There is a hot ongoing debate nowadays about customer journey and experience personalization. You might have heard different arguments supporting or undermining the idea of hyper-personalization of today’s customer-business relationship. One thing is for sure, the customer care industry is rapidly growing and personalized customer service has started to become an important part of it.
In this article, I’ll show you the importance of personalized customer service and how it can increase customer trust. Read on and make sure you implement the latest trends into your customer service strategy.
What is personalized customer service?
Customer service personalization is the process of tailoring information, products or services to individual users’ characteristics and preferences. This great technique is already utilized by a number of companies to enhance customer service experience and e-commerce sales.
Personalization can help your business interact with clients and prospects more effectively, making customer interactions faster, easier and more convenient.
Customer personalization works based on the knowledge your business collects and stores about your customers. This knowledge may include demographic information, any customer information you gather during your existing client-supplier relationships – such as in which products your customer was interested so far – as well as information collected based on social media platforms and customer behavior patterns. Personalized customer service works best when the customer already knows your company and vice versa. This technique can easily be applied by companies whose sales and customer service strategy rely on long-term relationships.
In order to personalize the customer contact – we must use our knowledge about the client, their current contact with our company in various channels, and know their emotional profile, what they are paying attention to, and whether or not it is easy to irritate them. In our fast-paced world we are super-busy and have less and less time, so it’s no surprise that we want to talk to someone who already knows us, rather to someone who is always asking us the same questions.
Imagine you’re a customer purchasing at an online shop. Be it a fashion shop or a computer geeks’ heaven, we all have our all-time favorite we like to visit from time to time. But did you know these shops use similar tricks to make you purchase their products?
You have probably come across personalized ads on social media, attracting you to visit your favorite webshop again by popping up with their newest offers, surprisingly just when you got your salary.
So, you enter their webshop and first you’ll receive items suggestions based on your previous choices, or service upgrade offers compatible with a product you have recently purchased. Then you start browsing the webshop, and if you can’t find all the information you need regarding a product you’re interested in, you can simply click on a chat icon and get connected to a live agent. Of course, the agent already knows your previous shopping history, as well as the page you are browsing, and they can even remotely help navigate you to the page where you can find the information you’re looking for.
Personalization vs identification
It’s important to highlight that there’s a difference between customer identification and customer personalization: although the two terms are similar, customer identification is not yet personalization. Your personalization strategy, though, needs to highly depend on the correct customer identification process.
Luckily, customer identification can be now easily carried out with the help of comprehensive technology solutions. For example, your clients’ identity can be automatically recognized by a system using various methods, such as phone number verification, pin code or more advanced biometrical methods. The data collected, however, is not useful at all without a well-designed personalization process that follows the identification process.
It may be hard to believe, but for many businesses personalization simply means knowing their client’s name during a conversation, while they keep asking them the same unnecessary questions instead of using any further customer information to make the call as convenient as possible.
Personalization in contact centers
First of all, let’s face it, it’s not possible to get a full picture of the client without cooperation between departments in the organization as well as different communication channels. Client communication management must rely on technologies that are able to automate the integration of data from multiple sources and then support personalized contact. Many companies are investing in solutions based on artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and data integration tools to achieve a 360° customer view.
In which areas of contact center routines can personalization be implemented?
It’s simple: it can be implemented from the very beginning of the customer journey in the inbound call handling process. For instance, you can allow clients to identify themselves using an inbound IVR HTTP request, and then you can verify their personality in your external system.
Once you know who is on the other side of the line, you can offer your clients self-service options based on their previous most common choices. So, instead of making them listen to the same predefined messages, you can deliver better customer experience to them by resolving their issues or requests in a much shorter time.
If an issue cannot be handled automatically, your clients may request a conversation with your agents. In such cases, agents can rely on call center scripts containing all the necessary customer information that is required for quickly resolving your client’s issue.
Additionally, by having customer data at hand, you can easily identify priority and loyal customers and thus serve them better. For example, based on previous client history, you can create VIP queues for your priority and loyal customers in order to provide them with the best possible care without any delays.
Of course, there are situations where an issue cannot be resolved for the first contact. Imagine that your client is calling again to get an update on their case, and is forced to explain the situation all over again. How frustrating would that be for them?
Luckily, your clients can immediately be connected to the same agent who handled their cases previously, or if that’s not possible, to another agent who will have access to the whole client contact history and case details.
When using customer personalization techniques, it’s really important to track your NPS results and see your clients’ satisfaction level trends, and act accordingly by eliminating weaker points. Remember, however, not every client will appreciate personalization or at least not to the same extent.
According to a Salesforce report, “75% of consumers expect companies to provide a consistent experience wherever they engage (eg. a website chat, social media, mobile, in-person). 66% of customers even say that they’re likely to switch brands if a company treats them like a number instead of an individual.”
This goes in line with the results of Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Research 2018 stating that due to low personalization and brand distrust, US companies lost $756 billion in 2016, and 52% of consumers changed their service provider for the very same reason. It can, therefore, be concluded that personalized customer service is now one of the main drivers of business growth.
Let your imagination run free
According to the Salesforce report mentioned above, close to half of consumers (47%) expect that by 2020 companies will take the personal preferences and needs of customers into account, thanks to which they will be able to automate the generation of orders and the creation of personalized promotional offers. Over half of consumers (51%) expect companies to anticipate their needs and present relevant offers before contacting them.
Where can personalization lead us? Current technology already allows us to precisely adjust the service process, the communication language and its formality, and the selection of products and services to a given person at a specified time. Personalization is now not only about the identification of clients by name but reached a higher level of understanding clients’ psychology. Technology can allow you to get to know your client’s personality during the first contact, thus provides great opportunities for your business.
Which form of contact is preferred by your client? Do they need concise information or prefer to talk a bit longer? Can you address them in a less formal manner? Is it better to push your client to make a quick decision or should you give them some time to think?
If technology around us will learn more and more about our needs and read our intentions, then as a next step, they’ll probably be able to anticipate our questions, needs and expectations.
Is personalization always a good direction?
Call center industry experts hold highly contradictory opinions about personalization.
The most important question is whether customer contacts should be personalized or not. Well, I would say – it depends. It depends on many factors as well as communication channels. Some clients expect or even demand their contact to be personalized, eg. when talking to their local bank’s customer service, but the situation may be different for a local shopping center.
I’m curious but also a bit skeptical about the idea of a total personalization, but I believe that using the information you have about your clients can help you boost your business both in terms of higher sales volumes as well as better customer experience.
So what do you think about customer personalization? Please do not hesitate to share your opinion with us!