In this, the third and final instalment of a series detailing three steps to stronger customer engagement and better customer experiences, Katharine Hulls of Celebrus Technologies explains how customer who you have an established relationship with can be turned into absolute raving fans. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

Having completed the first two steps of the journey (turning browsers into buyers, and making those buyers loyal) you will already have insight into how individual customers like to interact with digital channels, and about their interests and preferences, the most popular times of day for browsing and purchasing, the devices they use, and the items they have purchased. Armed with this knowledge, you now have the opportunity to really make your relationship with that customer much more engaging and positive.

Some basic examples of this include using relevant email subject lines, sending triggered messages with highly relevant products or promotions at the time that best suits the customer, not the brand, or offering personal 'one off' deals to entice customers back to the website to purchase products which they have viewed on several occasions or 'Liked' via social media. All of this targeted, personalised interaction makes the customer feel like an individual rather than a segmented group of people who all have similar characteristics and behaviours, all receiving a grouped offer. Where is the personal touch in that approach?

Making the jump from regular purchaser into a brand ambassador or 'fan' is a big one and excellent customer service is clearly critical. Organisations therefore need to make it as easy as possible for customers to interact with them. Having an app nowadays is a fantastic way to have personalised interaction with customers, not just for the purchase process but also for the likes of delivery information.

Celebrus was therefore rather surprised to discover that only a 31.7% of the top 150 e-tailers in the UK had an app and, of those, only 55.3% of them actively promoted it on their website. More surprisingly, of those without a mobile app, more than one third (38.7%) had not even optimised their home page for mobile visitors, thus making the mobile customer experience a very difficult one.

Another example of improving interaction and customer service is to combine online customer data with offline data that is gathered in customer call centres. Building a centralised data warehouse, or customer data hub, to piece all this information together, organisations can get a very good understanding of their customers and how to view them as individuals. Being able to access highly granular digital big data that can provide a 360-degree customer view is what really makes the modern digital marketer get excited. Using real-time data analysis to provide a call handler with the ability to see that a customer has just been online and then stopped a purchase at the checkout for an unknown reason enables the provision of relevant timely assistance to complete the sale in a very customer-friendly way. The benefit of this to the customer - other than just completing a new purchase - is that the problem has been solved quickly and easily with minimum effort.

Encouraging customers to rate a purchase or review their experience at this point of the customer lifecycle is a good way to foster a more personalised relationship. Even if a customer declines the offer to submit a rating or review, this still provides an indication of the level of interaction with the brand and demonstrates that more work needs to be done to convert that customer into a fan. Their level of interaction with social channels also indicates the importance of social shopping to that individual, which can help shape personalised messaging both in email and on-site communication. For example, if a customer always reads the ratings and reviews, be sure to include them in any further communications.

It is essential that organisations and the modern digital marketer use customer data carefully. Not only is it clearly critical to abide by the data privacy laws in each country, it is also important to demonstrate to customers that their precious data can be entrusted to that specific organisation or brand. That involves not just actual data protection and privacy processes within the organisation, but also thinking about how specific customers will feel about having their data usage made clear to them. For example, younger people seem less concerned about the use of data, so a basket abandonment email showing which specific items they have left in the basket may be well accepted. Whereas a similar email to an older age profile may be viewed as too intrusive and therefore have a negative effect. Each brand must make their own decisions and test, test and test again to get it right.

Achieving one-to-one website personalisation and enhancing the customer experience is an incremental process. Get each step right and the organisation wins the loyalty and trust of an individual that will encourage long-term interaction across multiple channels and devices. Capturing that full omni-channel picture becomes an essential part of this process: this complete and complex customer insight can be used to communicate with a customer across all devices and channels. The key is to deliver individual and relevant and timely interactions, avoiding mistakes such as sending special offers via email when a customer has just purchased the product online.

While customers can be more wary about handing over all of their personal information these days, there is still huge consumer demand for excellent customer experiences and relevant communications. The key is to take it step by step and offer real value. With the right approach, you can turn an unknown visitor into a purchaser, then a purchaser into a regular customer, and finally a regular customer into a raving fan.

If you missed parts one and two, you'll find them here: