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5 Ways to Personalize Your Customer Service

illustration of a person wearing a phone headset next to another person looking at a product page on their phone. above them are five yellow stars.

The accelerated shift from the physical world to online in recent years has forever changed consumer behavior. Consumer exposure to the sophisticated personalization practices of e-commerce leaders has raised the bar for everyone else – digital natives, brick-and-mortar brands, and even behind-the-scenes producers or suppliers. 

In fact, according to McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. 

The good news is personalizing your customer service is achievable. Before we dive into the specifics, here is some more context.

What is personalized customer service?

While personalized marketing is directed toward customer personas, personalized customer service delivers a unique and personal experience to each individual. Customers feel they are known, heard, and appreciated with personalized customer service – no matter where they are. 

In the era of the NOW Customer, value-enhancing customer service delivers digital-first convenience and empathetic, personalized service. NOW Customers not only want you to know them by name, but also their purchase and conversation history with your brand. They also expect a response to their needs instantly and with a personal touch.

Why personalized customer service is important

Today’s customers increasingly expect personalized service from brands. Gladly’s 2021 Customer Expectations Report found that 82% of consumers spend more money with brands that deliver personalized customer service experiences. On the flip side, only 19% of consumers believe customer service exceeds their expectations. When brands fail to meet expectations, NOW Customers feel neglected—a substantial challenge that can cost companies millions. 

Brands that deliver a truly personalized customer experience will competitively differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Consumers surveyed by Gladly reported having one seamless conversation across all channels as the most important driver of an exceptional experience. 

Next, we will explore the top five ways brands can empower their customer service team to meet the NOW Customer’s expectations and deliver a personalized experience.  

Five ways to personalize your customer service

When a customer walks into a store, a good salesperson is ready to greet them with a warm welcome, remembers who they are, continues the selling process where they left off, or is prepared to answer the customer’s questions without delay. The NOW Customer not only expects but demands this same experience online as well. Here are some ways to reimagine, optimize and personalize your customer service:

1. Enable data-informed conversations

Brands can personalize customer service by leveraging data in a robust customer relationship management (CRM) system and enhancing consumer profiles. A good place to start is to review your customer journey maps. Identify opportunities to track important touchpoints or interactions, and where you can collect data that will enable personalized conversations with your customers. The goal?  To make your customers feel that you know them, their preferences, and their history with your brand.

Invest in technology and use reliable customer service software to collect and organize your customer data into a unified database. At a minimum, this includes your customers’ order history, preferences, and other pertinent information that your customer has shared with you in a data-capture form. Gather data from multiple channels – your website, social media channels, and other sources to gain a deeper understanding of your customer’s preferences and learn from customer feedback. For example, you can simultaneously solicit feedback via a survey on your website and run a poll on favorite product features on social media. 

Machine learning can process and analyze large data streams and determine where there are actionable insights. Machine learning can also support agents with predictive analytics to identify common questions and responses and uncover things agents may have missed in customer interactions. Agents can use this actionable data and learnings to personalize their communication with customers. 

The more information you obtain about your customers, the easier it is to offer relevant products and personalized support to customers. Your customers will feel valued, and your customer service agents will become more effective at addressing and resolving your customers’ concerns with a personal touch. 

2. Empower your customer service agents

It’s important to empower your customer service team with the right tools. Effective tools, such as a knowledge-sharing platform that gives agents a central hub to store and access FAQs, keep your customer service consistent, timely, and personalized. Additional tools can support omnichannel contact centers that allow a single agent to access every interaction with a given customer, regardless of their communication channel.

Agent assist technology uses AI to automatically interpret what the customer is asking, search knowledge articles, and display them on the customer service agent’s screen while on the call. Brands can also automate many simple tasks through robotic process automation (RPA). Automating bots to focus on the processes that take the longest or have the most clicks between systems, for example, updating records, managing incidents, or providing proactive outreach to customers, can drastically reduce costs and improve efficiency and processing time. 

