The “individual” imperative – how marketing & customer experience are converging to better serve customers

Connections|3 Minute Read

The “individual” imperative – how marketing & customer experience are converging to better serve customers

This article appeared on on April 24, 2015 – view the original article here.

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, my colleague Cory Munchbach writes about the move from personalization to individualization of the customer experience. I like the idea of taking the personalized experience to the next level. – Shep Hyken 

An eConsultancy research study released this week revealed that 4 out of 5 consumers feel brands don’t know them as an individual – yet almost 90 percent of marketers agree that personalizing the customer experience is critical to success. So what is going on here?

The bar for “personalization” is depressingly low when it comes to what brands profess to offer – a scary proposition given how important personalization is to CX. In fact, according to Forrester data, 68 percent of US and UK consumers expect the information they give an organization in one place to be available in another. Simply including a person’s name on the screen or changing out a hero banner isn’t anywhere close to the level of personalization that consumers seek, whether it’s fondly from their local coffee shop, automatically from digital-first companies like FitBit or Netflix or more traditional but deeply customer obsessed companies such as USAA, Costco and Nordstrom. Most brands struggle to do more than the basics and end up providing what one of our customers refers to as a “groundhog day” experience – the same thing over and over without actual recognition and response to that person’s needs and intent.

What today’s consumer demands is a focus on them as an individual and all the richness of that unique person’s activity and context rather than a reliance on static, backward-looking consumer personas or segments. This is a move from personalization as we know it to something more rigorous and effective: individualization. No one department or discipline can be accountable for it; rather, the two groups with the most explicit and direct connection with the customer – marketing and customer experience – need to lead and evangelize on behalf of the entire firm.

Forrester defines individualized experiences as “Experiences that use customer data to structure interaction, functionality and content around the needs of individual customers.” Masters of individualization recognize individuals across channels, devices and sessions. They engage on the consumer’s time-table in response to the user’s activity by capturing that data, analyzing it to optimize the best response and serving that out through the appropriate touch point – immediately. These companies know that their consumers deserve to be treated singularly however, wherever and whenever they engage. To truly meet consumer expectations with a relevant, differentiated experience means moving from the basics of personalization to the discipline of individualization.

This is not an easy call to action solved by technology, a re-organization or a change in how these teams are incented to perform or where resources are spent. It’s all that and then some: a fundamental re-assessment of the business objectives and strategy relative to the individual. In order to be more proactive and relevant continuously throughout all interactions, companies have to change their standard operating procedures beginning with how they define their unique version of a customer’s experience. From there, all business units and departments can craft their own charters that translate the overarching experience into function-specific strategies. It is only based on this foundational work that decisions about the right people, processes and technology can be made.

The imperative to master individualization will only grow along with the different ways by which a person can engage with a company or brand. Wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) put potential interactions in much closer proximity to the consumer. If you think a person gets frustrated with a poor website experience, imagine how quickly they’ll disconnect if the interactions on their wrist or in-home devices aren’t exactly what they want or need. What IoT demands of companies is to stop thinking in terms of their own agendas and instead think in terms of experiences.

Do you have what it takes to accept the individualization imperative?

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