Creating Personalized Customer Experiences

I just published a research report resulting from a number of member inquiries and thought I would share a truncated version here for the larger community.  For SSPA members, here is a link to the full article online:  Creating Personalized Customer Experiences. Ten years after the advent of CRM most technology companies are drowning in customer data, but identifying which information is relevant for a specific interaction and tailoring the conversation and processes to fit remains a stretch goal for most support organizations.

Companies wanting to improve the customer experience by personalizing support interactions need to make investments in three areas: support engineer training, support engineer desktop applications, and a real-time personalization engine.

Making changes to technical support engineer and customer service agent training to emphasize personalization and customer relationship skills is the first place to start. Keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Be clear about the change of focus. Agents have to understand you are not just paying lip service to improving the service experience. The importance of personalization and increased customer intimacy should be a top-down initiative with visible executive support.
  • Acknowledge the impact to metrics. When agents spend more time talking and listening to customers, average talk time may trend slightly up. In environments in which high productivity is stressed and rewarded, be realistic about the impacts of new programs on metrics and be certain agents know they will not be penalized if average talk time extends as a result of the new approach.
  • Mentor long time agents through the change. Long time agents who were recruited for technical skills, and have been recognized over the years for technical proficiency, will need additional training and coaching to help them through this transition.

The 2nd key to personalizing customer experience is consolidating agent desktop applications so every piece of relevant customer info is easily accessible during an interaction. With Web services integration, a portal-like view of the customer can be constructed using data from wherever it is stored: information from external systems is retrieved as needed and displayed for the agent in a single screen. In this way, no data is denormalized, and agents always see the most current, accurate information. When considering what data to consolidate for techs, prioritize the inclusion of:

  • All account related data. What information do techs routinely need to service a customer? Creating a portal-like screen so the agent can see every piece of related information from a single screen is incredibly important, and agents can be trained to look for certain pieces of information and react accordingly.
  • Multi-channel interactions. Many companies continue to use a CRM system for all phone interactions, but email, Web and chat interactions are stored in one or more eService systems. All agents, regardless of channel, should have a view of all cross-channel interactions.
  • Account milestones and critical processes. With marketing, sales and service often implementing siloed CRM systems, a major benefit of CRM is lost: cross enterprise customer awareness. Sales reps always complain when they make an account visit and are blindsided by a severe technical outage and irate customers. But the reverse is also true: sales needs to be sure support is aware of all sales events: negotiating for a new contract, quoting new or additional products, onsite visits, maintenance renewals, etc.

For companies that have invested in agent training and have consolidated agent access to customer data, there is advanced technology for delivering personalized customer experiences used in the consumer world that can also be applied to enterprise support. These systems scan the historical information for a customer or an account and make real-time recommendations to support engineers on next steps, offers to extend, or critical account details they should be aware of. While most of the pure-play vendors offering this have been acquired (Epiphany, SigmaDynamics), enterprise CRM suites and even some eService suites now include an offer extension module (of varying complexity and accuracy).

What are you seeing? Are customers demanding more personalized interactions? How is your company approaching this? Please shoot me an email or add a comment with your thoughts. And as always, thanks for reading!

Explore posts in the same categories: Best Practices, Consumer Support, Enterprise Support, Technology

2 Comments on “Creating Personalized Customer Experiences”

  1. Very nice piece of work — nice summary of the essentials. I wrote a blog entry for Ray some 2-3 weeks ago about something related to this (still not published, will be soon). I did a lot of research into customer experience towards the end… the only thing you have to add here is the measurement of feedback.

    You can build the absolute best experiences, in your opinion, and not sway your customers. It is kinda like you saying how smart or good-looking you are. Your opinion has a vested interest (usually tied to a bonus incentive in the case of experience) and it does not count – since you are building your experience for the customers – not yourself.

    Put a feedback process to capture the feelings and reactions from customers about the experience, create the processes to fold that feedback into producing even better experiences, and voila! you are all set (yeah, wish it was that simple – right).

    One more note. Vendors are putting a lot of emphasis on Customer Experience (disclosure: I work for a consulting firm associated with an eService vendor – but I remain an analyst at heart) but you have to understand (and I cannot stress this enough) that no technology will make your experiences better unless they have been designed in concert with your customers — and they meet their (and your) needs.

    I like your writing style… nice and easy.

  2. jragsdale Says:

    Thanks Esteban! The feedback process is a great addition. I remember at Forrester having many client inquiries saying, “We’ve done A and B and C and nothing makes these customers happy!” But it turned out A, B and C were all internally devoloped suggestions–no one was asking customers what they want. I still receive questions from SSPA members asking what customers want. Just ask them–they are increasingly willing to tell you!

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