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9 Ways To Create A More Personalized Customer Experience

Brian Cantor

An earlier version of the following piece appeared in the CCW Digital Special Report on Personalization.

Personalization is the #1 sign of a customer-centric brand, a pivotal customer experience priority for businesses, a cornerstone of building connections with customers, and a springboard to other objectives like reducing customer friction and maximizing revenue.

It is undeniably important, which means the aforementioned challenges are incredibly problematic. Organizations must work to urgently overcome them.

These challenges, it should be noted, thwart more than an organization’s ability to personalize experiences. They, quite simply, damage the overall health of the contact center operation. Factors like “inadequate data” and misalignment between functions are fundamental burdens on the business.

Even an organization not quite sold on the value of “personalization,” therefore, has tremendous incentive to take action.

Make Data an Objective

Data holds the key to any personalization endeavor. It, therefore, needs to be viewed as a paramount objective when interacting with customers.

To actualize this process, an organization must implement omnichannel analytics solutions at all touch points – including self-service/non-conversational ones. An organization should always be capturing insight into the quality of the experience and the individuals who are engaging.

Agents should also be trained to ask (and report) questions that can be used to better-understand customer profiles. They cannot view answering the question as their only job; they must also commit to learning about the customer.

[Fast Fact: A paramount focus for 35% of organizations, “improving customer intelligence” is the #3 CX focus for 2018. Only effort reduction and automated engagement represent more widespread priorities.]

Establish a Master Customer Record

By using a tool to consolidate and integrate data from all touchpoints, the organization gains a single, consistent, complete sense of the customer’s history, personality, sentiment and preferences. Drawing upon this information, the business – and its systems and agents – can make informed assessments and decisions about how best to not only resolve the customer’s current issues but add meaningful value down the road.

In addition to helping the business tailor experiences, the master record boosts operational efficiency. Agents will not have to scour multiple databases to understand the customer’s issue; everything they need will be accessible on one screen. They will be able to deliver accurate, useful assistance in the most timely manner possible.

Master records, moreover, help businesses see the “stories” – and opportunities – embedded in raw customer data.

Make CRM Actionable

The recent CCW Digital Special Report on CRM reminds organizations to leverage CRM solutions for customer relationship management rather than customer interaction recording.

That approach plays a particularly pivotal role in personalization.

In order to tailor experiences to individual customers, agents and systems must have instant access to relevant data about that customer. This hinges on proper, omnichannel CRM integration.

Screen pops for inbound calls should not simply tell agents the name of the customer to whom they are talking; they should reveal specific details about the customer’s purchases, support history and likely (if not definite) reason for calling. With this information, the agent can quickly focus on delivering what the customer really wants instead of spending time trying to figure out who the customer is.

Let CRM handle the recognition so that your business can focus on the execution.

Leverage Omnichannel CCM

CRM is not the only application that should be integrated across the organization. In order to deliver efficient, yet highly personalized experiences, businesses will also want to employ omnichannel customer communications management tools.

The best of these tools enable business users to quickly tailor complex communications and messages to individual customers. The communications can span all channels, ensuring the business is able to deliver highly personalized and relevant information wherever the customer wants to connect.

A critical component of this technology is that administrators can determine which parts of documents can be edited. This simultaneously fosters personalization and maintains compliance. Agents will thus be able to provide tailored material for customers without needing to consult IT or secure supervisor approval. Customers will not be asked to wait for the personalized experience they desire (if not require).

Modern CCM solutions also promote intradepartmental and interdepartmental collaboration on the creation of these communications. Breaking down the silos that hinder personalization (as well as the entire experience), CCM solutions grant access to business users from throughout the organization. Each user can work on the tasks or documents relevant to their own departments, ensuring all users are working cooperatively to create the best communication for customers.

Train Beyond The Script

In addition to coaching agents on the importance of data mining, personalization-driven businesses train agents on how to adapt to individual customers.

They coach agents on how to determine the “intent” behind certain customer requests. They train them on detecting the “intent” behind customer requests (or, alternatively, the requests that are buried beneath heightened emotion). They also condition agents to express empathy when things go wrong and happiness upon providing remedies.

They, quite simply, use training to make agents comfortable being human brand ambassadors rather than scripted robots.

Build Personalization Templates

On the one hand, templates are the enemy of personalization. Personalization is about adapting to individual customer needs and issues, not resorting to default language.

On the other hand, templates can illustrate the importance of personalizing the experience.

By urging agents to ask certain questions and incorporate certain facts into the experience, businesses help them understand the value of personalization. They condition agents to recognize personalization not as a superfluous, “feel-good” initiative but as a strategy for making interactions more productive.

These templates, which may include directives to ask customers about their purchasing plans, experiences with a certain product or reaction to service from the new chatbot, help agents understand the kind of information that can later be used to expedite (and optimize) conversations.

Leverage Intelligent Routing

Personalization is predicated on the notion of connecting with customers.

No matter how well-trained the entire fleet of agents may be, certain agents are better-suited for connecting with certain customers.

In the interest of creating the most efficient (and most valuable) interactions, organizations should play into this reality. Leveraging modern-routing tools and rules, they can pass customers to agents best-suited for their issues or personalities.

These agents do not simply have the data and training required to tailor experiences but the personalities and expertise needed to best connect with the customers they are handling. The business will, ultimately, create the strongest possible connections in the shortest amount of time.

Map Customer Journeys

To consistently deliver the right experience for the customers, an organization needs to understand when and why they will engage at different touchpoints. It must establish a complete journey map.

Leveraging this journey map, the organization can prepare its agents and systems to communicate in the manner best-suited for a given moment. It will also gain a better perspective of the pain points customers endure throughout the experience. This insight helps organizations identify opportunities to leverage “productive personalization.” It also gives all stakeholders insight into how their actions are helping or hurting the experience.

By forecasting where a customer may go next, the journey map also opens the door to more valuable predictive and proactive engagement.

[Fast Facts: Journey-mapping is definitely a priority for organizations. 97% identify it as important, while 80% of organizations have plans to start, maintain or increase investment into journey-mapping solutions. Journey-mapping, moreover, ranks as the #4 CX priority for 2018.]

Deploy Chatbots

When it comes to personalization, organizations and customers can each have their cake and eat it too.

Businesses appreciate self-service because of its potential to reduce call volume and operating costs. Customers appreciate self-service because it can be quicker and more convenient than waiting for a live agent.

Historically, however, each party had to make sacrifices to reap these rewards. Businesses had to the negative ramifications of imposing a static, unintuitive, unnatural self-service experience on customers. Customers had to endure that suboptimal, impersonal experience in the name of avoiding live agents.

Chatbots – and other AI-driven tools – are lessening the need for such a sacrifice.

These self-service tools leverage real customer data, natural conversation ability and cognitive, adaptive qualities to personalize self-service to the individual customer. The resulting experiences turn the theoretical benefits of self-service into practical realities. The conversations are quick, convenient and digital – yet also accurate, customized and valuable.

Bots are also data-driven, which helps the business use self-service opportunities as a chance to learn about the journey and build customer profiles. This data can lead to better personalization efforts – and stronger overall experiences -- down the road.

“You really want them to love it [and not merely tolerate it],” says Sean Rivers of Republic Wireless regarding the optimal use of chatbots. “That's what we're looking for - for the member, the customer, the user, internal people - getting them to love it depends on the person and the issue. We have all these tools to learn what people really want and to really understand who's on the other end of that interaction.”

[Fast Fact: Chatbots are a top priority for businesses, which means self-service is about to become a great deal more personalized. “CX automation for engagement” is the #2 CX priority for 2018.]