A good starting point would be to answer why a company would want to personalize their customer service experience in the first place?
There are two reasons:
The first is that consumers are demanding personalization across the entire customer journey, and are willing to provide information in exchange for it.
To provide some context, companies like Stash (An online investment company) and Bark Box (A dog food and toys company) are taking full advantage of this consumer behavior and personalizing their customer experience.
These companies collect most of their users’ personal data through an onboarding process that promises targeted product recommendations afterward.
This customer data is also used to address a number of other customer experience issues:
Customer Churn - 67% of consumers cite bad experience as the reason for churn. The data collected allows these companies to present a personal experience to customers, which is what the market is currently demanding.
Revenue Growth - 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for an upgraded experience. Air travel and hospitality are examples where upselling better experiences can generate incremental revenue and bolster customer loyalty.
Customer Satisfaction – Dissatisfied customers will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. About 13% will tell more than 20 people. (White House Office of Consumer Affairs)
While these companies will leverage the data collected to maximize the lifetime value of their customers, the customers themselves will also receive the personalization they were in search of in the first place. It’s a win-win for everyone.
In the Bark Box example, the value proposition is product recommendations based on the age, breed, and size of your dog. For Stash, it’s an investment that meets the needs of one’s unique investment behavior, risk tolerance, and budget.
The second reason for personalizing the customer experience is that it will provide your company with a competitive edge.
According to Walker Information’s Customers 2020 report, customer experience is poised to be the number one differentiator of brands by 2020, more so than technology, innovation, and product offerings.
Slack is a company that many people look to as an example of outstanding customer service and experience, and for good reason.
Not only do they emphasize customer service within their company culture, but they have designed their product to help others offer high-level customer service as well.
“By focusing on customer feedback, the company has internalized the customer experience in everything it does… Whereas some companies see customer support as a burden, Slack has always viewed it as a strategic asset.” – CMO.com
Personalized customer service can provide brands with both immediate brand and revenue enhancement while positioning themselves for long-term, sustainable competitive advantage.
But if that is the case, then why doesn’t everyone jump on the bandwagon and start optimizing for customer experience right now?
Personalizing the customer service experience can be a daunting task.
Brands are constantly on the lookout for ways to differentiate themselves in crowded markets.
And there are a lot of strategies for doing so:
Embracing corporate responsibility (like Microsoft)
Adopt a culture of unreciprocated value adding to the world. Freshworks designed the Inbox Grader as a cool tool that both benefits their audience and generates buzz around the Freshworks brand.
Making a splash on social media. Wendy's Twitter account receives a lot of engagement because they utilize social media to give the users of their platform what they want: a reason to tweet.
(Look at that engagement! And guess what, it doesn’t try to sell anything!)
However, with most company cultures emphasizing quick results that can be measured just as quickly, longer-term experiential process updates are often viewed as too challenging (even if they can lead to improved metrics across the board).
With that mindset comes the opportunity for companies willing to put the extra work into doing things correctly.
Personalizing the customer service experience falls into this category.
How to Personalize the Customer Service Experience
I’m not going to pretend that providing a personalized customer experience is an easy thing to accomplish.
If it was, every company would do it, but that is not the case:
Gartner Research reported that Less than 10% of tier 1 retailers believe they are highly effective at personalization, and nearly one-third report having limited or no capability to support personalization efforts.
As with every effort to optimize the customer journey, a thorough consultation with brand guidelines and customer feedback is necessary before testing anything in a live customer-facing environment.
Below are some immediate ways brands can begin testing personalization to improve customer experience and conversion rates.
Chatbots are going to be big in 2018.
Facebook Messenger and Drift have anticipated chatbots’ role in customer experience optimization and have taken steps to prepare their platforms for this next wave of consumer behavior changes.
With chatbots, companies can quickly and easily engage website visitor based on their activity and offer solutions to their problems based on the information collected.
The benefit for the customer is a quick and personalized engagement that results in a solution to their problem. The benefit for companies is the ability to automate personalized experiences at an individual level.
Check out these case studies and see how some companies are already leveraging chatbots to provide better customer experiences.
Leverage Video Support
Nothing is more personal than having a real-time, face to face conversation with someone. And TurboTax understands the value of doing so.
SmartLook is their effort to capitalize on the personalization expectations of their target market.
With SmartLook, TurboTax customers can receive a video call from a certified expert at any hour of the day when they come across difficulty with the software, or even if they are just in need of basic tax advice.
The ability to help customers quickly and effectively overcome roadblocks or problems is vital to the success of TurboTax as figuring out taxes is a painful and complicated process for people like me. The same goes for any business or software with a relatively complex product.
If you’re interested, companies like Stryng offer software that allows businesses to quickly implement real-time video chat customer service.
Leverage Messaging Platforms
Every day, people communicate with one another through preferred communication channels.
Text messaging, social messaging, even professional instant message.
If you want to quickly reduce frustration within your customer service experience, try offering customer service through channels that people are most familiar with.
For example, Facebook Messenger has evolved their platform to meet the needs of businesses that want to take advantage of this opportunity, mainly for B2C companies.
Slack also provides their customers with an opportunity to offer better B2B customer service. With thousands of companies already utilizing Slack for regular intercompany communication, setting up customer support channel in Slack is a simple way to provide better customer service while building an engaged community for your brand.
Text messaging is another fast and efficient way for businesses to provide customer service.
Business text messaging companies like Zingle, enable businesses in any industry to text message (also through social messaging apps) with customers and meet them at their communication channel of choice.
There are countless approaches to implementing this personalization strategy. What is most important is that you understand what your customers are expecting or needing from you before making decisions on how to implement these ideas. That’s another reason why customer feedback is so important to your business.
As you can probably tell, I’m an advocate of personalization. Having previously worked at a personalization software company (Certona) and having seen first-hand the impact it has for businesses driving revenue and retention.
In the coming years, we are likely going to see more companies using personalization in many ways to improve the customer experience and customer service and it will continue to advance and evolve.
The important thing is to always learn from those companies to see what is working and integrate it into your customer experience strategy so you can also continue to grow and build lifelong customers.
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