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Personalization is a powerful tool for customer experience management (CEM). Used correctly, it helps companies deliver the right message to the right audience through the right channel (and device) at the right time. Used incorrectly, however, it can carry equally negative consequences as well. Much of my own research covers what happens when businesses get tactics like personalization right for CEM, but what happens when personalization goes wrong?

In Aberdeen’s State of the CEM Market: It’s all About Better Use of Customer Data study, we found that only 32% of companies today have the ability to personalize customer offers based on historical and real-time customer data. Despite these early stage adoption levels, our study Customer Analytics: Converting Data into Insight for Superior Customer Experiences  indicates that companies that do personalize their customer messages successfully grow client engagement results as well  annual company revenue, customer retention rates, and cross-sell and up-sell revenue. What follows, however, is not a success story. It’s a sobering example of what happens when personalization tactics are implemented improperly.

The Marketing Backstory

The story for the offending company, a mutual-insurance company based in the U.S. (we’ll call them Acme Inc.), actually started as an example of a company delivering what I initially believed to be a well-targeted customer engagement campaign. At the time, my car insurance was soon to be up for renewal, and I had been insured under a different provider. During that relevant period of time, I received a letter from Acme Inc. reminding me that the renewal time has come for my policy, and providing me with a personalized offer (with a special invitation number) recommending that I call to get a quote — and ultimately become a new client.

As a consumer living in the era of customer empowerment, I wanted to do my homework and learn about my options before renewing my service. I called Acme, and provided the necessary information to an agent to get a quote. Up to this point, Acme’s personalization had paid off. I had progressed in the buyer’s journey form general discovery to active consideration.

The Failure in Fulfillment:

After a few minutes on the call, though, everything fell apart. The agent told me that due to a minor incident (I may have rolled at 5 mph through a stop sign) several years ago, the company wouldn’t provide insurance coverage to me. Instead, I was recommended to contact Acme Inc. in 2016 to be qualified to receive their services then. Startled with the answer, I asked why the company sent a personalized letter with a special invitation number to get my business. Their reply, to paraphrase, was: “We just send it. Not every offer is meant for the recipient.”

This meant that the messages Acme’s marketing team had been delivering were not synchronized with the activities of their customer care team or their sales team.  While many companies strive to personalize customer interactions, many, like Acme, miss an important point: consistency in customer messages is just as important as personalization. In fact, the ability to deliver consistent messages across multiple touch-points was cited among the top two pressures companies face within our CEM study.

The Implications of Poor Personalization Tactics:

On the call, my immediate reaction was to tell the Acme Inc. contact center agent that they had spent unnecessary resources mailing me an offer that the company wouldn’t deliver on. I also requested that the company remove me from their marketing campaign list until their offers could be executed. For Acme Inc., this disconnect between their marketing and customer-facing business units not only cost the company a customer, but also, valuable call center agent time along with the costs of the campaign itself.

How to Avoid Personalization Problems:

If your company is struggling to provide consistent messages across multiple touch-points, or if feedback captured as part of your voice of the customer (VoC) programs shows similar inconsistencies, start using the below activities to overcome this challenge:

  • Train employees to use existing technology tools such as customer relationship management (CRM), ERP, and internal collaboration and communications to facilitate information exchange between different business units
  • Integrate enterprise systems that capture and store customer data to establish a 360-degree view of the customer across the entire business
  • Capture VoC data, and use it in conjunction with analytical tools such as business intelligence to determine trends and correlations indicative of inconsistencies in messages delivered across multiple channels

For further insights and recommendations to avoid customer experience issues similar to Acme Inc., download my free Omni-Channel Customer Care report.

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