What Is a Customer Engagement Model? How to Choose One

Sagar Joshi
min read
January 11, 2024

Customers are more sensitive after parting ways with their money.

Whether they’ll stick with your brand or decouple depends on their initial and ongoing experience and if your product wins their cost and benefit analysis. 

A customer engagement model helps you retain them and, most importantly, set them up for repeat purchases, upsell, or cross-sell. The longer a customer does business with your brand, the better it reflects on your bottom line. Simply put, they have a high lifetime value, bringing in more annual recurring revenue (ARR). 

What Is a Customer Engagement Model?

A customer engagement model is a business approach to establishing deeper customer relationships throughout the customer lifecycle. It improves customer loyalty and advocacy, leading to increased sales and profitability.

A customer goes through a journey in every purchase they make. This journey is often as straightforward as purchasing groceries or as complex as buying software. Customer engagement fits in this journey after a buyer makes a purchase.

One of the goals of customer engagement is to help the buyer realize the maximum potential of their purchase and how it adds value. You should strive for this even when the customers are leads or prospects. They’ll make the purchase only when they experience the value the product can deliver for them. 

That means you should have a solid engagement strategy right from the first customer touchpoint, which may be a cold call, a paid ad, or just a blog. The issue is every one of these departments may have a different messaging, but for the customer, all this communication is part of their unique buying journey with your brand.  

Therefore, as Christine Knific, Senior Manager of Digital Success at Totango, says,

“Regardless of your organization’s stage, a digital engagement strategy is critical. And the quality of these interactions is key to  driving value.” 

Did you know? You can use Storylane’s interactive demo to help prospects experience and realize the product’s value even before they use it. Nordics.io achieved a 35% boost in website conversion and a 25% increase in high-quality sign-up with interactive demos. 

For more clarity, let’s look at the stages of a buyer’s journey and discover where you’d have to improve in order to retain your precious customers. 

Stages of a Customer’s Journey

There are five stages of the customer journey. Consider this situation to start exploring them in detail. 

You have a problem but don’t know how to solve it. 

One day, you decided to ask Google for a solution. You find an article showing how a particular product or service solves your problem. You go to their website and explore.

To do your buying process some justice, you decide to look at alternatives or competitors. You land on a G2 comparison page and feel what you were considering was the best.

You make a purchase. 

If you’re saying it’s not that easy, you’re right! Every buyer’s journey is different. Not all start from the same stage as the one before. 

The buyers may not chronologically go through unawareness, discovery, consideration, conversion, and advocacy stages. The realistic journeys are haphazard. So, let’s look at them in a haphazard order to avoid any chronological construct in your minds. 

When Buyers Consider a Solution 

Prospects in the consideration stage already know your product and are thinking more seriously about taking action. In this stage, you should engage them with battle cards and show how you stand out among similar brands. Simply telling won’t work. Show them why they should choose you and not a competitor.

Pro tip: Use social proof as evidence to further capture their interest in your brand.

The consideration stage for your brand can be a discovery stage for your competitor. But this doesn’t mean you need to play lowball and belittle other brands. Showcase your specific area of expertise and advise how you can better cater to customers’ needs than anyone else. 

When Buyers Are Unaware of Your Product

In this stage, people have never heard of your brand, nor do they know what you do. Often, people don’t even realize there is a problem or that they can do their jobs better with a product or service. Most brands engage the audience in the unawareness stage through content creation on high-level topics. 

Panel discussions, interviews, webinars, and top-of-the-funnel articles are ways to get people's attention. Thought leadership content also helps capture the attention of people who are searching for solutions to specific problems. 

When Buyers Discover Your Product

This is where your audience discovers your brand. Ensure you have relevant content in place, helping the audience self-educate themselves.  The potential buyer may sit in this stage for a long time. 

They will read article after article, case study after case study, watch demo after demo, 

and even leverage their personal network to gather more details and reviews on the software. So, coming up once in a single advertisement won’t help. You need to be present at every touchpoint.

They should see your ad on LinkedIn, come across your content pieces on Google Search, and hear people talking positively about you on social media. The more touchpoints they see you in, the higher your weight during consideration. 

When Buyers Convert

A customer makes the purchase. You must make a consistent effort to keep your future brand advocates engaged. This is where product marketing teams send onboarding material and setup guides. These are a part of the low-touch customer engagement model. The next section talks about it in more detail. 

