Jeannie Walters is a CX expert, CEO, and founder of Experience Investigators™
This year is all about leveraging data to deliver the individual, personalized experiences that customers are craving. It’s fair to say that the strategy and discipline of customer experience (CX), in general, has been challenged in ways like never before due to the pandemic. Customer experience leaders have had to modify how their teams work and to deliver great products and services in an unpredictable world—all the while with a smile on their faces.
Today customers have more demands and expectations. They’re seeking answers, products, and customized solutions to everyday challenges as they face the same uncertain world.
The 2022 State of CX Report by GetFeedback found that taking action on customer insights is a top challenge which is both unsurprising and somewhat alarming nonetheless. In this article I’ll cover some of the key report findings that pertain to personalized experiences.
Taking action on customer feedback is most challenging for CX professionals
CX leaders have made significant progress in listening to customers. Which is great, given that customer experience programs are created to gather feedback and provide measurements that gauge customer sentiment. However, the challenge now seems to be taking action on these insights.
In fact, leaders who took GetFeedback’s CX Maturity Assessment scored an average of one out of five on “Acting on Feedback.” And of course, creating personalized experiences that are meaningful is part of this challenge.
How do you know what parts of the experience to personalize and where to invest in this type of customer journey? Before finding the answer to this question, consider a bigger question around your customer feedback strategy.
Is your customer feedback strategy set up for success?
In the report, customer experience leaders reported feeling like they couldn’t or didn’t know how to take action on customers' feedback. Many feedback programs are designed to collect customer feedback but not built to do much with it, let alone how to personalize at scale.
And yet, since the onset of COVID-19, 73% of respondents have increased their efforts in delivering a personalized experience to customers.
In 2022 personalized experiences will drive loyalty, affinity, and become a greater differentiator with brands. – Stephanie Stafford, Director, customer experience at YETI
Personalizing customer experiences means understanding what is most important to customers and planning to respond. If your customer feedback strategy stops after “collect feedback,” it’s worth exploring developing a robust plan to take action. After all, collecting feedback and hearing what matters doesn’t move the customer experience forward. Only acting on that feedback will do that.
Delivering personalized customer experiences is a winning strategy for earning customer loyalty. When personalized experiences are executed well, they can provide eight times the return on investment on marketing spend and even improve sales by 10% or more.
Yet customer experience leaders are challenged to determine which personalization efforts to prioritize. Customer expectations are higher than ever, demanding fast action and more empathy.
A majority of consumers reported feeling “changed” by the pandemic. And of those consumers, 72% expect companies to understand and address how their needs and objectives change during times of disruption.
Expectations are higher and leaders are challenged to use the insights they gather. That means there is a lot of opportunity for CX leaders who want to get it right.
Collect the right feedback to understand customer needs
You can’t get the right answers if you start with the wrong questions. Or worse, no questions at all!
Now is the time to focus on your customer feedback strategy. Look for ways to collect feedback along the customer’s journey. Start by creating customer journey maps; understand the current state of various touchpoints and how to best include feedback collection along that journey.
Carefully consider what parts of the journey you can customize. For example, a clothing retailer can prompt more personalized recommendations in digital channels by knowing the customer’s specific style needs and sizing.
Capture insights at each stage along the customer journey to quickly enhance the shopping experience. PUMA North America did this in 2020. More customers were engaging on their digital channels, so PUMA prioritized capturing customer feedback data with the goal of enhancing the digital shopping experience. They took action quickly on the insights discovered, leading to an increase in PayPal orders and an 11% increase in Net Promoter Score® (NPS).
Centralize customer data to provide tailored experiences
Personalized experiences mean recognizing who the customer is and where they are on their journey. As the customer moves from shopping to buying to asking for help, they want to feel seen and heard along the way.
And yet, according to Salesforce’s 4th Edition State of the Connected Customer report, brands fail to provide this type of individualized customer experience. In fact 52% of customers say it generally feels like sales, service, and marketing don’t share information.
That means customers feel like they are interacting with different entities, not a unified brand. When a comprehensive, centralized view of the customer is absent, it’s challenging to recognize where they are on their journey.
A majority of customers describe most service interactions as fragmented––65% of customers say they have to repeat or re-explain information to different representatives.
There is no way to personalize a “fragmented” customer experience. Individual company representatives aren’t to blame. They are working with the customer data available to them. Without visibility to the correct data at the right moment, it’s impossible to recognize the customer in a way that respects their overall journey with the brand.
Consider methods [beyond surveys] to connect with customers directly
Gathering customer feedback directly shouldn’t be limited to surveys. Brands looking to personalize experiences can stay connected in so many ways in today’s world. Personalization is solving specific, individual problems for the customer with both the product and ongoing service.
The way customers shop with your brand has probably changed in the last decade, too. Providing what they need along this new journey is a great way to deliver personalized experiences and build trust.
For example, traditional makeup brands used many distribution channels to sell their products. Fewer shoppers were buying this way, so these cosmetic brands had to get creative to connect with customers directly. Products were often sold through department stores, drugstore chains, and online retailers. Rarely would a customer go directly to the brand to purchase or experience the brand.
