Once considered a cost center, customer service is shaping up to be one of the most powerful ways brands can ensure sustainable growth, outshine its competitors, and build an army of loyal advocates.
According to a 2019 Microsoft report, 90% of respondents said customer service has a significant influence on the brands they buy from—and stick with long-term.
Today, many customers care more about experience than product or even price. That shift is linked to the rise of e-commerce, mobile, and social media, which gave customers more choice over what they buy and from whom. AND— it connected them to reviews from real people just like them.
And that was all before the pandemic–an event that forced consumers to rethink what they want from brand interactions.
Per a recent Ultimate.ai survey, 60% of customers say experience is more important to them now than it was pre-COVID. 75% predict the brands that navigated the pandemic with high levels of empathy and support will see a positive impact on long-term loyalty.
So, where does personalization fit into this narrative? The short answer is–pretty much everywhere. Below, we’ll explain how personalizing customer service is central to the entire customer experience–and what that means for your business.
Why Personalizing Customer Service Is Important
According to McKinsey, companies that can deliver highly personalized service to millions of individual consumers using proprietary data are at a significant advantage. The logic there is, unlike products or services, great experiences are hard to imitate because every journey and interaction is unique.
At its core, great service experiences are about building bonds with your customers.
As an example, consider your various “IRL” relationships. We’re talking about romantic partners and close friends, the B2B vendors you interact with on the job, even the barista at your favorite coffee shop. All of these relationships–close or not–were formed by sharing information, remembering it, then building on it during the next conversation.
By contrast, consider how it feels when someone you’ve met several times can’t remember your name–or worse, doesn’t remember you at all. It might hurt your feelings or make you angry – or, best case scenario, you forget about it.
The same is true for customer-brand relationships. In other words, if you don’t personalize, there is no relationship.
Here’s a look at some more specific ways personalization benefits your brand:
Personalized customer service builds trust
PwC’s June 2021 Global Consumer Insights revealed that 35% of customers cite trust as one of their top three reasons for choosing to buy from a specific brand. Personalized service helps build trust from the first point of contact.
By demonstrating empathy and expertise throughout the entire journey–from brand new lead to prospect, customer, and ideally, promoter or advocate, you’ve proven yourself as a trusted source who always acts in customers’ best interests.
Essentially, that consistency shows customers that you listened to their feedback and took the time to understand their needs and responded with hyper-relevant content, products, or solutions.
Over time, effective personalization lays the foundation for a successful referral program—which allows you to bring in new customers without upping your ad spend or cranking out more content. Happy customers recommend you to their friends–who are more likely to trust you because someone they trust had a positive experience.
Long-term, your referral program will generate more and more growth–while you focus on finding more ways to create value for customers.
Personalized customer service re-engages cold leads
Chances are, you’ve got some stalled-out deals hanging out in your sales funnel. And yes, some aren’t interested, don’t have the budget, or aren’t a fit.
But there are plenty of others who just got busy and forgot to finish what they started. They might have filled a shopping cart, then had to jump on a Zoom call. Or, maybe the checkout page got lost in a sea of open tabs. Maybe they stopped looking for a new CRM because COVID brought new priorities to the surface.
Whatever it is, personalized customer service can help brands get things back on track–assuming they demonstrated interest in the past.
Here, you might send a friendly email offering the hands-on guidance they need to take action. For complex, B2B products, it might mean reaching out with a custom demo or a guided tour of your product’s most relevant features. Or, a financial services company might have a sales rep send a personalized report, along with insights explaining what current trends mean for the recipient.
For retailers, it might mean offering customers a discount and eliminating friction points. For example, you might offer browsing and checkout directly from Messenger, so customers don’t have to visit a second location to complete the purchase.
Personalized customer service increases engagement and conversions
According to Instapage, nearly 75% of customers say they’re frustrated when a website fails to personalize its content. And, 80% of consumers will make a purchase from a brand that offers personalized experiences:
SmarterHQ found that 70% of millennial consumers are frustrated by irrelevant promotional emails, and 36% of shoppers told Retail TouchPoints they wish retailers would do more to personalize the experience.
Generic, irrelevant messaging does little to drive interactions because you haven’t given them a compelling reason to learn more.
Personalized customer service improves customer retention
Personalized customer service makes customers feel valued–much a thoughtful friend that remembers important life events, likes/dislikes, and provides practical, judgement-free advice.
That’s not to say you don’t enjoy your less-dedicated friends – it’s just that they don’t make you feel seen or cared for.
Emotions aside, personalization prevents customers from churning–which is critical if you want your business to grow. Gartner predicts brands could lose up to 38% of customers due to poor personalization practices.
What Type of Personalization Do Your Customers Want?
While you’ll need to do your own research to determine what your actual customers want from your brand, here’s a look at some of the areas customers want–and expect–personalization across the board.
Website or email offers for special discounts on relevant products
Personalized offers might include things like discounts for customers’ birthdays or early access to a big sale–so they can do their shopping before their size runs out. Or, if you’re a SaaS/B2B brand, you might try something like Evernote does here:
This example could feel a bit more personal, but it rewards existing customers with an extra six months of access if they pay for a year upfront. That, in turn, comes with the added benefit of preventing cancelations for at least 18 months. Plenty of time to establish the kinds of habits that lead to years-long relationships.
Promotions via a website, email, or digital ad for relevant products or brands
Another common use case is suggesting relevant products based on shopping habits.
Here’s an example of how you might promote cross-sells/complimentary items during the shopping experience:
Suggested products based on previous purchase history
According to Salesforce, 75% of customers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer tailored product suggestions. And interestingly, SmarterHQ data revealed that close to 50% of shoppers head to Amazon if the brand they’re shopping with doesn’t personalize recommendations.
