When communicating with customers, does personalization matter? Can you expect a return for the effort and expense of recognizing your customers as individuals?
In Personalization Pays Off - Part 1, we discussed the tension between your customer's desire for personal treatment and your company's need to keep costs low by delivering products and services that are essentially the same for large segments of your customer base.
Striking a proper balance between these two competing forces is critical to ensuring customer satisfaction and company profitability.
Whole books have been devoted to this topic; I'm not trying to boil that particular ocean here.
That said, there are a few practical adjustments to "business as usual" you can make that will pay for themselves by improving customer loyalty, lowering operational costs and driving better business performance:
- Track and act on customer's explicit and implicit preferences. An example of an explicit preference is a customer request that communications be in a language other than English; an implicit preference might be inferred from the fact that they only answer your calls between 10AM and 2PM.
- Provide time saving conveniences to reward customers who choose to self-serve. Offer to securely store their bank or credit card account information when they make a phone or online payment so they don't have to enter it again next time. Also, configure self-service menus on web pages or IVRs to provide easier access to previously used functions.
- Look for any and every opportunity to treat customers as individuals. Start by using their name, not their account number, when you greet them. Reference the name of the unique product or service they are using. Be specific about account status, including reference to any recent conversations, payments and purchases - all the better to prove you are talking to them about their unique situation.
The importance of this last point is hard to overstate, particularly when you are automating communications via interactive voice messaging, SMS text or email. Personalization helps cut through the noise in these channels, allowing your message to stand-out as timely, relevant and respectful.
Consider the following experiment we ran with a wireless carrier (I'll call them XYZ Mobile) who uses interactive voice messages to encourage their prepaid subscribers to "top up" their accounts by making an immediate payment. In this experiment, the target customers were randomly assigned to either group A or group B. The only difference between the messages delivered to the two groups was in the greeting - Group A were asked to confirm they were owner of the assigned phone number, while Group B were greeted by name:
“Hi. This is XYZ Mobile calling for the owner of <206-555-1212>. Press any key to continue.
“This is XYZ Mobile with an important reminder. If this is <Brian Moore>, press 1. Otherwise, press 2."
Which do you think got better results?
If you said the one that asked for the customer by name instead of by number, you're right! Over three quarters more customers indicated they were the right party and almost two-times as many topped up their accounts in direct response to the interactive voice message in Version B than in Version A:
Needless to say, our client concluded the experiment by treating 100% of their accounts with Version B, no doubt with a nod to Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.