Did you know? You can deliver interactive onboarding sessions with Storylane. This speeds up adoption and shortens the time the user needs to see the product's ultimate value.

Customers look to drive the most value of the product for which they have parted ways with their money.

It’s advisable to send all related documentation and assist them personally with their queries, as this sets your way to sell again. Make sure there are “aha” moments that deliver immediate value.

When Buyers Start Advocating For Your Product

The customers at this stage have been a part of a seamless onboarding process. Your customer support and engineering team have effectively helped them to succeed with the product. They’re even more connected to your brand than any other time. 

This is when your customers start raving about your brand on social media and through word-of-mouth. According to Nielsen, 92% of customers trust earned media, like recommendations from friends and family, over any other form of advertising.  Brand advocates would help you create social proof on the go, fueling the consideration stage. 

These advocates are indispensable in creating a positive impression on the market. But you need to be more careful now. These customers hold you in the highest regard and standards now. Be more proactive in engaging and assisting them to ensure you hype their voice up rather than having it backfire on you for any negative experience.

Types of Customer Engagement Models

Customer engagement helps businesses provide a seamless onboarding experience and encourage retention. These two are the overarching goals of any customer engagement strategy. Let’s explore what customer engagement model can help you achieve these goals. 

Here are the two major types of customer engagement models to look at:

Onboarding Engagement Models

You can see them in three categories: high touch, low touch, and hybrid. Dive in. 

High-Touch Engagement

While purchasing SaaS, you might have encountered premium subscription plans that include “dedicated account manager support” as inclusions. This is a type of high-touch engagement. It’s relevant when you’re selling complex products like software that may have a learning curve. 

In such cases, you need a direct line of communication with the support to configure, implement, and experience the product in the best possible way. And, when you’re selling, high-touch engagement becomes a differentiator in helping customers realize the true potential of what you sell. 

It opens up a direct feedback channel, giving you access to customers’ perceptions of the product. These inputs become the critical ingredients of a customer-centric product roadmap. 

How to Use High-Touch Engagement

Customer success teams in most SaaS companies do biweekly catch ups with their customers to help get the most value out of the product. When onboarding a customer, you can set up a meeting to offer a guided product tour.

High-touch Engagement Model Example
Alt: HubSpot's High-touch Engagement Model Example

HubSpot relies on high-touch engagement when onboarding new users. You can get a personalized demo from their support and success teams. 

When to Choose High-Touch Engagement?

Below are situations where you should prefer high-touch engagement. 

  • When you sell products that may not be simple to understand, use, and navigate.
  • When you can charge more for the product to cover costs of the customer success side.
  • Even if you don’t charge much and are starting, you can consider high-touch engagement for direct feedback to find product-market fit.

Low-Touch Engagement Model

A low-touch engagement model expects customers to self-serve. It engages customers at scale through emails, interactive demos, and in-product tours. Although it may not be as personalized as high-touch engagement, it attracts high user engagement when done right. 

Low-touch engagement can happen through traditional channels like SMS, and Instant Messaging applications like WhatsApp Business

How to Use Low-Touch Engagement

You can leverage e-mail marketing software like Iterable or MailChimp to automate onboarding workflow while sharing tips, tricks, and processes.  Modern demo automation platforms like Storylane have made onboarding even faster and async while delivering a customized and personalized tour as per customers' needs. By embedding interactive product demos in onboarding emails or providing it within the app, customers can learn and experience your product at their own pace and whenever they like. There’s no scheduled time commitment. 

Low-Touch Engagement Model Example

LawLytics, a law firm website system, sends micro-demos to their customers while onboarding them. It helps them to learn at their own pace and lets them jump back whenever they need to revisit any specific functionality or feature of their system. 

Sara Deleeuw, VP of Customer Success at LawLytics, says,

"Storylane has become a new verb for us as we call our demos Storylanes. Like people say, I'm gonna Google it; we say, we're gonna Storylane it. It’s one of my favorite tools; everybody in the company knows that. So whenever somebody needs a Storylane, they just come to me."
When to Use The Low-Touch Engagement Model?

Below are the scenarios where low-touch engagement would fit perfectly. 

