Podcast: How to create a personal customer experience

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology – not the other way around.” – Steve Jobs

Happy customers buy more. They stay longer. And they recommend you often. But festooned with choice – and often with little to distinguish products and services – customers hold the power. If they’re not happy, or if a competitor offers more value or a stand-out experience, they’ll move on from you, or worse, they’ll complain, which can spread like wildfire and cause irreparable harm to your reputation.

HSOs Head of Customer Experience, Kevin Brown, believes choice and time are dictating how customers behave, “Customer culture has become one of: ‘I want things quick. I want things in my time. And I want things based on how I like it to be personalised’.

“Therefore, organisations must adapt their systems to suit that type of engagement behaviour because you have only a few moments before someone turns off and moves elsewhere.”

Consider your own shopping habits; what is a good experience for you? For many, Kevin believes it’s the speed at which they can move from browsing to purchase. “I think today, everyone is time poor. People want to get to the thing quickly, or they’ll move on to something else.”

Experience is also enhanced by surfacing relevant recommendations and so reducing time spent on research. This, as well as being presented with relevant alternative suggestions based on behaviour, previous engagement, and more personal things such as style and size. To the same end, you also need to tell customers when things they like are not in stock. No-one likes having their time wasted.

It stands to reason then that you’d want to offer the best customer experience. And the more information you have on each customer the easier this is. In theory.

The personalisation challenge

In the past, the definition of a personalised experience was as simple as being able to send an email with a name on it. That’s no longer enough. You need to know about each customer, their habits, family circumstances, work, the things they do, their social circle, and so on. To gain the insight to achieve this you need a good handle on your data, as Kevin says, “Data fuels intelligence in every engagement, but I think a lot of companies struggle to do it well because of the quality and consistency of the data being captured and connected.” Better data management provides the right mix of data- insights. And these insights determine how ‘human’ and personal you can make the customer experience.

Kevin suggests to “understand what the data points are you need to capture in your organisation, as data likely exists in many silos”. You will likely have data housed across many departments. And each will have an owner. Seldom do these owners come together and look at the whole picture of the customer. Often the approach is one of: ‘If I need a system to do email marketing, I’m going to buy a mass marketing tool. If I want a system to drive a pipeline, I’m going to buy a sales tool. And a customer service tool, and so on.’ So, invariably, what you end up with is a fragmented approach to data management.

As an organisation, you need to look at the data holistically and create a single foundation that brings data together. This makes it easier to surface data from different areas so everyone is looking at the same version of a customer. You can then use this to understand the experience a customer is going through in department A versus department B, and then tailor the message or engagement.

So, although the time and cost of bringing data together may prove a barrier, it’s essential to enabling personalisation. And the rewards are clear. Consultants McKinsey revealed that effective customer journeys increase a customer’s satisfaction by 20%.

How you can solve the customer experience conundrum

Applications such as Microsoft Dynamics CE bring customer transactional, behavioural, and demographic data together to create a 360-degree view. It’s able to do this because it’s built on what’s known as the Dataverse. To put it simply, Dataverse is a connected platform that gives you the ability to manage and connect all the data coming into your organisation as a result of customer interaction.

With it, your organisation can begin to see data in a single format, on a single platform. You can then plug in applications, flows, and intelligent agents to deliver products and services in unique, more personal, ways. This is possible only because the data remains consistent.

If you consider Dataverse as a pool of data, the applications are windows into it. Whether you’re in customer service, sales, or complaints, you’re looking at the same data just through a different application, specific to each customer. As Kevin aptly states: “Data is the starting point, and everything else branches from that.”

What does your customer journey look like?

Is it smooth, or is it difficult? Improving customer experience begins with taking an ‘outside in view’. Which is a perspective of looking at engagement with your organisation from how your customer experiences it. Do this and you’ll quickly see whether you’re satisfying their needs during the process of engagement. You’ll be able to see how easy it is to engage with you. Or how easy is it to request services, or buy products, speak to staff and so on.

Was the process easy, pleasant, and did it consider the fact that how we all engage is different from one person to another? And is the engagement personal? If not, take the learnings from your outside-in view and isolate where you can make improvements in the journey to enhance customer experience. For the sake of happier customers, this is time well spent.

Taking an outside-in view is a lesson for any organisation serving any audience. It lifts the lid on how you operate. And whether you’re taking customers’ needs into account, and delivering the best, most personal experience. How you capture, manage, and then use data will determine how far you can take personalisation. And how far you can differentiate yourself the competition.

For more information on Microsoft Dynamics CE, click here