Personalization for successful Customer Service

“Revolve your world around the customer and more customers will revolve around you.” – Heather Williams

Do you remember when as a child you walked in to a local shop tightly holding your parent’s hand and being greeted by the gentle, kind and friendly old person behind the counter? He spoke to your parents by name, asked them about the family and quipped about his. He knew you and your family at a personal level and it was for this reason that your parents and others in your neighborhood visited this shop for their daily household needs. They would also be recommending this shop to others. Personalization for successful customer service has its roots from way back and was highly effective. The value of knowing some personal details and remembering customer’s name were cornerstones of customer service.

There came a phase where mass production and mass consumerism became increasingly popular. Customers became just numbers for retailers since the customers were so many and it became impossible to know all of them. The level of personalization dropped and the yesteryears local shop owner knowledge of customers seemed like history. It became a dying art. Customers must have missed this because personalization in customer service came back with a bang, albeit guised differently. It was called the ‘internet’ and had the capability of tracking a customer’s buying activity, storing customer information allowing companies to know about their customers. Personalization for successful customer service was back on the agenda! Personalization now meant being able to profile customers, use the information of previous buying to predict future buying trends and remember even a large customer base by name. This however, was still a very raw and crude form of personalization.

Having seen the benefits of personalization, companies began focusing and diverting more time and resources towards bettering the levels of customer service. The current sophistication in personalization levels has been the result of businesses knowing the utility of using customer data to increase satisfaction in customer experiences, new and updated technology that is competitively priced and the race to stay head and shoulder above competition. Companies that have realized that personalization is the key to successful customer service are deploying unique and intelligent ways of marketing and promotion rather than getting stuck in the rut of self-defeating price wars.

Personalization for successful customer service simply translates in to companies providing consumers with never before choices and flexibility in deciding how and where to spend. It empowers customers to build their own shopping experiences according to their tastes, lifestyle individual preferences, and budget. Market experts agree that customer intimacy will remain the cornerstone of successful businesses. There is so much existing competition and this is being constantly inflated by the rise of new companies that have taken time to study the current trends and learn about consumer behavior. This new breed of competition is adding to the woes of companies that believed they could rest on laurels and that loyal customers would remain loyal. Companies that don’t use personalization for successful customer service will find that they are no longer relevant to the market or for customers.

Businesses know the utility of personalized customer service as it is a way to use customer data to optimize their buying experiences. It allows them to connect with customers through various channels that are customized and tailored to suit individual customers. Does it not annoy you when you receive a ‘promotional’ mailer providing details of a product that has absolutely no relevance to you now or in the past? It feels so impersonal and you probably swear off that company forever.

Consumers too are enjoying this attention and this fact has fueled the desire for personalization. Customers are always on the go and expect that companies will provide them with information, pertinent to them only, via every channel possible. They expect personalization and mass messages refuse to satisfy them now. Customers are willing to share personal data too to be given ‘preferential and personalized’ treatment. They vociferously reject an umbrella approach and are vocal when they encounter such treatment. It takes just one such service lapse from companies and customers will share it with their associates and friends often using the most visible social media platforms.

Personalization has its own share of problems. It is a challenging task given it is data intensive, requires constant updating of customer data and the infrastructure of a company may not be strong enough to be able to support this activity. When a company decides to take in customer information by requesting customers to fill in personal data and rate their shopping experiences, it immediately means that this data will be used to better the levels of customer service and interactions. If this does not happen, the data is useless and also leaves customers wondering what happened to the promise of personalized customer service. If the data is not gathered, companies would not in any way be able to provide personalized customer service.

Being able to master the usage of data of thousands of customers is a formidable task. Unless companies go about it systematically by combining a customer’s historic data available with them with real-time data from other sources, it would be tough to maintain a balance and provide that personalization. At the same time, companies must ensure that they are not violating the consumer and regulatory rules in an attempt while using personal data. Data protection policies are very stringent and pose a restriction in personalization.

While most consumers love feeling ‘pampered and paid attention too’ (that is how companies describe personalization), companies must be able to clearly decipher which customer’s want it and who will think of it as an invasion of personal space and privacy. Customers are piqued if a company sends irrelevant messages and even berate them. However, when companies ask for relevant personal information to personalize their service, these customers would refuse maybe due to security of data and or improper handling of data. Reports in the media about malicious phishers and hackers fuel this fear in customers. It is skewed data since there are strict laws that oversee the protection of customer data and high profile companies have been prosecuted for data leaks. This proves to be another challenge in personalization unless companies are able to convince customers that their data will be safe. To enforce this some companies have a clear statement on their websites and social media pages that states that customer information is guaranteed to be safe.

Companies need to empower their customer service staff to use personalization while servicing the customers, a la, store owner who ‘knew’ every customer. Technology has made it easier to provide personalization for successful customer service but is not enough on its own. Hence, while theoretically personalization is the key to successful customer service most companies still have to master this art.

Companies are however maturing to the fact that without personalization customer service cannot be successful. Personalization for successful customer service is about transcending the limitations of single channels and reach customers via multiple channels in a plethora of ways. It is about making your presence felt and in turn making the customer feel important through your attempts of reaching out to them. Personalization must move – from online transactions to even in-store interactions, true especially for retailers. Wouldn’t it be nice if a big store recognized you by name, greeted you and offered personalized service inside the store. The other customers are sure to want this treatment and therefore make repeated trips to this store. Win-win for both parties, wouldn’t you say! Personalization for successful customer service is about providing added value, convenience and a feeling of being special for each customer and each interaction.

Is your company geared towards personalization for successful customer service? Are your services and products in harmony with customer needs and behavior? Are you ready to master this art of personalization?

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