  • When you want to offer competitive product pricing, especially if you’re selling in a crowded SaaS market. 
  • When user experience, in-product pop-ups, and interactive demos are sufficient to help customers quickly self-onboard themselves. 
  • When your customers are super busy or want to experience the product without giving much of their face time. 

Hybrid Model

The hybrid engagement model uses the best of both worlds. It uses the personalization of the high-touch and the scale of the low-touch engagement model. This model is more common in early-stage startups. These include businesses that are yet to establish a product-market fit or have established but looking to scale sustainably.  

They need direct customer feedback and might not have the resource pool to execute high-touch engagement strategies at scale. Low-touch engagement through emails, and personalized, and interactive demos serve them the best to engage and onboard their customers.

How to Use Hybrid Engagement

Let the customers choose. Provide them with options to schedule a call with support. But at the same time, make sure they can self-serve too. You can use applications like Calendly to help customers find the most suitable time for a discussion. 

Get your product guide, FAQs, demos personalized for typical use cases, and email sequences set to encourage self-serve.

Hybrid Engagement Model Example
Asana's Hybrid Engagement Model Example

Asana, a project management software, uses a hybrid model. It conducts weekly training to provide high-touch engagement and leverages low-touch strategies to educate its audience about its features. They sequence emails per their onboarding flow to engage their users at scale.

When to Choose the Hybrid Engagement Model?

Below are some scenarios where the hybrid engagement model fits perfectly. 

  • When you already have an established market and are trying to get into newer markets and geographies. 1:1 feedback will help map the product’s direction and strategy for the new geographies.
  • When you want your customer success team to primarily focus on key accounts while automating the onboarding for the rest. 
  • To improve brand loyalty 

Retention-Focused Customer Engagement Model

These models focus on building and maintaining long-term customer relationships while ensuring retention. The relationship helps to understand the changing needs so you and your product can adapt. 

CSM-Driven Retention

These models work best for products with solid customization needs. A customer success manager (CSM) guides and supports such products. A CSM typically manages a portfolio of such clients. 

How to Use CSM-Driven Retention

You need an account manager to help users get the most value from your product and overcome technical hurdles. Make them your product’s evangelist so they know the ins and outs of your product. 

You can add this as an offering for those who purchase your premium plans. 

CSM-Driven Retention Example

Cooby, a SaaS solution, does bi-weekly check-ins with their key accounts to assist with technical issues and provide training. 

When to Choose CSM-Driven Retention?

Use the CSM-Driven Retention model for selling SaaS and other subscription-based services. These products and services require more personalization and customization to solve the customer’s pain. 

Automated Retention

The automated retention model is leveraged when a user is on the verge of churning. These models use texts, push notifications, and emails to convey last-minute offers and discounts. You can monitor user activities through software like Metabase. It can signify churn when you see negligible daily active usage (DAU) for an extended period. 

How to Use Automated Retention Model

Use email marketing to share lucrative deals and offers with your customers, especially when considering a subsequent purchase. Use product updates and new features to constantly engage them. 

Automated Retention Model Example

Grammarly's automated retention campaign

Grammarly does a great job of using automated retention-focused engagement. Automated emails are triggered when there’s no activity on the account. It motivates customers’ product adoption with streaks and badges in addition to these email nudges. 

When to Choose The Automated Retention Model? 

Use this model when the product cost is lower and you need to engage people at scale. Just make sure the emails don’t look automated. 

Engage Like a Sage

Regardless of your chosen customer engagement model, don’t pester your customers with several emails, texts, and push notifications simultaneously. Just like a sage advises when the time is right, your engagement messaging should reach the customer when they need it the most. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about your product or service isn’t your customer’s primary job. It’s a way to make their job easier. Keep it that way. Think about what your customers need now and in the future before the need arises, and set your engagement tactics accordingly. 

Q1. What are the four types of customer engagement?

Contextual, convenient, emotional, and social engagement are four types of customer engagement. Contextual engagement makes interactions more effective as it's supported by context. Emotional engagement appeals to buyer’s emotions. Convenient engagement makes it easier for customers to interact with the brand. Lastly, social engagement focuses on having interactions across forums and social platforms.

Q2. What are the 3 C's of customer experience?

Champions, Culture, and communication are 3 C’s of customer experience.

Q3. What is customer engagement theory? 

Customer engagement theory revolves around the idea of creating deeper, more meaningful connections between a business and its customers. 

"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."
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