Article

Start providing personalized customer service

Follow these keys to personalized customer service to create remarkable customer experiences.

By Patrick Grieve

Published June 28, 2019
Last updated August 31, 2020

In 2020, personalized customer service happens at scale with software solutions. These tools provide data that empowers support teams to assist customers and make personalized recommendations.

Studies show that consumers have grown increasingly comfortable with companies collecting their personal data—as long as it’s being used to improve their customer experience. They don’t want to be spammed, but they do seek and accept well-timed, appropriate messages. They often appreciate custom communications sent via email, text, messaging app, or some combination thereof.

In this piece, we’ll look at how consumer expectations are changing and what your company can do to provide personalized service that will keep customers coming back for more.

Why more and more customers are expecting personalized service

Despite high-profile data breaches by the likes of Cambridge Analytica in 2018 and Equifax in 2019, customers have actually grown more willing to share their data with companies, according to the 2020 Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report:

  • Between 2019 and 2020, there was a 69% decline in privacy concerns in the United Kingdom and a 61% drop in the United States
  • The share of customers who believe that companies should “collect as little data as possible” dropped from 28% of respondents to just 12% in 2020

To boot, most consumers expect service that requires data collection and sharing:

  • 71% of customers surveyed said that they expect companies to collaborate internally so they don’t have to repeat themselves
  • 76% of survey respondents actually expect personalization, which could include (but is not limited to) engagement over their preferred contact method, account type or status, and product recommendations based on purchase and search history

Why this growing consumer demand for personalized customer service? A key reason is that it makes online shopping much more convenient. In the world of ecommerce, companies have to play the role of the friendly shopkeeper, making recommendations to a familiar customer.

And with the rise of COVID-19, online shoppers are more reliant than ever on personalized customer service.

“COVID-19 is creating a new generation of people who increasingly go online for all of life’s daily needs and expect services like curbside pickup,” Vineet Mehra, global CMO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, told Adweek.

This emerging class of ecommerce consumers is expected to last long after the pandemic has ended. To earn their loyalty, brands will need to know how to provide optimal shopping and support experiences with heightened personalization.

How to provide personalized customer service that’s actually meaningful

There’s still an undeniable “creep factor” that sets in whenever a company seems to know too much about you. So how do you strike the right balance with personalized customer service?

There are two keys to walking the tightrope:

  • Be responsible with data
  • Deliver a context-rich, omnichannel support experience

The first holds you back from being overly invasive, and the second ensures that you’re reaching out to customers in more ways than one.

Be responsible with data

Personalization should balance technology with human considerations. As with any technology solution, relying solely on data without interpreting it thoughtfully in context can result in annoying or embarrassing missteps.

For example, bombarding customers with ads for products they viewed for less than a few seconds is going too far. A tool might read a brief page visit as a serious sign of interest, but you know from your own shopping experience that they may have just been browsing.

Using data well, on the other hand, means anticipating customers’ needs in a way that feels like magic. Take the MyMagic+ wristband technology that provides Disney World employees with the information they need to create memorable, personalized experiences for their visitors.

For example, if someone is wearing a Disney MagicBand and has made a reservation for dinner:

  • A host will greet them by name when they arrive
  • The host receives a signal on their mobile device when the person is a few paces away, prompting the kitchen to start their food order
  • When the guest sits down at their table, a receiver in the table detects their MagicBand to communicate their pre-programmed order to the server

From the customers’ point of view, the experience feels like magic.

As you create personalized experiences, aim for the usefulness that Disney achieved with their MagicBand. And be transparent with customers about why you’re capturing their data in the first place. If you need the information to create genuinely valuable experiences, consumers are likely to be on board.

Deliver a context-rich, omnichannel support experience

Customers today expect brands to offer support on multiple channels, not just a single one. As more companies meet this demand with omnichannel support, personalization tools can help provide superior service across platforms.

Say, for example, a customer reaches out by email but then switches to a chat window for more immediate service. Personalization software can let the support agent know that this is the second time the customer tried to contact the brand.

Walgreens is currently using personalization to create a convenient, omnichannel customer experience. The company’s technology will serve customers making both BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) and physical retail purchases:

  • If a customer purchases a vitamin supplement online, they will be reminded to buy it again in 30 days
  • If a customer is shopping at a physical location, they may be notified by the pharmacy chain’s app that their scheduled prescription is already available for pickup

The custom tools will also include personalized offers and individualized product recommendations for beauty shoppers.

Use personalization to bolster omnichannel shopping and support solutions, and you’ll be set to provide excellent service no matter where your customers are.

Personalize service in a way that genuinely serves the customer

Whatever your solution for enabling personalized customer service, focusing on the customer is key. The curated messages and offers you send to a consumer should be legitimately useful to them. Providing actual value in your personalized services makes the difference between being dismissed as spam and building brand loyalty.

It may take some trial and error to determine what specific types of personalization are most relevant to your audience. Experiment with various offerings, record the results, and learn from what works and what doesn’t. This will likely be a continual process, as consumers’ tastes and preferences continue to grow and change. As customers’ expectations evolve, make sure you’re able to adapt right alongside them.