Natural language processing (NLP) is another tool used today for customer experience. NLP software transcribes interactions across phone, email, chat, and SMS channels and then analyzes the data for certain trends and themes. AI has improved the accuracy and flexibility of NLP systems, enabling companies to use chatbots to deliver responses to simple questions with a history of previous customer conversations. Agents can then focus on the more detailed and complicated inquiries that require human interaction.

These tech-enabled processes can save agents and customers time, provide critical just-in-time information to agents, and decrease average handle time, reducing cost. There are additional ways brands can enhance human interactions to deliver an exceptional, personalized experience. 

3. Enable personal connections

With the advancements in AI, brands are hoping to guide customers to self-service resolution as a means of reducing the load on human agents. As more customers can resolve issues via optimized self-service tools, like chatbots, those who do contact customer service will increasingly have more complex issues. 

A 2021 Simplr study found that 95% of shoppers interacting with chatbots said their live chat experience would have been better with human help. Another key finding was that a seamless transfer from bot to human results in 60% of consumers being more likely to continue doing business with the brand. As long as the customer’s issue is resolved in a single, continuous interaction, they don’t mind switching channels.

Always-on personal connection at scale can be a challenge for companies. Brands transitioning from a traditional CX model to NOW CX can augment their customer service team with solutions such as Simplr’s human cloud network. Simplr’s platform supports personalization with Personal Connection Prompts, allowing specialists to easily respond to customers with personalized statements based on detected and known customer data. 

NOW CX is a customer service model that intelligently blends the best of humans and technology, enabling brands to give consumers an always-on, always-personal experience whenever and wherever they want to engage. 

4. Use automation to guide customers 

Gartner’s recent customer experience research found proactive service prompts additional engagement, often via assisted channels. In fact, 38% of the customers surveyed used digital-assisted channels such as chatbots. A well-designed chatbot experience can effectively engage customers, specifically on the first touch and as a way to guide customers to self-service resolution.

To incorporate automated assistance, brands can funnel customer journeys to the chatbot across the company’s website. Key pages include the homepage, main customer service landing page, FAQs, and knowledge articles. The chatbot should be pre-populated with common self-service issue types and questions to draw customers’ attention and encourage them to engage in self-service resolution. Use data collected through backend systems for the chatbot’s pre-populated responses that include personal information and engagement history when relevant. Also, use the chatbot to gather key information about customer issues before routing customers to live assisted service. 

When implemented effectively, chatbots can support your customer service team by answering basic inquiries and guiding customers to self-service support. When your live agents are freed from simple questions, they have more time to help customers with more complex issues.

5. Live chat for in-store experience 

One of the elements of the in-store experience consumers demand in online experiences is the ability to get in-the-moment help and consultation as they try to buy. With advancements in omnichannel analytics, brands can leverage data about individual consumers and their shopping habits and use that insight to personalize the online shopping and customer service experience. 

Brands continue to innovate ways to mirror in-store concierge-style services online with technology and data-informed customer service. Live chat is now a critical piece of the online shopping experience, giving companies a way to humanize their brand online and customers a way to engage with a brand in the moment. This type of consultative and conversational feeling or experience is commonly referred to as “conversational commerce.” 

With conversational commerce, retailers can reimagine the online shopping experience for their customers, allowing them to engage at critical moments in the buyer consideration and purchase decision journey. For example, you can implement live chat on product pages to let shoppers get answers immediately and proactively make product recommendations based on the customer’s previous purchases. In some cases, a live agent can also help the customer make a purchase directly within the dialogue via click-to-buy integrations.

Live chat is a two-way conversation communication channel that allows brands to offer a personalized, consultative online shopping experience. The engagement helps to improve customer service, personalization, and convenience – everything that typically facilitates moving customers quickly through the purchase funnel.

In summary, meeting the demands of the NOW Customer requires a combination of people, technology, and insights. Implement a blend of automation and human staffing, invest in technology that provides agents and assisted channels with the information needed to personalize service, and maximize the personal connections with customers by delivering a value-enhanced, exceptional experience.

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