Reminders to re-purchase items that are due for replacement
While your customers probably don’t need to set up a “subscribe and save” for toilet seats, they probably purchase many other products on repeat.
If you sell things like skin care products, cleaning supplies, or pet food, customers will likely appreciate a proactive reminder before they run out of essential items.
Abandoned shopping cart reminders
Personalizing customer service is also an effective way to reduce cart abandonment. The idea here, links back to the fact that customers are more likely to respond to ads or messages that are relevant to them.
This example performs double duty–the abandoned item is featured up top, with a curated selection of other items the recipient might like (just in case they abandoned the original item on purpose).
How to Personalize Customer Service
There are countless possibilities when it comes to personalizing the customer service experience. Your strategy should be driven by your business model, customers, and the channels you use to keep in touch–so naturally, every brand will approach this differently.
That said, here are a few ideas you can use as a jumping off point:
Be available 24/7
Offer real-time support around the clock, so customers can get the help they need no matter what time it is. Note that this doesn’t mean you need to hire people to man the system at all hours. Instead, you can use self-service options like knowledge bases, chatbots, and offline messages when agents are unavailable.
Here’s an example we use on the JivoChat home page:
Because it’s a general page, we present a few different options to help guide visitors quickly find the right page–so they don’t get frustrated and leave.
Ask for feedback
Feedback can help you improve service, save money, and increase customer satisfaction. You’ll want to capture and analyze feedback from multiple channels–support tickets, communication records, social media, your website, and so on.
You’ll also want to gather feedback directly via surveys and interviews. Make sure you ask one question at a time–and that each question is focused around a specific experience/goal. A few examples:
To determine what to build/sell: What products/services/features do you think we’re missing?
To measure the overall experience (NPS): On a scale from 0 (very unlikely) to 10 (very likely), how likely are you to recommend our brand to a friend or family member?
To learn where customers are coming from: Where did you hear about our brand?
To gauge quality of service: Did X rep answer your questions?
Give them options
So much of customer experience success hinges on giving customers the ability to engage on their own terms. Present them with a variety of ways to connect with customer support, offer different shipping and payment options, maybe even the option to personalize products.
For SaaS companies, you might make it easy for customers to change plans–for example, allowing them to downgrade their plan instead of canceling.
According to this 2020 New York Times piece, customers want more custom options–and brands specializing in things like made-to-order shoes, tailored clothing, jewelry, and even medical implants are finding success in catering to the individual.
Address them by name
Addressing customers by name may seem like a minor detail, but it can have a big impact on their impression of your brand. Using customers’ names in conversation gives them the feeling that they’re not just a number. You’re instead telling them you’re invested in solving their problem.
It’s also a good idea to use your own name, as it signals you’re willing to take ownership of the problem, while also building a sense of familiarity and trust.
Avoid overusing customer names–you’ll come off like a caricature of a sleazy sales rep with those blatant persuasion tactics. Instead, treat them like a friend or coworker.
Offer omnichannel customer service
Omnichannel is often misunderstood as a strategy focused on being on as many channels as possible. It’s really about weaving all relevant channels (and internal platforms/departments) together to create a consistent journey for your customers. The goal is to close gaps and remove friction–so customers experience your brand as a single channel that meets them where they are at that moment.
In a 2019 white paper, TTEC urges companies to shift away from channel-centric strategies, as they create fragmented experiences, departmental silos, and inconsistent messaging, policies, and processes. All of which mean trouble for brands. Think waste, friction, confusion, even legal or reputational repercussions.
Omnichannel customer service allows brands to track all interactions and provides full visibility into the entire journey. This enables you to measure the impact of each campaign, phone call, offer, etc. and use that information to improve.
Customers benefit in several ways, too. They never have to repeat themselves, can engage brands on preferred channels, and receive offers/solutions/content based on past interactions, behavior, demographics, and personal preferences.
Reward loyal customers
Finally, you’ll want to make sure you reward customers for being loyal–you know, to let them know you appreciate them.
You might offer:
Referral bonuses for bringing in new customers
Early access to sales/new products
Access to special events, online communities
The list goes on–but the key thing is making sure any reward you offer is valuable to your customers.
Technology for Personalizing Customer Service
As Deloitte states in its 2021 tech trends report, technology is the enabler for pulling off an omnichannel experience, tailoring experiences around the individual, and scaling 1:1 interactions.
We won’t get into it here, but it’s worth noting that in order to execute any personalization strategy, your organization must be able to capture, process, and interpret data–and understand how to use insights to drive action.
More generally, here are a few solutions that can help:
Marketing automation software
Marketing automation software allows you to craft relevant, personalized journeys at scale, across all channels. Users can orchestrate SMS and email campaigns, generate personalized ads, and automate many of the behind the scenes tasks that once made it impossible to scale personalized messaging.
While marketing automation is a powerful part of the stack, it often comes with a steep learning curve. You won’t learn the ropes in a day via YouTube.
E-commerce tools can help retailers engage audiences, share promotional offers, and offer support on all channels–from one central hub. There’s a lot of variation within this category. Though many options include inventory management tools, customer segmentation, and the ability to manage your presence across marketplaces.
Online chat tools
Online chat tools like JivoChat are one of the easiest ways to start personalizing customer service–in high-impact areas. Use them to address long wait times, provide always-on support, and engage audiences across all channels. with relevant insights from your CRM and other connected platforms.
Here’s a look at the JivoChat widget, which allows agents to handle several cases at once without switching apps:
Personalizing the end-to-end journey takes time, patience, and some serious strategic planning.
But JivoChat’s omnichannel messenger platform can help you step up your personalization game in the areas that matter most.
Sign up for a free account to experience first-hand how JivoChat can support and nurture your bond with customers.