Personalized Customer Service: How to deliver and drive loyalty
In today’s market, customer service is a huge differentiator. When done right, personalized customer service can do wonders for customer retention and for your bottom line.
Today, customer service is carried out over multiple channels and platforms, and is more important to customers’ perception of your brand than ever. Personalized customer service can make your business stand out.
Personalized customer service builds loyalty
If a customer walks away from an interaction with your business dissatisfied at worst or indifferent at best, then you’ve wasted an opportunity to win their loyalty.
Customer loyalty is an indicator of success and customer perception
Customer loyalty should be a foremost objective for any business. Repeat customers spend more, and more often than first-timers. When a customer repeatedly chooses to do business with you, it’s because your product adds value to their professional or personal lives, and because your customer service left them satisfied and cared-for.
Moreover, loyal customers tend to tell the people around them about their fantastic experience with a given business, thus becoming brand ambassadors. Earning the loyalty of ambassadors is invaluable: their genuine endorsement rings more true than any ad campaign, and it does wonders for your brand.
What is personalized customer service?
In order to earn this kind of loyalty, your business needs to deliver personalized customer service. This means more than merely satisfying their needs. A gas station sandwich will fill a hungry stomach, but it’s not about to win the stomach’s loyalty the way a home-cooked meal would. And if that gas station sandwich isn’t even palatable, then that stomach — and the customer — will churn.
Personalized customer service goes above and beyond satisfying customers’ needs: it gives them a reason other than your product and their hunger to patron your brand. It represents the difference between a customer completing a transaction, then forgetting about you and becoming a loyal life-long customer.
Delivering truly personalized customer service is quite a feat. It entails making the customer feel like they are dealing with a company which treats them humanely, which caters to them by adding value to their life of which they might not be consciously aware. Personal customer service means making the effort of tailoring service to a customer’s specific expectations and underlying aspirations. A tall order indeed.
Many companies already boast excellent and personalized customer service. However, customers themselves beg to differ. Here are actionable ways to make your customer service more personalized, and earn your customers’ loyalty.
Delivering personalized customer service means getting personal
It’s notoriously infuriating to have to deal with an uninvested, disinterested, robotic customer service representative. It gives customers a negative perception of your company and its involvement in the success and happiness of their patrons. Delivering personalized customer service means adding a familiar, human touch to every interaction.
Show your human side
Regardless of the channel they choose or of the stage of their customer journey, anyone who contacts your business should be treated humanely and pleasantly by your team. That’s the bare minimum, the gas station sandwich which keeps your customers from starving.
In order to foster an atmosphere of respect and cordiality beyond mere utilitarianism, your agents must display a personal touch.
- Use the customer’s name, and your own. This may sound silly, but it makes good sense. Using the customer’s name in conversation will show that you’re invested in their situation as an individual. They won’t feel like another numbered ticket to be dealt with and dispatched. Using your own name will make the customer trust you more, and give them the certainty that you are personally taking ownership of their predicament. Using names will foster a feeling of solidarity and mutual trust.
- Show your face. Adding a little picture of your agents’ faces next to their name in an email, live chat, etc. will go a long way to give your customer service funnel a more human feel. Plus, image previews boost conversion rates. Make sure to use actual photos, not a stock image of a grinning model with a headset.
Know your customers’ history
When a customer contacts your business, their interlocutor should be on top of who they are, and have a good idea of why they’re calling. Much like the patron in line at their favorite sandwich shop who is asked, “The usual?”, your customers will appreciate not having to detail their information and past history every time they contact you.
Personalized customer service strives to keep a record of the personal rapport customers have with your business. Thankfully, technology is on your side in this case. No longer reserved for enterprise-sized businesses, CRM systems, help desks, and varied support channels are accessible to a greater number of businesses. This lets everyone afford the tools to make their customer service more personal and efficient.
