How to ‘perfect’ Personalized Customer Service

“We can believe that we know where the world should go. But unless we’re in touch with our customers, our model of the world can diverge from reality. There’s no substitute for innovation, of course, but innovation is no substitute for being in touch, either.” – Steve Ballmer

So much has been said on how businesses deal with customers and how they should deal with them. Technology that seems to be new every minute has allowed automation that in turn has added value, efficiency and speed in transactions and interactions. However, what customers seem to constantly say is that none of these can be substituted for ‘that personal touch’ which makes them feel special and heard. The most dissatisfied and vexed customer can turn to a happy brand ambassador if they receive ‘perfect’ Personalized Customer Service. This really means that companies would be adept at using the customer information such as history with the company, past buying behavior, interactions and some personal details. ‘Perfect’ Personalized Customer Service service draws customers close building trust and loyalty without creeping them out. It means that the customer would never need to repeat their problem or reason for calling to many different representatives. It would mean that rather than behaving like human machines following a rote script, these customer service representatives would build a rapport and display empathy in every interaction and yet remain professional.

Each of us has most definitely been a customer at some point and if asked why is it that we prefer one brand or a particular store for certain requirements, the answer most likely would be ‘the kind of service’ we get. To illustrate – A friend always bought fresh produce – fruits and vegetables – from one particular shop for a long time, since their stuff was always fresh, the store attendants were helpful and smiling and the store owner was friendly. However, on one instant despite the produce being fresh she noticed a distinct lack of personal touch and friendliness. Harsh as it sounds, that was the last time she shopped there, choosing to buy from a shop close-by. This one narrow instance in a much larger scenario and clearly highlights that customer experiences most certainly define a customer’s behavior and attitude towards a company. It becomes personal.

The example is a miniscule portion of how much damage can be caused when customers have bad experiences or they miss ‘perfect’ personalized customer service. Adding the personal flavor ensures that customers remain loyal, saving the company high costs of attracting new customers and formulating marketing strategies to ensure that these customers provide positive views about them and the brand. Creating a niche is always tougher than consolidating the already existing niche. Customers as humans have the same emotional needs and feel elated at being acknowledged, appreciated and being shown that they are cared about. ‘Perfect’ personalized customer service recognizes these needs of a customer and provides the kind of service that will be most appreciated and loved by customers. Your competitors can only hope but will never be able to catch up with you if this is the kind of service you provide!

To ‘perfect’ personalized customer service is critical but not always as easy to do. The shop that knew your name and was always helpful and friendly led you to them for a long time would be the set of personalized service rules that kept you there but something may have changed. This change revolves around the medium chosen to interact with customers since having face to face experiences and interactions is no longer possible given the really large number of customers for any particular business. What has also changed is how customers now choose to interact with companies. This can be confusing and an extremely arduous task for companies attempting to deliver service at a certain level. Companies make the childish error of thinking that just knowing a customer’s name is enough and forget to take in to consideration what is it that urges them to buy, keeps them fixated on buying from a particular company and allows them to speak well about it. Companies tend to forget that the person is the most important and not their attempts at personalization. An uncoordinated effort and message across multiple channels shows the customer a lack of effort and a confused internal system operating within the company. Customer service staff also sometimes seems to lack the training and coaching in delivering ‘perfect’ personalized customer service. Lack of soft skills and the right balance of emotional intelligence in the customer service staff would lead to impersonalized service irrespective of core processes and customer focused culture. They would more often than not, probably cross the line towards being intrusive and diminish the whole personalization exercise if they lack the necessary skills and attitude. So how should companies move closer to ‘perfect’ personalized customer service?

– Constantly and persistently developing their customer’s profiles through their customer service representatives. This set of staff would have detailed information and insights in to customer behavior and needs due to the close and regular interactions they have. They would know how a customer reacted to a particular question or marketing strategy and also rich insights in to the kinds of customers and customer personalities that the company has.

– The customer service processes and guidelines must be flexible enough to not appear robotic and mechanical. Listen and respond to a customer in the way that the particular customer wants by interpreting the statements with regard to that particular customer only and not on what the agents may have learned or followed as a ‘practice’.

– Evaluating the tone of the customer provides leads to the mood of the customer at the time of the call. Understanding the customer’s mood at the time would help the agents to personalize the words and tone to be used during the conversation. Service agents must be empowered to make these impromptu decisions and without feeling tied down by strict guidelines.

– Provide customers with a wide number of choices so that they do not feel restricted or cloistered. Let your customers choose and reach an option that works best for them and they feel comfortable in using the option. It would be extremely frustrating and annoying for the customers to be given a single or at best a couple of choices which do not work and a constant stream of back and forth could put them off for good. It is also taxing and frustrating for the agents to deal with customers that are always impatient and irate.

– Have a well-thought out and adequate budget for your customer service team. They should be empowered to use it in case some kind of gifts or sops need to be served up to appease a frustrated customer. Also this budget can be used to send personalized gifts, or flowers or small tokens on a customer’s special occasion and these thoughtful gestures serve to ‘perfect’ personalized customer service and get customer loyalty for your business.

– The culture in the call center must be one in which it allows the agents to focus on personalized service to customers rather than only on targets and scores and the subsequent commission. Have proper procedures in place for recognition and rewards for staff that provide great customer service and have repeatedly good reviews from customers. This will automatically translate to business and repeatedly so. Focusing directly on customers makes it more enjoyable for the agents too who in turn will strive to keep it this way for themselves.

‘Perfect’ personalized customer service is about creating experiences that makes customers happy, feel special and valued and elicit a wow from them each time. However a customer interaction starts off from the customer’s end – happy or negative, the end result of the conversation should be that the customer is wowed and leaves smiling. Agents must know how to react positively even to the most irate and disconcerted of customers as these customers when serviced well, present the greatest potential of positive word of mouth.

Each customer is unique and expects to be treated that way. The key to ‘perfect’ personalized customer service is to combine the training with attitudes to the insights got about the customers and serve them with empathy, kindness and a genuine feeling of service. Consistency and genuineness are extremely vital to keep customer service personal and this is a challenge that companies must tackle and overcome.

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” – Peter Drucker

Learn about a new approach to better customer service!

Interactive Guides for Superior Customer Service

Develop interactive decision trees for troubleshooting, cold calling scripts, medical appointments, or process automation. Enhance sales performance and customer retention across your call centers. Lower costs with customer self-service.

Interactive Decision Tree