Personalized customer service

3 Roads to Personalized Customer Service That Aren’t Total Junk

The topic of personalized customer service has probably crossed your desk at some point. It’s on a lot of people’s minds. (Just short of 90% of digital businesses are currently investing in personalization.)

In marketing and sales, personalization drives revenue. In service, it drives retention

And yet… 

If you research how businesses personalize service you get some very bland advice; use the customer’s names, be friendly in interactions, listen to and understand their query… 

And there are two problems with advice like that.

First problem – your business already does this stuff, right? That’s as basic as it gets! 

Second problem – they’ve confused ‘personalized’ with ‘personal’. 

Let’s ask Starbucks why personal *doesn’t* mean personalized 

Ok – you’re at the counter of your regular Starbucks. The barista is going to:

  1. use your name 
  2. be friendly 
  3. listen to and understand your query 

So is that personalized service?

Nope. That’s the exact service they give everyone. 

Starbucks personalization kicks in on their app. If you’re an app user you’ll get custom recommendations, a queueless payment option and a profile which stores your preferred order. 

So that’s the difference – personal service means polite staff who treat you well. It’s the minimum expectation!

Personalized service is the use of data and technology to offer customers the service which best fits their needs. 

3 Roads to Personalized Customer Service

Now the million-dollar question: how do you translate this to customer service processes in the contact center

#1 Recognize your customers!

This still amazes me: when I call my 87 year old grandmother she knows who’s calling because it says on the screen. Yet when I call my internet service provider, they have to play 20 questions to figure out my identity. 

Did I say ‘amazes’? I meant ‘annoys’. This still annoys me. 

And it annoys most people. 72% of consumers expect you to know they are right away, as well as having insight into their past purchases and interactions. 

How do you make this happen?

The level of integration you need to recognize customers – in any channel – is very simple to achieve. 

My preferred method would be API integration between:

Connecting up these systems is pretty simple and means you ‘recognize’ customers as they interact with your brand.  

Crucially, it means that you can offer services based on things customers expect you to know – their previous purchases and interactions. 

Personalized customer service

#2 Direct your customers!

Next up – can you route your customers to the right resource, first time?

Contact routing is an area where customer service is actually getting worse, and less personal.

New contact channels are to blame. Businesses want to be where their customers are. But they don’t always know what to do once they get there. 

As much as 30% of total contact volume is callback about something that went unresolved in a previous contact. (That number shoots up when you also consider customers who are shunted from one channel to another.) 

So businesses have a strong motivation to do better with contact routing. 

(Check out these 5 tips for improving your First Contact Resolution Rate)

How do you make this happen?

Think about point #1. We’re going to build on it. 

You recognize customers like a veteran Starbucks barista. Now you just need to use your accumulated customer data to decide how to serve them. 

The secret ingredient is *automated* and *customizable* contact flows. This means investing in the right tools – there’s no getting around that. 

Once you have the right tools, you can use customer data like language preference, purchase history and customer lifetime value to create contact flows for any situation. 

And crucially, you can build on and refine those flows as channel complexity grows and you learn more about your customers. 

Personalized customer service
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#3 Pre-empt your customers’ needs

After you’ve worked out #1 (recognize your customers) and #2 (direct your customers) you might want to call it a day. 

But the next step is where the really big value is found. 

Pre-emptive customer service is a topic that we’ve looked at before but it’s especially relevant to personalized service. This is your opportunity to take a substantial step towards the gold-standard of service personalization – helping customers with their issues before those issues become problems

How do you make this happen?

Here’s the secret at the core of service personalization: it’s not really about the individual. 

(Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.)

Let’s put it another way – you’ll never be able to create a unique service for every customer. (Although, with Customer Journey Orchestration your can get pretty close).

But that’s not really the goal. The goal is to create enough flex in your service experiences to provide every customer with a ‘best-fit’. 

So when it comes to pre-emptive service, what you’ll look for are the major contact drivers that you can get ahead of. For example, AT&T had a billing structure that often confused new customers. 

The company’s response was to update how they explained the first bill, accompanied by video content. From the customer’s perspective this was a thoughtful and well-time intervention that met their specific needs. 

From AT&T’s perspective it was a way to produce a single piece of content that reduced call volume by 10%. 

A lot of what you’ll need to do hangs on your ability to automate large parts of your service. 

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