If you integrate your phone system, live chat, email, and so on to keep a record of every interaction with a customer and store it in their file, your agents will have all that information at their fingertips at the drop of a hat. You’ll be able to see the customer’s name, their past purchases and support experiences, their recurring problems or queries, etc. This information is available easily and can be collaboratively edited for the benefit of your whole team. This will save the agents’ time and energy. In addition to this, your customers will enjoy a more personal and dedicated form of service.
Personalized customer service gives customers a voice
Personalized customer service aspires to be tailored to customer’s specific needs, abilities, and expectations. Rather that forcing customers to comply to an established service model, businesses now need to adapt their methods to their patrons.
This is a difficult line to toe, however. Some customers’ preferences might alienate others, be unfeasible, or inefficient. How to satisfy everyone, and still retain coherence and consistency? The trick is to give customers a choice in the matter, and to let them speak up.
Give customers options
Customer service automation has come a long way. It can lower costs, streamline your process, and reduce effort and friction for both your team and your customers. However, many consider automation the natural enemy of personalized customer service.
This isn’t necessarily the case. If automation is carried out with the customer in mind, then it can be a formidable personalization tool: an opportunity to choose. For instance, offering an automated shopping system to coast customers through their purchases can be hugely beneficial for returning customers who are familiar with your product. It’s expeditious, low effort, and convenient.
But first-time shoppers might need more assistance navigating their first purchase. If you offer an option to talk to a human agent over the phone or live chat as an alternative to the automated assistant, those customers will find the help they need and won’t have the chance to abandon their cart. By consistently giving customers a choice, you shorten your odds of a customer not finding the option they personally prefer.
Add value to customers’ choices
If you’re giving customers the opportunity to choose the way they interact with your business and your service, you need to make sure that all the options available to them are worth their while. Giving choices to customers for the sake of paying lip service won’t make them feel better cared for. Choosing one option over the others should add value to their experience.
Adding value to a customer’s choice means considering the outcome of that choice. It could take lowering the effort they must expend to complete a task, reducing the time needed to solve their problem, or giving them the self-service tools to fix their issue on their own.
No matter which channels you make available to your customers, you need to be able to guarantee the same consistency throughout. Information silos are the main enemy to a successful omnichannel strategy. Picking one channel over another has no value if the two channels don’t complement and reinforce one another through the unification of customer data. The same is true of cross-platform customer service. It’s crucial to cater to mobile customers on the go. But the latter shouldn’t feel like your mobile service belongs to a wholly different operation. Context is key to delivering personalized customer service. But just as important as context is consistency.
The last link in the chain is to poll your customers to find out how to best meet their expectations. Feedback collection will show you how your customers engage with and react to your personalized customer support strategy, in order to refine it. Collecting feedback will let you monitor the usefulness and popularity of your personalization options, then analyse the resulting data, then implement relevant changes, then start all over again.
Customer surveys are the active sollicitation of your customers’ comments. They allow you to engage with your customer base firsthand. The other side of that coin is business analytics: the measure of customer engagement in less direct but no less impactful ways.
Using business analytics to deliver personalized customer service
Business analytics can help you better understand your customers through their usage and interaction with your business rather than through their given feedback. Monitoring is complex, and difficult to get right. It involves sifting through a large volume of raw data in order to obtain contextual knowledge of your customers’ expectations. However, it can pay off remarkably when it comes to personalized customer support.
Understand repeat behaviors and react in real-time
Business analytics can outline recurring patterns in your customers’ behavior. Are your customers asking the same support question over and over? Do they struggle to use your mobile platform? Are they failing to fully adopt your product? All these trends can be evident through business analytics, enabling management to make decisions to better accompany customers.
This is a transition from reactive to proactive customer service; trying to bring customer pain points to light and provide solutions before they even arise. For instance, by using location data in real-time can allow you to suggest choices to your customers which best suit their situation and save them undue effort.
Honor your customers’ trust
Many users balk at the thought of their usage information being retained or used to predict their behavior. This is completely justifiable.
If you’re going to make use of monitoring analytics to improve your personalized customer service strategy, your business needs to commit to transparency as well. Feeling observed and monitored isn’t exactly a catalyst for customer loyalty. Rather, accountability and candor will suit your purposes much better.