Customer Experience News & Trends

The problems with personalization – and how to avoid them

Personalization is the talk of the town in the customer experience industry. But it has its limits and drawbacks, new research shows. 

No doubt, customers like personalization. They want to feel that the companies they do business with and the employees they interact with know them and their preferences.

But too much, too little or the wrong kind of personalization can have damaging effects on customer relationships, according to the Convergys CX Insight Report on Personalization Research.

Here’s where things go wrong:

Too much

  • Information overload. Customer service pros who know and share too much about customers and their history or preferences are borderline off-putting. Sure, customers share personal information over time. And it’s important to note preferences and track order history. But detailing all of that back to customers is personalization gone overboard.
  • Suggestion overload. Some companies use their customer data as a basis for product and service recommendations. A periodic suggestion is OK, but customers don’t want to be bombarded with items similar to what they have every time they’re on your site or talking with a service pro.

Too little

  • Technology recognition. Asking customers to give phone or account numbers so you can identify them, then responding with more automated service geared toward them doesn’t equate personalized service. Customers still want a personal touch.

The wrong focus

  • The name game. Many companies encourage service pros to use customers’ names often as their top form of personalization — and the effort doesn’t impress customers anymore. Less than 10% of customers find that hearing their names is important to the experience.
  • Chit chat. While a word about a past order, the weather or local event can build rapport, it doesn’t add to the personalization of an experience, researchers say.

What customers really want

“In customer care, personalization should be about making attempts to establish an authentic, timely, and mutually beneficial connection with a customer based on what is known about their individual needs and preferences,” Convergys researchers said.

“Personalization doesn’t matter if the issue is not resolved. Personalization improves an interaction if it makes a customer feel valued,” according to researchers. “Personalization can backfire if it gets too personal or adds time to the call.”

Here’s what customers said are the five most important elements to a personalized experience.

You’ll see that they’re geared toward how the service professional relates to the customer, rather than specific, perhaps scripted, words or actions.

  1. Clearly explains the solution or answer. This is the ultimate sign that a company and its employees have listened to and understand customers.
  2. Acknowledges the situation and is sincere in the response to it. Empathy is mostly about responding to customers’ emotions. Employees want to recognize the situation and acknowledge the emotions customers feel.
  3. Shows urgency in resolving the issue. When employees tell customers, “I want to get this resolved for you right away,” they can express urgency whether the matter is urgent or not. It tells customers that they’re worth the immediate attention.
  4. Gives the next steps and/or a timeline. When things can’t be resolved immediately, customers are assuaged just knowing what will happen next and when.
  5. Restates the issues and uses in layman’s terms. Skip the jargon and $10 words. Customers want to hear that you’re on the same page as them.

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