make it personalContinuing from last week, it’s back to guest blogger Gerry Brown to conclude his series on how to make it personal; for your customers.

Over to our Canadian ‘Customer Lifeguard‘ to rescue us from bad customer experience once more…

So, how do we reconcile my advice in concluding ‘Part 1‘ with the understandable concerns about communication overload, security, personal data exploitation, identity theft and other real and immediate risks that we run if we open our personal history kimono too wide?

Balancing personalisation and privacy: designing an experience that is relevant but not intrusive.

This is the challenge facing on-line retailers today.

They must create trust in the brand by not wasting customers’ time with irrelevant offers, selling their data or other spurious activities and, as importantly, getting the customer’s permission for additional contact. Then they can use technology to present a clear, consistent, relevant and personalised experience across channels and to ensure that all processes and departments are aligned and work seamlessly. Getting a call from a company after you have un-subscribed from future mailings is not the best way to do this.

Be on your best behaviour – Get the best offers

Because everyone has different needs, wants and preferences, answering these questions is part of a four step process to help companies build a stronger, more personalized engagement model that can maximize communications with their customers. We need to:

  1. To truly understand our customers and their wants and needs, we need to look beyond traditional CRM data and personal history and integrate that with other vital customer information, such as sentiment and influence across all channels and external sources, that’s filling up the Big Data bucket.
  2. Combining transactional and behavioural data is definitely a challenge for many companies and therefore it’s critical that every interaction with the customer is seen as an opportunity to continually enrich the data that you hold by incentivizing customers to add different details each time they visit your site or have an interaction with your contact centre.
  3. Taking this behavioural and existing CRM data, and gradually incorporating lifecycle messaging and advanced segmentation, will significantly improve the overall quality of your data. Thus, allowing you to more accurately predict future behaviour and increase the chances that your customers will respond favourably and frequently to your communications.
  4. This aggregated and integrated data now starts to form a clearer and more complete picture of your customer that can you can use to develop more detailed customer profiles. These customer profiles can help you target your customers at an individual level, providing them with specific and relevant offerings.

Balancing personalisation and privacy: designing an experience that is relevant but not intrusive. You must create a more engaging experience for every person, from first time visitor to repeat customer, showing them the products they want and cutting out the unnecessary noise that puts them off. The type of information that is becoming increasingly valuable to be able to achieve this includes:

  • Acquisition source
  • Geo-location
  • Influence & sentiment
  • Emotional interaction & transaction behaviour
  • Recency & frequency of interactions
  • Landing page details
  • Channels utilized
  • Device information
  • Likelihood to churn
  • What, and how much, they’ve told you
  • Good/Bad experience
  • Actions – past & present
  • Demographic fit
  • Brand advocacy

I generally eschew technology as the key ingredient in improving customer service and delivering a great customer experience. But as you’ve probably figured out by now, there is a strong technology element to all of this to help companies collate, analyse and integrate these diverse data streams into coherent real-time interventions. This means using your customers’ actual behaviour to learn how to serve them better by focusing on the things they’ve shown an interest in, or where the timing of the offer can increase your chances of growing sales and boosting loyalty.

This type of technology enables retailers to make recommendations that are product contextual e.g. “those who bought product X also bought product Y.” Offers are far more personalized based on user activity, viewing and purchase history and also shopping cart abandonment.

Traditionally this technology has been the preserve of large retailers. But the emergence of cloud based, Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, are quickly transforming the landscape. Look for solutions that include easy to use developer tools and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that can provide strong and compelling business cases by eliminating much of the time, cost, hassle and complexity that expensive on premise solutions often have. This means that everybody (big and small, online & traditional retailers) can derive the same benefits (and profit) and provide their customers with the personal touch that we all crave.

Many traditional businesses are hiding behind the “we’re not new like Airbnb or Uber. We can’t move that fast.” But the options are move fast or die. And this is where technology can play a major role in levelling the playing field. Just as I noted earlier that smaller companies can compete with larger ones, so can established business that are prepared to leverage their reputation, marry that to innovation and technology, and fundamentally reinvent themselves.

While getting a birthday greeting or an important anniversary message from a company you do business with may seem old-fashioned, it still means a lot for many people and if there is a special offer attached to that, it can make it even more special. How would you feel if you forgot something like a 90th birthday greeting for somebody really special and important? Like a customer!

So make it personal – Make it last.