Role of hospitality and leisure managers in digital customer engagement, digital stakeholder engagement, and digital customer experience

Introduction

Digital technology advancements have disrupted customer and other stakeholder expectations and behaviors. Owing to this disruption, customers increasingly expect dramatically higher personalization of experiences and interactions, anytime/anywhere responsiveness, any device/any channel service availability, respect for the value of their time in interactions with organizations, feeling valued at all times, and feeling like they are part of a community that uses the product/service or engage with the organization. Living up to these expectations requires fundamental changes in the nature of customer engagement, stakeholder engagement, and customer experience practices. These transformed practices are what are respectively referred to as digital customer engagement, digital stakeholder engagement, and digital customer experience capabilities. They offer the promise of organizations not only being able to live up to changed and rapidly changing customer/stakeholder expectations but also having important bases for building strategic differentiation, adaptability, and agility from state-of-the-art practice of the capabilities. In this chapter, we unpack each capability and discuss what it means, how it differs from its traditional counterpart, and its value to organization performance and longevity. We then identify the key roles hospitality and leisure managers can play in building and maintaining these organization capabilities, and what competencies they require to perform those roles. As with earlier capabilities, each of these capabilities can be a complex area of practice with significant depth, interdisciplinary knowledge, slippery terms and concepts to make sense of, and practical practice challenges. Our aim was to provide a meaningful introduction to each digital capability, the required roles, and the required competencies, so managers can have a starting point and a contextual framework to support further and lifelong learning/competency development in these important capability areas.

Required managerial roles and competencies for digital customer engagement and digital stakeholder engagement

Unpacking digital customer engagement

Customer engagement refers to both the process and effect of organizations or brands creating deep connections with customers that drive purchase decisions, interaction, participation, and brand advocacy.1 Its value to profitability and competitiveness is well established and includes benefits such as improved customer experience (e.g. through more empathetic service), improved customer relations/retention (e.g. greater trust/forgiveness

Customer engagement and customer experience 81 of organization mistakes), improved brand/product awareness and image (e.g. through word of mouth), improved product innovation (e.g. through customers providing ideas for new products or for existing product improvements), improved competitor intelligence (e.g. getting information on competitor activities from customers) and improved risk mitigation (e.g. discovering information on fatal product flaws and customer grievances from customers). Given these benefits, competitive organizations have long been interested in building and continuously upgrading their customer engagement capability (i.e. the efficiency and effectiveness of the capability).23-456,7

In previous chapters, we have noted how digital technology advancements disrupt consumer expectations and behaviors, disrupt the competitive field and the bases of competition, and disrupt data availability. From a consumer engagement perspective, these disruptions have manifested themselves as, for example, dramatically higher expectations of personalization, dramatically higher expectations of anytime/anywhere responsiveness, dramatically higher expectations of any device/any channel availability, and dramatically higher expectations of experiencing a sense of community in purchasing or brand interactions. To deliver on these dramatically higher expectations, organizations succeeding at it have transformed the nature of their customer engagement processes and practices.

The new or transformed processes and practices are collectively referred to as digital customer engagement. Digital customer engagement is the use of digital technologies and tools in the processes/practices and effect of creating deep connections with customers

