The Future Of Customer Experience? It's Getting Personal

No matter what business you’re in, a growing percentage of your customers are nearly always connected, with instant access to more advanced tools and detailed information than many enterprises had just a few years ago.

These smart, digitally empowered consumers and businesses have the power to behave in a far smarter and better-informed manner than ever before. This power has also radically changed customer expectations, driving demand for better, more innovative, and personalized products, services, and experiences.

This should come as no surprise to any executive. Given a choice, each of us (as well as our customers) prefers experiences tailored to our unique wants and needs. Firms that are best able to do so have significant competitive advantage over those that cannot.

Though the promise–and power–of personalization has been at the forefront of marketing theory for some time, its widespread application to customer experience is only just beginning. Today, disruptive digital innovation is changing the ways companies serve their customers, as well as the ways these customers expect to be treated.

Personalization Is The Foundation Of Innovative Customer Experience

In the age of smart customers, personalization is the future of experience. Mass production and consumption of news, entertainment, products, and services have already lost the battle, giving way to personalization and customization.

Apps such as Zite and Flipboard allow each of us to totally personalize the ways we consume news. Amazon has personalized the ways we shop, and Netflix and Hulu how we watch movies, TV, and other media programming. Pandora serves up increasingly personalized musical streams based on a listener’s taste (“thumbs up; thumbs down”), continuously learning about users’ musical preferences based on real-time customer feedback. There are hundreds of examples, with more coming every day.

The point is, these increasing levels of digitally driven personalization allow customers to choose what they consume, from whom, and how they interact with and consume it. These digital experiences are training smart customers to expect everything, from every company–products, services, experiences, and more–to be customized in a similar manner.

When it comes to innovative customer experience, this all leads to one word: personalization.

‘One Size Fits All’ Simply Doesn’t Fly Anymore. And It Doesn’t Have To

Don’t get me wrong: No company can afford to or needs to deliver a fully customized “ideal experience” to each individual customer across the range of digital, human, and static touchpoints and interactions.

The fact is, some customers are simply worth more than others, and it takes a great deal of intelligence for companies to figure out what the “right” experiences are for any given group of customers, much less how to personalize them. The good news is, “smart touchpoints” and the data they can produce, combined with the ability to analyze the digital breadcrumbs and data that surrounds almost every customer, means that any firm of any size has the tools for intelligent personalization at hand.

Starting with what can be the biggest step, your firm needs to be willing to adjust its offerings to the needs of individual customers based on an understanding of what those individual customers (or the smallest possible groups they represent) want, and how that’s different from others.

The more effectively a company uses customer information to understand and acknowledge both the differences and similarities, the easier it will be to provide benefits uniquely suited to those customers. In ways never before possible, you can approach them with truly personalized, highly customized offers, through relevant channels, in ways that drive stronger, more profitable relationships, better serving your customers by giving them exactly what they want, when they want it.

The result? Customer experiences that are not only highly differentiated, but that cannot be easily duplicated by others.

The Hardest Thing For Competitors To Copy

For many companies, it isn’t obvious to executives how or why they should provide meaningful personalization. Their customers have been satisfied with the existing product lineup. Their products may be commodities, or perhaps their firms are in a regulated utility.

While the desire to create a “differentiated customer experience” is high on the list of objectives when it comes to customer experience strategy, they do not yet grasp that the most effective customer experiences are those tailored in a significant manner to meet the needs of that particular customer.

They simply don't realize how fast customer expectations are changing, and what this means to the design of forward-looking customer experience strategies today.

Companies that do realize this–and take action as a result–will create truly differentiated, category-leading experiences that make interacting with them so relevant, so much more convenient, and so perfectly suited to customers’ wants and needs that they won’t even consider switching to a competitor.

Ever.

Customer Experience Strategy, Get it Right to Drive Success