By Rushabh Gandhi
Today, customers expect more from the service industry than just quality service. Recent research has shown that 71% of consumers expect brands to provide personal interactions and 76% of consumers are unhappy with their absence. This makes personalization a key ingredient in an organization’s survival kit and success. Treating “personalization” as a way to operate rather than a way to market will be a game-changer.
Imagine that. Diya picks up her coffee at the same cafe, at the same time, every day. The barista knows his name and his coffee preference. One day, she skips her coffee because she’s late. The next day, the barista asks if everything is okay as they missed seeing her the day before. Effectively personalized? Yes. Personalized enough? Probably not. Now imagine another day when Diya is late, so skips her coffee. The cafe realizes this and to make sure she doesn’t miss her favorite cup of tea, sends her to his office with a note saying he missed her!
How would this gesture make Diya feel? With her first sip of coffee, she feels like a first-class citizen and renews her vows with Coffee for Life. The cafe has raised the bar and she won’t settle for anything less in the future. What the cafe did was bring a delighted customer into the devout zone. And that, my friends, is our ultimate goal at IndiaFirst Life.
A quadrant to solve the dilemma
This grid puts the state of the customer-brand relationship into perspective.
1. The disillusioned: When customer expectations of a brand are low, it may mean that the brand has failed to deliver on a promise in the past. Organizations need to monitor this and avoid this quadrant like the plague.
2. The malcontents: Consumers are upset when they expect superior performance from a brand and the brand fails to deliver. Organizations should therefore strive to follow and anticipate customer expectations as much as possible. These learnings will help them move on to the next quadrant, the delighted.
3. The delighted: When the brand exceeds customer expectations, the quadrant celebrates. It’s no surprise that “customer delight” is where most brands want to be.
4. The devotee: This is the holy grail of all quadrants where every brand should aspire to be! This happens when the organization continually raises the bar of customer expectations and meets all expectations. This requires the commitment of everyone, at all levels of the organization.
Personalization will successfully bridge the gap between what we think is a personalized experience and what a customer really wants. Achieving the prized Devout quadrant is a work in progress and requires constant innovation and improvisation. Brands should be designed to deliver a superior and seamless experience, across the multitude of channels consumers use to interact with them. Here is an overview of how it can be done.
1. Hyper-personalization: One size can never fit all. Every product, service and process must be relevant to the target customer. At IndiaFirst, we have created eight distinct customer personas. Each character comes with their motivators and has their own stack of keywords, visuals, and triggers. This helps to organize thoughtful and coherent interactions relevant to the character. With every interaction, the personalization improves and helps us deliver an enhanced customer experience.
2. Audit communication to make it meaningful: The success of all persuasion techniques relies on – relevance! As brilliant as the communication is, its relevance should be checked at regular intervals. Audits identify and correct defects and provide opportunities for improvisation. Periodic audits help ensure a flawless email system. It’s essential to make every interaction count, even the smallest ones. You hit the nail on the head when the relevant recipients receive the relevant content through the relevant medium.
3. Rules engines to prohibit spam: A working professional receives an average of 120 e-mails per day. It is imperative that we send distinctive and impactful emails that break up this clutter. Customers are only interested in engaging if it’s on their terms – qualitatively and quantitatively. Otherwise, they call it spam.
We have invested in technology that sets rules. For example, the number of communication items going to different customers and the disbursement channels, such as WhatsApp, SMS, email, real mail, phone calls, etc., will depend on the life stage of their relationship with we.
4. Segment of a: Segmentation today is all about providing personalization at a micro level. Segment One uniquely targets each individual. Customers who engage with us leave a certain imprint on our systems. A proprietary database and technical approach decodes information to provide personalized communication. A personalized experience is useful, usable, desirable, differentiated and will organically ensure customer delight.
Extending a career counseling service to Mr and Mrs Shah when they partially withdraw their ULIP for their son’s higher education, or providing bereavement counseling to Mr Iyer, who just lost his wife, are illustrations from Segment of One.
Customization is the super structure built on the basis of “Walking the Talk”. If the superstructure is built on a weak foundation, it is doomed to collapse. Therefore, getting the basics right is of utmost importance. It is essential to earn the trust of customers by simply doing what one could or would do. Making commitments and sticking to them is the foundation upon which the superstructure of personalization can be built.
Remember that excellence is not what you deliver through your service, it’s what the customer gets out of it!
The author is the Deputy Managing Director of IndiaFirst Life. The opinions expressed are personal.