How do you optimise the customer experience? Be personal
Your customers expect you to surprise them all the time. How do you handle that? By adjusting your personal approach to every touchpoint in the customer journey. This goes far beyond personalisation: every employee and system need to know who the customer is and what kind of relationship they have with the company.

For a company, personalisation is about identifying customers and offering them content at the right time in the customer journey. A personal approach implies that the customer experience provided by all business processes and channels, from first contact to customer service, is consistent and individualised.

Being personal requires a huge amount of effort. You need to gather very detailed intelligence about your customers. Segmentation is not nearly enough if you want to provide a meaningful personal experience. “Other customers bought these products” was once a revolutionary marketing campaign devised by Amazon, but that’s not enough today. Today’s customers want recommendations that are best suited to them at that moment. The message must feel like it’s part of a one-on-one communication.

Actively develop the customer profile
Optimising the customer experience is a continuous process, as you replicate the customer profile, which you have acquired and are expanding, across all touchpoints in the customer journey. You are actively contributing to the customers’ ‘golden records’ and striving to make customer profiles as complete as possible. You compile all the data about what your customers do before, during and after the purchase, from posts on social media and the blogs they read to visits to the website and the store. You then complement the data with internal information about their purchasing histories, among other things, and with smart data from external sources to make sure the customer profile stays alive. If someone who bought a washing machine from you is now looking for a clothes dryer online, you can use the information you already have about that customer’s behaviour to maximise the chance of conversion. Let the customer know which dryer matches his/her preferences, considering the criteria he/she applied to a previous purchase.

People make the difference
The technology is there; whether it is used successfully will depend on your people and processes. Is there a clear vision, is everyone on the same page and are the business processes set up to that effect? Companies keen to approach customers in a personal way constantly look at the following three aspects and, if necessary, make some adjustments:
  1. Create a complete customer profile: Collect as much relevant data as possible, share and enrich it. Get active information from external sources, such as social media posts, ratings, and reviews. Work towards a golden record.
  2. Offer personalised and relevant content: This aspect is about delivering a personalised message at the right time via the right channel. In addition to personal offers, it can include customised products and services.
  3. Make every contact moment personal: Employees, regardless of the channel, focus on personal contact and are able to maintain this type of interaction consistently. Ever-smarter chatbots can provide good support and a one-on-one experience at potentially less personal touchpoints. Use these moments as input for further process optimisation.

An absence of synergies
However, few players are able to juggle all three aspects successfully. For example, I still don’t feel that I am getting the best offers through the loyalty programmes I’ve been a member of for years, even though my preferences and habits should be well-known by now. These are missed opportunities, a fact that is true for many companies. They zoom in on (sub) aspects and therefore don’t achieve a synergy effect. On the other hand, companies like Bloomon, CoolBlue and BeFrank have mastered the art of synergy. But these are relatively young companies that do not suffer from the fragmented organisational structures characteristic of long-established businesses. The working principle is transparent service and a clear vision and message rather than a primary focus on the product. Obviously, it is a lot more difficult to achieve that mindset with traditional companies, because the history (“we’ve been doing it for years”) gets in the way of real change. It’s difficult, but not impossible. You must bring the need for a personal approach to the forefront internally.

A marketeer works with eleven channels on average. Managing all of these to offer a consistent experience to the customer can be very difficult for companies still structured around silos. Do you often notice that the tone of a website is totally different from the order confirmation e-mail you’ve received? Or that the customer is redirected from one department to another whilst the history of his or her interactions with each of them isn’t shared? This is a significant part of the personal customer approach that is underestimated. As long as the consumer cannot find an alternative to your product or service, you are safe. But there will come a time when a new player enters your market, with the benefit of starting with a clean slate, and customers will then switch to that newcomer. Now is the time to fully implement a truly personal approach; tomorrow will already be too late.