don't blindly reach out to your customer.

Consider these questions: Are they happily using your product? Are they using the most advanced feature or have they barely made it past the sign-in page? Before you pick up the phone, dive deep into customer data to better understand how customers are using your product -- and what they might need from you.

Successful companies use a range of tools like those of Salesforce, HubSpot, Zendesk and my company, Totango, to collect data and gather insights about customers. If you have a subscription business, familiarize yourself with contract renewal dates. Analyze which features a customer uses most as well as what part of the product he or she has yet to explore and leverage.

Use data to understand which customers may need more handholding and training to increase their level of engagement. If you learn about your customer in advance, you'll be able to make a personalized call, armed with specific tips or support. With knowledge like this, you can better address questions or concerns and make customers feel special in the process.

Related: Customer-Service Lessons to Glean From Comcast's Snafu

2. Being unprepared.

If you've ever had an issue with a cell-phone provider, you know how woefully unprepared representatives can be.

The first interaction with a carrier might happen after the customer take the initiative to call, so the pressure is on the company to explain the issue. The representative has to ask how he or she can help. Wouldn't it be nice if the representative could look up this information in real time as the customer reaches out?

According to research from Freshdesk, more than 70 percent of salespeople surveyed said their company has lost a customer or sale as a result of poor interaction related to customer support.

When your customer calls to ask for help, don't be passive. Familiarize yourself with a customer's background so you can take charge of the conversation. According to a recent study by my company, Totango, 90 percent of customer churn is preceded by poor product usage.

To ensure your customer is using your product to the fullest extent, take the opportunity to jump into each interaction with personalized tips on specific features. If you come to each call proactively prepared, you can make sure customers are getting the most value from your product.

3. Failing to build a relationship.

Last year, the Internet nearly exploded when British Airways passenger Hasan Syed paid for a sponsored tweet to broadcast his frustration about lost luggage directly to the airline's thousands of Twitter followers. His tweet: "Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous."

The messaging spread like wildfire, ravaging the airline's reputation.

Learn from British Airways' mistake. Your first engagement with a customer should never be negative. Track customers' engagement with your product from the beginning. Plan targeted, purposeful interactions to ensure they remain happy customers.

Before any issues arise, take the time to get to know your customers. Developing strong relationships with customers means they are more likely to talk to you -- not resort to extreme measures, like Hasan Syed did. Make sure your first interaction with a customer is a positive one to inspire confidence in the relationship.

Related: What Your Business Can Learn about Leveraging Big Data From Netflix, Eloqua and the 2008 Election

Guy Nirpaz

CEO and Founder of Totango

Guy Nirpaz is CEO and founder of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Totango, a provider of user engagement for cloud apps. Totango combines big-data analytics with segmentation and predictive tools for its insights.

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