We live in a real-time world, where whatever it is that we want, we want it now. People are not enthusiastic about waiting for much of anything. Brands are constantly faced with questions about speed, perhaps more than anything else. How fast will my online order arrive? How quickly will my refund request be completed? Why hasn’t someone responded to my tweet?
These questions are not new. It has been years since the Internet changed everything. Customers have been producing volumes of data about their interactions with different brands, including preferences, payment history, online reviews and so much more. Brands have been capturing that information in vast databases but have not been able to put it to use.
All the talk about “big data” is finally turning into action. Brands are finally able to harness all of those nuggets of information and put them to use to drive purchases, increase customer satisfaction and improve the customer experience. Vast improvements in CRM systems, integration with the cloud and streamlined agent dashboards have made it possible for every customer interaction to move smoothly and efficiently—perhaps even with an upsell included.
Brands can now even capture data in real time and put it to use immediately to save a transaction or better tailor a response. Data has truly come into its own as actionable information—not something saved in a database and never accessed. Brands are now taking advantage of instant access to the information generated by our social and mobile society in real time.
The challenge is that these brands must figure out how to maintain positive, personalized customer interactions without drowning in data or scaring customers. Customers want brands to treat them as individuals and for agents to know their history when they contact a brand, but they don’t necessarily want to be “tracked” online. Customers want personalized offers and deals tailored to their wants and needs, but may be less than thrilled if they think a brand is pushing something too vigorously. Customers want to interact with their favorite brands, but don’t want to be inundated with messages on various platforms.
Many brands are still one step behind customer expectations. And it’s extra challenging to keep up with expectations because they are constantly changing. 2015 will bring personalization to a new level with the advent of hyper-personalization in customer interactions. Every interaction, whether in general online or specifically with your brand, will be captured and compiled. Algorithms will comb through all of that data to provide customized, tailored information for each customer. Each interaction will be an opportunity for brands to fine-tune these algorithms to determine the wants and needs of each individual, and not just the collective demographic.
Social media channels have been a driving force behind making this level of personalization a reality. The ability to individualize and personalize interactions by connecting social interactions (likes on Facebook, tweets, comments on Yelp and more) with transaction history and online behavior…the possibilities seem endless.
Of course, products, services and content will need to be offered proactively to each customer to meet the expectations of today’s distracted consumer. Brands must actively listen to and understand their customers; dive down into demographics and specifics; capture historical and real-time data; slice and dice that data to customize interactions and special offers with personalized content; deliver that personalized content in the manner and on the channel the research has shown to be most effective; and encourage customer engagement and feedback. That’s hyper-personalization.
Just as the mp3 and iTunes dramatically changed the way we consume music—allowing people to pick and choose songs to create eclectic, personalized playlists, rather than purchase entire albums—the ability to hyper-personalize sales and service interactions will dramatically change the way brands appeal to customers. The benefits are many, and brands must put personalization and/or hyper-personalization into practice if they are to remain successful. Personalization is nothing more than delivering the right information at the right time. It’s striving not just for satisfying but for delighting customers—anticipating their wants and needs before they even recognize them. It’s maximizing every interaction, something every brand should strive for.
Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.