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Nathalie Schooling

CEO at nlighten.
An experienced strategist, trainer and customer experience improvement specialist, Nathalie has more than 25 years of experience in the customer service industry.
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Everybody knows that the successful marriage of big data, technology and user experience is the key to the next competitive wave in business. Put plainly, companies that crack the personalisation challenge will win the day.

As the digitised world continues to become more complex and sophisticated, it is personalisation that will grow and be refined as companies jostle for their share of the marketplace. But designing and launching a personalisation strategy and campaign is far from plain sailing. Moreover, doing it poorly and missing the target will do more harm than good, at worst having customers turn their backs on you. And it is notoriously difficult to win back lost customers. So, it is important to spend time and considerable effort to make sure you get it right.

While we sort our big data and tech from our user experience to find a balance between the three, we must remember that in a B2B or B2C organisation, it is important to get five fundamentals right:

1.    Play the name game

‘Dear Valued Customer’ must fall—in other words, when communicating with your customers, use their names. This is Business Communication 101 and may be stating the obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many businesses still do not go this extra little mile to win their customers’ trust. The modern customer is not stupid and there are plenty other providers of services and goods that go above and beyond, including identifying their customers by name when addressing them. You may even go as far is pre-programming your customers’ numbers on your office telecommunication system and have caller ID on your landline so that you can welcome the call in a personalised manner.

And while we’re on the topic of phones, why not call instead of sending an email whenever you can? In a world of shortcuts, a friendly personal call wins hands down.

2.    The customer journey and all-important personae

The potential for personalisation presents itself at many stages along the customer journey with your organisation. This includes the channels, platforms and devices you use to communicate with customers, as well as what days of the week or time of day consumers tend to engage with you. How you go about personalising depends on your budget and other resources, but in an ideal world, it will be spread across your website, email and mobile app content, paid media messages, discount offers, sale alerts, product and service recommendations, while offering customer service on social media or using chatbots on your website.

Mapping your customer’s end-to-end journey is a valuable exercise in gathering data about them and their behaviours. Once you have done this, you can begin to establish at which touch points to personalise the experience.

nlighten offers customer journey mapping as a service to demarcate the customer experience. It is a process that also assesses opportunities for personalisation by, among other activities, defining and describing various customer personae.

3.    Getting to know your customer

Personalising services or products means tailoring messages to individual customers based on their behaviour. In 2015, Gartner predicted that by 2016, 89% of marketing leaders expected ‘customer experience to be their primary basis for competitive differentiation—that means always being there in the moments that matter and learning what each consumer type wants.’ In light of this, it is hardly surprising that personalisation has been one of the biggest marketing trends since 2017.

However, to personalise effectively, you need to spend time getting to know your customers. Information on customer behaviour can be gleaned in various ways, for example by doing ongoing, in-depth research. This could take the form of online, paper, telephonic and/or face-to-face surveys and interviews. But be sure to ask the right questions so that you remain relevant to your customers.

Another very effective way to gather robust data is to conduct focus group events to get to understand your customers’ touch and pain points, and to identify different market segments by grouping customers with similar behaviours, habits and needs together.

Another valuable source of obtaining information is the social media. Facebook—still the largest social media platform—is a massive resource in this respect.

Personalisation that is useful and relevant adds value. But there is a fine line between successfully personalising your product or service and invading your customers’ privacy, if you take an online approach. If this misses the target and customers find no value or relevance, they are likely to feel their privacy intruded upon and turn hostile. The trick is to get your message across to each segment of your target market without making them feel that you’re spying on them. You need to find a way to learn their habits without them getting the impression that you’re analysing their behaviour and habits.

4.    Involve your team

An organisation’s most valuable asset is its human capital and, when personalising, it is important to get the input of your teams, especially customer-facing employees. Invite them to brainstorm ideas on ways in which you can offer your customers a more personalised experience. Not only will you get their effective buy-in if you include your staff in the process, you will also get faster results.

Internal brainstorming sessions will also give you the opportunity to impress on your staff the value that is added when your brand voice and message are kept consistent, and how to use the same tone and terminology throughout all your platforms—telephone manner, website, social media, emails and the like. This is imperative to ensure your customers recognise you and know what to expect of you. Likewise, the content of each message or interaction should be clear-cut and unambiguous.

In these days of instant gratification and information overload, you’d better be very sure your message is relevant, compelling and specific to each user profile targeted.

5.    Measuring and tracking

It is important to ensure that you measure and track the impact of a more personalised approach. First you will need to identify what it is you want to measure and track, then establish a baseline against which to measure future performance and do so meaningfully.

Again, this can be done by conducting surveys—personal, telephonic, or online—among your customers, for example at the beginning and end of a campaign or marketing drive and comparing the two sets of data.

In this respect, a word of caution: Be careful not to intrude on your customers too much. Being bombarded with requests to complete long sets of questions will irritate even the most loyal of customers.

To establish a robust measuring and tracking strategy, and to obtain useful information, it is often necessary to get in expert help.

Good personalisation practice should enhance your customers’ lives, not intrude on them. Done well, it promises to build two-way customer engagement and loyalty. Ultimately, this will translate into increased revenue to the benefit of your organisation.


View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: How better SEX pays off on your bottom line

nlighten. enhancing customer experience: www.nlighten.co.za