To be known as a unique individual, for who you are and not just a face in the crowd, is a great feeling. To stand out from the crowd by the sheer force of your personality is something that many people will not frown on. As human beings, most of us, if not all, love our unique identities. How do you feel when your name is forgotten by someone you expect to remember your name? Some people might even take offence.
Customers, human as they are, appreciate it if they are served as unique individuals rather than just another customer in the queue waiting to be served. The average customer does not want to be just an account number or a simple identification number. Customers want to be treated as the unique individuals that they are. This is why when a customer feels that a particular organisation is making efforts to personalise the service for him or her, that customer tends to become more loyal to the organisation.
It is however imperative to note that there can be no personalisation without an adequate store of knowledge about the customer. By its very definition, personalisation of the customer’s experience means the company must be in the position to respond to the range of different needs of different customers. Personalisation means one size does not fit all. And the only way the company can pull that off is to really know each single customer as well as possible.
Without a good knowledge of one’s customers, it becomes very difficult for organisations to provide the kind of personalised customer service that makes customers feel most valued. Personalisation means the customer is served the way he or she prefers to be served. The effect of this is a strong business-customer relationship that is not easily broken by the competition.
A good knowledge of the customer is one of the most valuable resources a business can possess. When put to good use, this knowledge can go a long way in earning the business a horde of such loyal customers that the business would not worry too much about marketing its products and services to new customers. Good knowledge of one’s customers puts a business heads above its customers.
The importance of having and putting customer information to good use were revealed in the results from the Second Annual State of Service: Insights and Trends From Over 2,600 Global Service Trailblazers from the staples of San Francisco, California-based cloud computing company, Salesforce. The study was carried out in September 2016 and involved exactly 2,636 fulltime service professionals in the U.S., Canada, U.K./Ireland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, and Australia/New Zealand.
The service professionals surveyed for the study were from business-to-consumer, business-to-business as well as from business-to-business-to-consumer companies. To ensure that they would be able to extrapolate the findings of the study, the researchers chose individuals from as adverse a number of industries as possible. Some of the industries that were represented include consumer products and retail, Financial services, Healthcare and life sciences, Professional services, Engineering, construction, real estate, Hospitality, travel, transportation, Manufacturing and wholesale, High tech, Communications, Automotive , Education, Energy, Media and entertainment, Agriculture and mining, Recreation and sports as well as individuals from the public sector.
According to the study as high as 69% of individual consumers as well as 82% of business buyers admitted that personalising the service or experience for the customer has “a major or moderate influence on their loyalty to companies.”
Collecting information about one’s customers does not have to be a fight. Even before the advent of the kind of advanced technology we have these days, smart business people were able to get to know their customers most intimately. The kenkey seller by the wayside, the palmwine seller under the huge tree in the village centre and the hunter all knew the individual preferences of their customers.
The reason is that by just interacting with customers an observant customer-handling professional will be able to glean as much personal information about that particular customer as possible. Customers tend to leave a lot of information about themselves in their wake. The problem is that those who handle them either do not care or they have just too many things on their mind.
In a conversation with a customer, he or she might make mention of a child who has to attend an event the next day. If the customer were to come back some time later, asking about that child will make the customer feel like you really care for him or her. This simple act in itself is a way of personalising the experience for the customer, especially if you were to add a small gift to be given to this said child.
It goes without saying that frontline employees are very important to collating the right information about the organisation’s customers. Being the conduit thorough which the organisation can gather useful information about its customers, customer-handling professionals must be well-trained.
Sometimes what makes customers feel that the service is being personalised is for the customer-handling professionals to just ask a few “personal” questions while serving the customer. However, it must be stated that in conversations with the customer, the service pro must ensure that the questions must not cross certain lines. The last thing you want is to pry into the customer’s private life. That could turn the customer off and cause you to lose the one.
In the times we live in and with the technology at our disposal, it is almost criminal not to leverage the right tools to gather enough customer information. Gone are the days when gathering in-depth customer data was left to only large organisations with the financial might to organise large-scale surveys and focus group discussions. Mobile phones have put the customer just a call away from the organisation. A friendly post-purchase call can open the customer up for the organisation to gather as much information from the customer as possible. Through the use of SMS and e-mails, customers can be contacted on a regular basis.
One of the most powerful technologies that organisations can readily use to gather that much information about customers is Social Media. The organisation does not have to do much. Just by following one’s customers on Facebook alone, one can harvest as much information as to write a whole book with. If the said customer is on other social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn then the quantum of information that is available could be used to fill a small library. On a regular basis, customers are always giving out information about themselves—and doing it for free. By choosing to follow the customer, the organisation is allowed into the customer’s thoughts.
Aside the obvious tools that can be used to glean adequate information about customers, there are more advanced tools that can help an organisation follow up on a customer’s browsing history to know the kinds of things that is of interest to that customer. There are software that can help find out the kinds of products and services that customer patronises online.
As people change, their tastes and preferences tend to change. What held yesterday might not necessarily hold today. The product-service offering that excited the customer last year might turn her off this year. Because knowledge keeps changing by the day, it is important that every single time the business comes into contact with the customer something new must be learnt about the individual or some old information must be confirmed or discarded.
The way the information is gathered, stored, shared and put to use is also very important to this discussion. Customer information alone is not enough. Something useful must be done with it. It must be used in giving the customer that unique experience. It does not pay if the information is sitting on some computer somewhere and the customer-handling employee is also sitting somewhere with no idea that the organisation has valuable information on that particular customer. It is only when the information is shared and put to good use that the organisation can be said to have taken advantage of the opportunity of having all that information about the customer.
In the day and age we find ourselves in, a small competitive advantage goes a long way. Thorough customer knowledge is a must. Every business that intends to stay in business for long and to make as much profit as possible must know what their customers need and what they want. They must know what the unique preferences of their customers are. They must go as far as knowing why their customers buy what they buy.
Benjamin Franklin was spot on when he said “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” He might have been referring to knowledge in general but for us in the world of customer service, that statement carries an added significance. Businesses that invest in obtaining correct in-depth information about their customers without violating the customer’s privacy are those that are sure to reap the rewards. “Know Your Customer” is not just a sweet mantra. It is actually good advice. The stats are there to back this.