As with many topics, there is a before, during, and an after perspective to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we are now all looking at our customer experience (CX) strategies through a different lens. Personalized CX has been a strategic priority for many organizations in recent years for various reasons such as increased engagement, customer satisfaction, and loyalty. But the impact of COVID-19 has magnified its importance in conjunction with the need for increased empathy and a sense of connection that so many are craving. Not to mention, customers have come to expect it.
What is personalized service?
Simply put, providing personalized service is tailoring an experience to each individual customer, based on their needs, history, sentiment, and behaviors. The result of a personalized experience is customers feel known, valued, heard, and appreciated because they are treated as individuals.
Personalization can take on a wide range of sophistication. Most organizations offer at least some degree off personalized service whether that is simply personalizing emails to the customer with specific offers (e.g., Amazon), automatically detecting a technology outage and notifying them (or best-case scenario fixing it before they even knew about it), or providing an immersive omnichannel shopping experience (e.g., Sephora).
Much of the personalization we think of feels more like marketing personalization than service personalization, and in many respects that is accurate. But these “marketing” experiences have created expectations of personalized end-to-end experiences beyond the shopping and purchasing touchpoints. This leads us into why personalized service is so important.
Why is personalization so important?
Besides potential reductions in cost, increases in revenue, and improved customer satisfaction, customers are beginning to expect it, even more so because of COVID-19.
There are countless statistics that point to the growing importance of offering personalized experiences, including these from Accenture:
- 33% of customers who abandoned a business relationship did so because personalization was lacking.
- 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them.
- 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to create a more personalized experience.
Additionally, a report cited in this Forbes article, speaks to the concept of “lifelong conversations.” This means shifting the way you treat, measure, and interact with customers. Instead of operating in a transactional and reactive mode, consider that you have ONE journey or experience with your customer. Each time you make contact is just an extension of that lifelong conversation.
Imagine the power of this paradigm shift and its potential impact on customer loyalty. In fact, this same report found that:
“84% of customers will go out of their way to spend more money to get a great experience.”
To deliver on such a concept is, in essence, an ongoing, personal experience.
What is the future of personalized customer care?
McKinsey has looked into the future of personalized care with an eye toward 2025. As headlined in this article, the “hyperpersonalized care” and “care of one” is the ultimate goal in self-service channels, as well as live channels.
Because most organizations are offering some level of personalization, the future is not simply to improve upon the status quo, but to take the status quo to the next level. As McKinsey explains, there are four key components to deliver this concept:
- White-glove customer care for all – This starts with shifting from traditional reactive care to proactive control of the customer relationship by predicting, identifying, and solving customer issues before the customer contacts you. Organizations that succeed will have the ability to bust organizational and data silos, bringing data together to understand behavior patterns, sentiment, and the priorities of each customer. Contact centers will be able to leverage this information to determine the right time to reach out with an offer or when live outreach is required and by which channel. Data from the contact center will ultimately flow to the rest of the organization to drive product, marketing, or policy strategies.
- One company, one voice (omnichannel communication) – Omnichannel strategies have been in our collective vocabulary for years and there are always discussions within organizations to improve consistency, transparency, and ease of navigation across channels. In the next five years, this will become a reality for those that succeed to truly deliver a seamless experience for the journeys that matter most to the customer. With dynamic platforms that collate and visualize all customer interactions and activities across all channels, a detailed and real-time view will allow agents the ability to instantly react to the specific customer situation in a personalized way. Essentially agents and customers will be able to seamlessly communicate and act via different channels without losing context, resulting in a more personalized, efficient, consistent, and satisfying level of service.
- The workstation of the future (digital enablement) – While the nature of their roles will shift due to more “routine” transactions handled via self-service channels, live agents will be more critical than ever to providing customer care. However, technology will facilitate their ability to solve issues more efficiently and in a more personalized way, while also allowing companies to be more targeted in how the workforce is deployed. The ‘care of one’ will be supported by advanced analytics, AI, real-time natural language processing, and other tools that detect customer sentiment and emotion, providing agents with real-time guidance.
- Contact centers: The future talent factory – As customer experience continues to be the great differentiator and as contact center employees’ role in influencing the customer’s lifetime journey with the company grows in importance, employees who are truly customer-centric will become even more critical. Because of this, contact center staff will become a source of long-term organizational talent, forcing customer care organizations to change recruiting, hiring, and training strategies. “Customer service representatives will be supported with digitally enabled in-moment tools and coaching (allowing for successful performance with greater spans of control with supervisors); well-defined career paths; tailored, ongoing training; and upskilling for roles in the contact center and beyond.” By 2025, it is predicted that a high percentage of customer service representatives will be graduates of online high schools and universities, so companies will need to adjust their training and development approach as well.
What does this mean for CX leaders?
The future is now. You do not have to look far to see examples of organizations with their foot on the gas in elevating their personalized care strategies. While personalization is a priority for many organizations, including those in our own EITK community, there are some very real challenges. It starts with ensuring the organization is aligned on the strategy, and organizational/data silos are removed to begin to bring the vision together in a meaningful way. Organizations must start with an understanding of customer needs and expectations (as well as organizational enablers and capabilities) to develop a cohesive and integrated strategy. For many, one of the initial challenges to overcome is not a lack of data — it is how to actually collate the massive amount of data that exists from multiple back-end systems and departments. The next hurdle is then determining what and how to serve up to customers, doing so in a “non-creepy,” yet useful way. The good news is that most organizations are not starting from zero, but those who accelerate their plans to create more personalized experiences will be well-positioned ahead of the competition in the coming years.
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Blog post, written by: Execs In The Know