Know your customer 1: Personal Experiences24September

Know your customer 1: Personal Experiences

You are not even a parent yet but you receive messages about discounts on nappies. You don’t have a car but your local supermarket gives you gift vouchers for the carwash. You don’t drink coffee but they insist on your tasting the latest brew. You are trying to lose weight but keep getting buy 1 get 1 free pizza offers. Your own mobile phone operator tells you that if you transfer your number to their network, they will give you 1 GB of free data.

 

For sure, such examples are many, and can be extended to different sectors. Developing, publicising and ensuring accurate delivery of mass marketing campaigns to a target audience is no easy task. Afterwards, measuring success against a specific criteria involves a series of time-consuming and costly activities. And all of this effort is just to continue with an outdated marketing method.

 

Personalised customer experience

Since the mobile world has become an important part of our lives we have begun to demand more personal solutions. When you search Google you are shown adverts related to your previous searches. On Flipboard, you are offered suggestions on topics that you might be interested in or contributors you might want to follow, all based on the topics in which you have shown an interest. Twitter shows you hashtags according to the people you are following, Facebook shows you a list of friends you could possibly know, or Kindle provides a tailored list of books for you as per your previous readings.

 

As long as they respect the user’s right to privacy and avoid becoming invasive, the more personalised these services are, the more they increase their user’s level of satisfaction and desire to continue using their products and services. In other words, personalised services strengthen customers’ loyalty to the brand, to the products and services.

 

Personalization of the customer experience creates an emotional loyaty with your customers. In your favorite restaurant you are welcomed by name and asked “how are you today?”; in the coffee shop the waiter asks “The usual: milk and no sugar?”; the newsagent hands you your usual paper before you even speak; you buy an airline ticket and are automatically given your preferred window seat; you are buying a shirt and are offered a tie as a gift after the cashier wishes you a happy birthday. These are the kind gestures that we all enjoy and which it is now possible to experience more often.

 

Tailoring the offers and sending them at the right time also helps you increase revenues.

 

You are shopping and you’ve got lettuce and mayonnaise in your basket. Then you visit the cheese counter and at that very moment you receive a message saying “why not buy chicken to make a Caesar salad?” Or you just bought shorts and a T-shirt and as you approach the till you are informed about discounts on hats or the opportunity to gain extra loyalty points by buying sunglasses. As you pass by the cinema at a shopping centre, you are sent a suggestion for an action film released the day before that you know you would enjoy.

 

In some cases, your approach and actions taken against your customers at the very specific times, could help you “retain” them, and increasing the overall satisfaction, that contributes to the brand image.

 

You have a problem with a product that you bought. You called the call centre twice in the same week. You still hear nothing, and this makes you upset. You are calling for the third time and the call centre recognises that your query hasn’t been dealt with, so the system prioritises your call and directs you to the supervisor. The supervisor is already aware that you might be an unhappy customer and before you even mention it she apologises for not getting back to you, acknowledges the calls you made, and tries to help you resolve your problem.

 

Collect the data, process it and develop a strategy

Personalised services or products can only be offered to customers after collecting meaningful and reliable data from various sources. To do this you need to be able to obtain different kinds of information, such as how much time your customer is spending in which part of your store, what kind of products they buy, their interests, age, gender and profession, etc. In addition, you need to be able to process this data dynamically over time but on a timely basis. The more information you can obtain from your customers, the more personalised your services or products can become. The type of data required can be divided into three different groups:

  • Information provided by customers that rarely or never changes, such as age, profession, address, favourite colour, favourite football club, etc.
  • Variable information and preferences. Do they have a car? What kind of phone do they use? Where do they go on holiday?
  • Habits that can be learnt by the system over time. How often do they go to the supermarket? How much do they generally spend there? On which day of the week do they prefer to shop? Do they use their phone mostly to talk or to use the Internet? Do they use their credit card abroad? Do they like meat or vegetables?

 

Why do I need to know more about my customer?

The key to success is to identify the products you should offer your customer after having created a customer profile by collecting data from various sources and having processed this data over time. This technique can bring success that is many times more effective than conventional mass marketing techniques. Providing personalised customer experiences is very important for two reasons:

 

By knowing what products or services your customer is interested in, you increase the chances of getting a positive response to your offering and thus increase their spending. You know what products to offer and exactly when to offer them and can even do so before your customer expresses any interest in them.

 

It is three o’clock in the morning and you are still working. You receive a message telling you that you only have 10MB left on your 3G internet package. Just as you begin to despair that there will not be anywhere open to buy credit, you receive a message asking “would you like to swap your free call minutes for an additional Internet package instead?”

 

Or you haven’t changed your mobile phone for three years and a brand new model comes out. Since you are a “gold level client” you are not only offered a discount, but also an “unmissable deal” on accessories.

 

Another example: You have a passenger who always flies between the same two destinations and you also know what time he prefers to travel and that he always prefers the cheapest ticket where available. He generally requests a window seat by the emergency exit doors.

 

Unfortunately, your flight has been overbooked, you only have three seats left, and there is a family of four that you have to board. You can now offer the single passenger a stopover on the same route, perhaps to somewhere he has never been to, and guarantee that he can take any flight home on any seat of his second leg without extra charge. Problem solved, and everybody is happy.

 

Personalised experiences also help your customers feel emotional loyalty rather than just commercial loyalty towards your brand.

 

To be welcomed by name in a restaurant, to receive your coffee the way you like it without having to remind the waiter, to be offered a non-smoking room without having to mention it, to have a white rental car waiting for you just because the hire company knows about your obsession with white cars, to have the sales clerk show you the perfect grey suit you’ve been looking for without having to tell him your measurements. Experiences like these make you feel better about yourself and lead to much greater loyalty than conventional approaches to presenting products and services. After a certain point you no longer prefer a certain brand because of the product itself, but because of the unique experience that you associate with it.

 

Ultimately, this approach leads to customer satisfaction levels that go through the roof and lead to higher turnover per customer. Happy customers then start doing your marketing for you: they share their experiences on social media, tell their friends about your products, and thus make it much easier for you to gain new clients. While the most positive result for your business is the higher levels of customer satisfaction and increased turnover, personalised customer service methods also act as a type of support system for the decisions you need to make regarding your marketing activities, helping you to create more effective campaigns.

 

In order to address personalised customer experience in all its aspects, we also have to talk about the potential risks and the measures you can take against them. And, of course, we should not forget to talk about the technologies that form the basis of the applications we outlined in this entry. All of this will be tackled in the second part of this blog.