Personalization: Tips for building a human experience

Presented by Capital One

As the Covid-19 pandemic shifted the world to digital seemingly overnight, it became more important than ever for businesses to ensure that the services they provide are always available and accessible and that customers can achieve their needs digitally.

As consumer reliance on digital services continued to surge, so did the bar for quality digital experiences. Regardless of the industry you’re in, customers expect you to get it right.

The power of personalization

Personalization holds great promise to help companies meet the ever-rising expectations for digital customer experiences and to build enduring customer loyalty and trust.

At its core, personalization is about knowing your customers and their preferences so you can surface exactly what your customers need when it matters.

Done right, personalization can help create a deep and lasting connection with customers. After all, one of the basic things we all want as people is to be understood. Knowing what is important to someone and predicting it can create a truly brand defining experience.

Understanding this is only part of the battle because, regardless of industry, we’re still in the early days of personalization.

As consumers, we’ve all had a wide range of experiences from companies looking to tailor the information they provide to us. Brands and systems capable of accurately predicting what you want — at the moment when you want it — generate almost unmatched surprise and delight. Conversely, those that miss the mark, leave you feeling frustrated and annoyed.

Because personalization touches, in a way, our humanity, it takes special care to not serve up predictions that are contrary to a customer’s best interest. Predictive technology that comes off as too personal and is not expected based on the customer’s knowledge of the data shared will be rejected — and degrade trust and credibility in your brand in the process.

Striking the right balance

As you might have guessed, there is a science and art to getting personalization right.

The science relates to how well you know your customer and how you use data in a way that aligns with the permissions the customer has given you, their expectations of how you will use data, and that respects their privacy.  Too many businesses get this wrong. They collect too much data or they’re not properly using the data they did collect. All of this can turn off customers at the precise moment they need you the most.

It’s important that customers are fully aware of the value trade-off they’re getting between access to information and what the company can provide in exchange. That’s the trade that the customer is making, and you need to make that explicit.

The art, in many cases, is about how you involve your customers in the personalization journey. It’s important to listen and get feedback but to do so in a way that minimizes effort on the customer’s part. No one wants to take a 40-page questionnaire. Asking customers for feedback at small, regular intervals can help build a solid and useful personalization profile to help inform the rest of their digital customer experience.

A journey for and with your customers

Work for the customer

One of the key principles to getting personalization right is that wherever you can, you should work for the customer. Don’t make the customer do the work.

At Capital One, we are guided by this north star and aim to build digital experiences that work for our customers and make banking simpler and easier.

With Capital One’s intelligent assistant Eno, for example, we provide proactive alerts and insights that alleviate work for the customer, such as free trial reminders that alert customers before their free trial ends and the paid subscription begins so they can avoid any unwanted charges. Eno serves as the intelligent backbone behind Capital One’s digital customer experiences, helping millions of customers have confidence and control over their financial lives.

Deliver value

Obsessively focusing on delivering value for customers — and incenting your teams to deliver against this goal — is critical for success. While focusing on selling your next product to customers may deliver value for your business in the short-term, anticipating the needs your customers will face and proactively solving for those needs before they happen will generate long-term value for your business.

Learn with customers

Personalization is not a one-and-done proposition. It’s a forever journey of listening and continuously adjusting personalized digital experiences. You aren’t building a one-off transaction. Personalization is about building a customer relationship over time, and learning with your customers as their needs change based on where they are in their life journey.

Modernizing your data ecosystem

Machine learning, AI, and data are at the center of an organization’s ability to better understand customer needs and behaviors and deliver truly personalized customer experiences.

Many companies are talking about machine learning and generating insights from data at scale, but are still struggling to modernize their data ecosystem and facing challenges such as data stored all over the place, tech stacks cobbled together through years of acquisitions, and legacy systems that limit how data is managed. 

Particularly for companies that grew up without an integrated data environment, it’s really hard to make the data usable and to pull together all the data silos to provide a complete 360 view of the customer.

To effectively leverage data at scale, businesses need to rethink each capability in their ecosystem — how to produce, consume, and govern data differently.

This requires not only systems change but cultural shifts. It’s important to ensure everyone in the organization understands the roles they play as producers, contributors, and consumers of data.

Personalization doesn’t happen automatically. Even if you collect the right data, mobilize your teams in the right way, and ask the right questions, the only way to ensure that you’re serving the company and its customers’ best interests is through continuous experimentation and testing. One of the best ways to find out things that resonate with an individual customer is to test lots of variations, as we all don’t hear things the same way and we don’t react to information in the same way. It’s critical to test a lot of variations to see what resonates.

By keeping the customer at the center of everything you do — personalization holds great promise to deliver brand defining digital experiences and build customer loyalty and trust.

Don Busick is Head of Enterprise Products and Platforms at Capital One.

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