The cosmetic brand, Shiseido, sold this way until it saw an opportunity to get to know their customers by offering a truly unique experience. They acquired an app that helps users create custom foundation colors that can be ordered directly from Shiseido. Not only can the customer order that custom foundation, but the app makes suggestions for other products they might like.
After seeing success with that personalized experience, Shiseido took that one step further in 2019, launching a subscription model called Optune that leverages the Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity. Customers can take a selfie which is analyzed for skincare factors within an app. The app then “talks” to a specialized device, which is sent to the customer with five customized skin care product “cartridges” uniquely customized for that individual.
The app also considers data the customer shares, like sleep patterns, as well as environmental factors like moisture levels and pollution in their region. This level of personalization means the relationship between the brand and the customer is ongoing. Instead of just buying a bottle of moisturizer, this customer is signing up for a long-term relationship.
Leverage chat and in-the-moment customization
One of the benefits of live chat is how it becomes an immediate opportunity for a more personalized, one-on-one experience.
There are opportunities to both serve the customer proactively and gather in-the-moment feedback. When chat is introduced along the digital journey, it’s important to provide ways to capture insights.
Customers report a more favorable view of brands that offer proactive customer service notifications, and proactive chat prompts can feel more personalized than other methods. A helpful prompt reflecting where the customer is on their journey can feel like that personalized shopping experience of a friendly store clerk.
Studies have shown that customers seek answers to questions during the purchase process, and those who interact with chat can spend 60% or more per purchase than those who don’t interact in this way.
In-the-moment customization can also be provided by offering product quizzes that deliver the right product recommendation based on the answers provided. Subscription box providers like Stitch Fix rely on quizzes to understand each customer's personal style. In 2018, Stitch Fix added an optional, image-based game called Style Shuffle. Customers give thumbs up or down to various images of items. This information informs the algorithm that helps select recommendations for each customer. The brand reported the game helped achieve an increase in revenue and engagement.
The fan experience at sporting events has become more personalized in these ways, both in real life and digital media. Professional teams like the Golden State Warriors basketball team have allowed fans to receive personalized messaging that recognizes where they’re seated at a game, what purchases they’ve made and what engagement they’ve opted into. This means a fan can self-personalize by digging into player stats or available jersey sizes in the stadium store, all in real-time.
This type of personal engagement, when executed in a personalized way, can help the brand deliver better customer experiences and help customers feel more connected to the brand.
Invite customers to self-personalize with filters and “smart” knowledge sharing
Customers seek advice and help from various communities outside of the branded channels. Leverage these channels to gather the right feedback and to provide more personalized experiences.
Communities are a rich resource for hearing directly from customers who are asking questions and providing help and answers. These communities offer opportunities to connect with what challenges or priorities are essential to many customers. Additionally, communities can enable a brand to customize where to put in the efforts around personalization goals.
Within communities and self-service knowledge bases, customers can self-select what personalized information they need. Using search filters and tagging, communities can often provide ways for customers to connect with the brand through their specific needs or interests.
Some sites also embrace personalized filters within review sites. For example, a parenting site might offer filters for products based on the child's age. This allows each parent to interact with just the reviews and content that’s relevant to their specific situation.
Personalization is about trust
Trust is the foundation for any loyal relationship. Your customers are no exception. While the desire for more personalized experiences is growing, the need to ensure data privacy is also increasing.
Customers want personalized experiences based on the data they willingly provide. They also want to understand how their data is being used and control how it’s used for marketing or other purposes.
Communicate often about how customers can control their data and the benefits it offers. The benefits of personalization are even expected by the majority of customers now. 60% say they are more likely to become a repeat buyer after a personalized shopping experience, according to a report by Twilio.
Where are you on your journey to provide more personalized experiences?
Consider the challenges that may be preventing you from delivering more personal experiences for each customer. Is it data collection and evaluation? Is it where the data is stored? Is it that you’ve just never asked your customers for the right information?
Step 1: Understand your customers first
Use customer feedback to identify pain points around decision making or where customers need reassurance
Leverage customer journey mapping to truly understand the customer journey and find where the journey is inconsistent for the customer
Review service logs and talk to your customer service representatives about what customers are saying about repeating themselves or re-explaining their situations
Step 2: Ensure your customer data is visible to the right people at the right moment
Look for ways to centralize customer data instead of housing it in siloed or fragmented ways
Provide the right customer data for personalized help during the shopping, purchase and service journeys
Segment and provide personalized recommendations as data patterns become available
Step 3: Provide personalized experiences with real-time customization
Drive more human-centered experiences like live chat and social media responses from dedicated agents
Real-time feedback gathering, like pervasive “Give feedback” tabs on mobile apps, can help pinpoint where personalization might help along the journey
Participate in customer communities, and ask directly for feedback and offer personalized solutions
Taking action on feedback is no small task
CX leaders are asked to do a lot of things. After all, gathering feedback and analyzing it for insights requires many teams and technologies working together.
By focusing on the personalization of customer experiences, CX leaders can provide both quick wins and long-term successes for the customer experience programs they lead.
And like almost every part of customer experience success, it starts with knowing your customers. Perhaps even more importantly, in the case of personalization, it requires knowing one customer.
For more findings on the current state of personalized customer experiences as well as other emerging industry trends, download The 2022 State of CX Report.