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05/09/2019

Why and how leading companies are personalizing their customer service experiences

5 minute read

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This Maya Angelou quote also holds a lot of wisdom for companies looking to win the hearts of their customers.

Personalization of customer service experience is a hot topic. Why? Because we are living in a world of endless options and an empowered buyer. Customers can switch over in no time, unless you can demonstrate to them that they are truly valued and understood on a personal level. Your personal customer service touch can awaken an emotion in a person, and in this modern world that emotion is very valuable currency.

Fluido’s Senior Business Consultant, Minna Poutanen, spoke about personalized experiences in a customer service context at this year’s Salesforce Basecamp event in May. Minna’s presentation received a lot of praise and interest, so we decided to dive deeper into the topic of personalization with her.

Minna, tell us a bit about what you do here at Fluido?

I’ve been working here for three years now. My title is Senior Business Consultant, but my day-to-day work is very versatile. One day I can be working as a project manager on a customer project, another day I may be consulting on business processes in a Salesforce context, and sometimes I am working as a customer’s program manager and aligning with our developers. So I’m a little bit of a Jane of all trades!

Personalize to differentiate

Personalization is about changing your product or service based on who your customer is or what they want. With this definition, there is an inherent requirement of knowing your customer and hence having some data about them.

A typical example of personalization is a webstore. First you identify a user as either your existing customer or a potential customer, and then you adjust what they see based on this information. For a returning customer, you may show some product or service recommendations based on their past behaviour; for a potential customer you may show marketing content or a promotion to help them convert into a customer.

Removing silos is a prerequisite for personalization

You may also have a community running on Salesforce and, since you can identify your customer, you can show them more personalized data about their transactions or have a chatbot ask something based on what you know about them.

You could even personalize the service based on where your customer is, so you could, for example, direct them to the closest customer service point or give them an offer based on their geolocation. Some customers prefer not to give their location information, but that is changing too, as people are becoming more aware that the data they give can truly help in providing better service experiences.

Why should companies focus on personalization?

It has been proven in marketing that personalization works: marketing messages convert better when they are personalized. Your average customer also expects more today than they did yesterday, and personalized customer service is a way to differentiate your product from the competition and create ambassadors.

-> Read more: True transparency: Why exposing internal processes to your customers pays off

Why do customers expect more?

With a continuous commoditization of products and increasing competition in a global marketplace, there are many options available for us as consumers. Simultaneously, we as customers are busy and we appreciate service that is more efficient than the average multi-select customer service hotline. Out of a plethora of solutions to any problem, we are most likely to choose the one that gets things done the easiest and best suits our specific needs. Of course, there will always be people who are after the lowest price tag and are willing to sacrifice on the service level. But to a greater extent, we see that people are expecting that companies know them and can use that information for quicker and better service.

For a product or service provider it is a great way to differentiate yourself, and if you consider your product premium to the competition, personalization is a must and we have to go beyond the traditional customer service KPIs to get there.

Can you walk us through how a well-personalized customer service flow could go?

Let’s say you are a hotel company and a customer contacts you via your webpage chat. Instantly your customer service agent or chatbot knows if this customer is one of your top-tier customers, and if they should be directed to an expedited VIP service process.
In the actual service interaction, if you have the customer data available, you can use that to address any open requests or items that are related to that customer — even proactively. You can also see what future bookings they have and use that information to, for example, suggest complementing services or products.
In this example personalization means quicker service, addressing all of the customer needs, seeing that they are satisfied and maybe even up-selling to another product or service.

How can a company get started with personalized customer service?

First you may need to take a bird’s eye view of your customer service concept and customer journey to really see in which processes and interactions personalization makes sense. After that, you need to understand if you have the necessary data and in which systems you collect it.

Building a personalized customer care capability

Once you have that data about your customers, you may then want to create layers of personalization based on how valuable each customer is to you.
Then you need the technology to implement the personalizations. This may involve your website, marketing automation or customer service platform.
It can be wise to start with a smaller scope involving a limited number of customers and service channels — for example, self-service — and to plan out in advance what kind of personalized experience are you aiming to achieve. The advantage of Salesforce is that a majority of the technology solutions can be delivered using an integrated platform, enabling a complete overview of the customer relationship.

-> Read more: Here is the problem: Silos prevent excellent customer experiences

What are the typical ways to stumble in personalization in customer service?

The most certain way to failure is to start too big. I really recommend starting with something small but tangible. Quite often, with some experimentation you realize that you just don’t know the customers well enough and that you need more data.

To gain a better understanding of your customers’ needs, you can ask them directly about what they are interested in and what channels they would like to use for customer service in different scenarios. You can even ask customers to join your workshop or conduct a survey, since you need that first-hand information.

Another way to fail in personalization is if your personalized customer service effort is not in line with your brand or your strategy. If your personalized customer service experience is a random thing amongst an otherwise low-cost, no-frills brand and strategy, then it just won’́t work

A third way to fail is if your personalized customer service experience is dependent on the channel. If you look to differentiate with a personalized customer experience, then you need to provide the same kind of service across all channels — be it in a physical customer service point, on a website, by phone or chat. After the initial experimentation, you need to go all in.

-> Read more: The customer journey stages we tend to forget

What will the future hold in the field of personalization in customer service?

First of all, more and more data will become available. Mobile applications and additional channels will help to collect more data about customers, such as their location, and also other supporting data sources with APIs will increase.

Artificial intelligence provides a lot of new opportunities. An AI assistant can mine large amounts of data about the customer and give the customer recommended solutions directly, or it can simply help the customer service agent or sales rep to provide a more personalized service to the customer.

-> See video: Fluido Smart CRM series – Introduction

Chatbots are one more service channel, which are now being actively developed. Some people are hesitant about talking to bots, but with improving customer identification and good use of customer data, even a robot can become a personal customer service agent in the near future, allowing human customer service agents to concentrate on more complex issues currently unsolvable by bots.

Salesforce Service Cloud Summit in Helsinki

Minna Poutanen

Senior Business Consultant

Antti Turunen

CMO

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