Traditional customer engagement vs. digital customer engagement

Figure 8.1 Traditional customer engagement vs. digital customer engagement8

that drive purchase decisions, interaction, participation, and advocacy (see figure 8.1 for a contrast of digital customer engagement practices with traditional customer engagement). Digital customer engagement deals with all the ways current and prospective customers can and do interact in relation to an organization, brand, or product across digital channels, platforms, devices, and connected or smart things.9 Digital customer engagement has rapidly evolved to include a rich repertoire of engagement strategies/approaches and specific engagement practices.10 Examples of these include digitally managed loyalty programs (e.g. web-based or mobile app frequent flyer programs), online brand communities (e.g. discussion board/chat-style interactions with other customers/prospective customers or with the organization, consumers solving other consumers’ problems, consumers giving other consumers advice/tips), use of digital customer engagement platforms (e.g. Zendesk, Freshdesk, HubSpot, Salesforce, Mailchimp), customer co-creation (e.g. product co-creation, product improvement feedback, product testing), brand websites, consumer-generated brand stories, consumer engagement on social media (e.g. liking, commenting, sharing, posting, calling up product photographs, hash-tagging), consumer reviews (e.g. search engine reviews, review platform reviews, social media reviews), brand-consumer interactions (e.g. liking a brand on Facebook, following a brand on Twitter), purchase funnel practices, brand fan pages, mobile interactions (e.g. SMS interactions), LiveChat platforms, mobile marketing, consumer-generated advertising (e.g. consumer-generated brand videos), consumer buzz (e.g. consumer generation of content by sharing personal experiences, providing online feedback, expressing sentiments), email marketing, customers’ online brand related activities (COBRAs), consumption community participation, consumer initiated mobile marketing, and consumer advocates (e.g. consumers doing remote voluntary work for the organization, acting as multiplier of brand messages, accepting invitations to company-related events, speaking up for the brand at events).11 Figure 8.2 provides a taxonomy of business to consumer, consumer to business, and consumer to consumer engagement types, aims, and example activities.

Effectively done, digital customer engagement provides organizations with a range of other opportunities including being able to harness all their customer interactions across channels and platforms to inform decision making, developing breakthrough and market-validated products (e.g. from spotting new problems to solve for customers, liaising with customers about possible solutions, and receiving product test feedback from customers), involving more customers in digital innovation, being able to get granular in their understanding of customer behaviors across market segments, and offering significantly improved customer service and customer experience (e.g. service that leverages interaction data to anticipate and solve customer issues in real time).

Unpacking digital stakeholder engagement

In addition to customers, a range of other stakeholders are critical to an organization’s performance and well-being. These include employees, suppliers and partners, government and regulatory institutions, competitors, and different local and international communities. The organization must engage effectively with these different stakeholders in order to safeguard its existence, its legitimacy, and the opportunities available to it. For example, organizations must assure governments and regulatory institutions that they are complying with relevant laws or have acceptable reasons for not doing so; they must assure competitors that they are competing fairly; and they must ensure different communities that they are not violating their social, environmental, and ethical obligations or license to operate in

A research-derived taxonomy of digital customer engagement practices

Figure 8.2 A research-derived taxonomy of digital customer engagement practices12

those communities and environments. To effectively do this, they must communicate and transact with these stakeholders in such a way as to build positive, trusting relationships. This is the focus of stakeholder engagement. And like digital customer engagement, digital stakeholder engagement leverages digital technologies and tools to maximize the practice and outputs of stakeholder engagement. Digital technologies and tools can dramatically improve the cost, speed, scale/reach, transparency, measurability, and effectiveness of stakeholder engagement efforts. In turn, this translates into organizations enjoying greater trust, empathy, inclusion, growth, profitability, and other benefits from stakeholders.

New or enhanced managerial roles and competencies required for digital customer engagement and digital stakeholder engagement

While organizations may leverage digital technologies and tools to improve customer engagement and stakeholder engagement, this is not enough. They must also do so more effectively and efficiently than competitors that leverage the same or similar digital technologies and tools. Hospitality and leisure managers can play an important role in building and continuously upgrading digital customer and stakeholder engagement capabilities. For example, they can set or clarify the organizations digital engagement vision and strategic objectives, they can help select the right combination of digital technologies and tools to maximize engagement of different customers and stakeholders (e.g. right technologies/ platforms/tools, right configuration and integration of technologies/platforms/tools), they can promote and institute the right supporting mindsets/attitudes/behaviors for effective digital engagement (e.g. that it’s not just marketings job), they can encourage their direct reports to participate in different digital channels in order to better empathize with stakeholders, they can ensure analytics dashboards are built that leverage and integrate interaction data from all channels, they can hire/develop in-house experts across channels and forms of engagement, and much more. To play such roles, managers need to have sufficient working knowledge of digital customer and stakeholder engagement objectives, processes, and practices. They need to have working knowledge of different digital channels and of how multichannel works. They also need to understand how to capture value for the organization from its digital engagement efforts. Finally, they need the digital leadership skills to enable them to develop, continuously upgrade, and realize value from digital engagement efforts.

 
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