How to Wow Your Customers with Individualized Experiences – And Why It’s Harder Than It Looks

One size rarely fits all. Obvious? Apparently not, judging by how often businesses have a customer experience (CX) strategy that forces everyone to use the same website, the same app, or the same IVR menu.

Marketers know better, and for years they’ve done better. For example, banner ads targeted to individual customers based on previous sites searched and Facebook usage provide customers with personalized recommendations, which have proven to increase order values and conversion rates.

Innovative CX pros have caught on and they’re going a step further to provide individualization. Forrester Research Senior Analyst Tony Costa defines individualized experiences in his report “Personalization And The Rise Of Individualized Experiences” (Forrester Research, Inc., December 2014) as ones that “reprioritize functionality, curate content, and systematize guidance for individual customers.”

For example, Wells Fargo ATMs dynamically reconfigure their user interface to match each customer’s habits. A customer who frequently withdraws $60 now automatically gets a button with that amount on the main screen, so she doesn’t waste time pecking through menus. A customer who frequently buys stamps from the ATM gets a similar button, which doubles as a reminder that drives sales.

Four Key Considerations When Creating Individual Experiences

But if individualized experiences are so great, why don’t more businesses provide them? One reason is that they’re as hard to get right as they’re easy to get wrong. That’s why it makes sense to work with a partner who can provide the expertise necessary to develop and execute a successful strategy. Here are four examples you must consider during that process:

      1. Determine how individualization fits and furthers your digital and corporate strategies. For example, individualized experiences could be part of a larger strategy to retain high-value customers by providing concierge-style services. Or they could be part of a savings strategy by anticipating customer needs and wants, thus reducing inbound contact center costs. Either way, don’t rush into individualized experiences simply because you have big data and feel obligated to do something with it, or because it seems cool. Take the time to determine exactly how individualized experiences can benefit your customers and company.
      2. Know what counts. In-depth customer research, personas, journey maps, and moments of truth are proven CX tools used to help identify the individualized experiences that are most important to your customers. You shouldn’t create an individualized experience just to do it or because it’s trendy, but the individualized experience should address a critical pain point. For example, Disney MagicBands help resolve one of Disney’s customers’ biggest pain points of waiting in long lines by allowing individuals to sign up for fast passes each day so they don’t have to wait in line, and they allow the customers to make changes during the day on kiosks or on their mobile app. Pick the wrong moments, and you’re wasting marketing dollars and risking annoying customers.
      3. Test with actual customers. Even the most diligent upfront analysis doesn’t guarantee that the individualized experiences will resonate, so test with a few customers first instead of rolling out the whole hog. It seems obvious, but a lot of companies don’t do this, or they don’t do it well. A/B testing is also good for testing different messaging or layouts online. It can be very surprising to see what resonates with targeted customer segments.
      4. Don’t go overboard. Make sure customers can still find things they haven’t sought before. One way is by configuring a menu so that rarely used options are listed after the most frequent ones instead of being left off altogether. Don’t get creepy, either, by offering things that cause customers to think, “This company knows way too much about my personal habits.”

By calling in the experts, incumbents can use an individualized-experience strategy to fend off new competition. A prime example is utility companies, which are infamous for being slow and cautious when it comes to new strategies. But utilities also know they need to foster deeper, positive relationships with their customers, who currently interact with them only when it’s time to pay a bill or complain. Those few, sometimes negative, experiences don’t cultivate the kind of relationships that set the stage for upselling customers on broadband, security, solar energy systems, or smart-home services.

Meanwhile, new entrants are collecting customer data that would be a gold mine for utilities – except the upstarts aren’t sharing it. Take the Nest smart thermostat, which learns how to adjust itself by analyzing its owner’s habits. If the utility company had that data, it would know, for example, which homes are unoccupied for extended periods of time. Those homeowners are ideal candidates for the utility’s home security system.

The right advisor can help big, slow-moving, or heavily regulated companies move at the Internet speed that’s necessary to compete with nimble upstarts. That role includes helping them ferret out the data necessary for individualized experiences, and then develop a successful strategy.

To help you get started, we’re offering a complimentary download of a recent Forrester Research report “Personalization And The Rise Of Individualized Experiences,” (Forrester Research, Inc., Dec. 2014) which uses success stories such as The Weather Channel and Wells Fargo to show how and why CX pros are using this new approach. And when you’re done, contact us to start developing an individualized-experience strategy that benefits your customers and bottom line.

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