terrified woman

Customer experience personalization tips that won't spook your customers

CX Best Practices

There's no shortage of horror stories about emerging technology gone awry. There's been smart speakers that have started laughing at its users in an "eerie" manner; predictive technology that auto-completes sentences with "creepy" accuracy. And, let's not forget the popular conspiracy theory that smartphone microphones are being used to listen in on their owners' conversations — then using that intel to serve up more relevant ads.

Most people would say it's hard to make it through the day without getting the sense that companies are watching them from the shadows. When brands are intrusive or a little too on the mark with their messaging and ads, it reminds consumers that when using computers, mobile phones and the internet in general, they're providing them with a peek at their preferences and behaviors.

But when businesses get too personal with their customers, the effect can be a bit spooky.

In the spirit of Halloween, we're sharing our best practices for striking that delicate balance between helpful and eerie. Here's how to engage with consumers and personalize your brand experience without scaring your customers.

So much data it will give you goosebumps

Despite some concern around how their data will be used, consumers are increasingly willing to share personal information with brands. It's a value exchange: Provide some information, receive a better customer experience and more relevant marketing in return.

With loads of customer data within reach, it's easy for brands to make like a sugar-addicted trick-or-treater and get a little greedy. It can be hard to resist going 'door-to-door' to collect as much Halloween candy — or in this case, data — as possible.

Striking the right balance on data usage is important. According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of TELUS International, when a brand provides a more personalized customer experience, 76% of Americans are "more likely to complete a purchase," and 53% are more likely to pay a bit more for products and services. Meanwhile, companies that take a more personalized approach increase the likelihood that their customers will recommend them to others (70%). And Generation Zers — that is, consumers aged 18 to 22 — are often much more likely to complete a purchase, pay more and generate positive word of mouth when they know personalization will be used to improve their brand interaction.

But having access to loads of personal data ultimately requires brands to act responsibly and respectfully. A 2018 trend report from customer feedback management company, InMoment, found that 75% of consumers consider most forms of personalization to be "at least somewhat creepy". They used words like "intrusive" to describe some of their experiences, noting they disliked targeted ads and requests for information that were irrelevant to the actions they were taking online.

With this in mind, it's important to approach customer data with caution. There's immense value in using it to learn more about purchasing patterns and brand engagement, and consumers clearly appreciate seamless interactions that make their lives easier. Just don't cross the line by appearing too prescient, referencing information a customer didn't share with your brand directly or using photos of your customers' friends to sell them things.

Treat, don't trick, your customers

The purpose of personalization is to create a stronger bond between your brand and your customers while also increasing engagement. But if your customer feels as though you've tricked them into providing personal information, or are using it in a way they haven't approved, it's unlikely you'll meet those goals. In fact, those kinds of experiences are about as appetizing as stale candy corn and can do permanent damage to your brand.

There are, however, several strategies you can use to capitalize on data without leaving a bad taste in a customer's mouth.

Evaluate and leverage customer insights

Basing your customer communication strategy on information that's inaccurate, or that hasn't been vetted, can lead to a poor digital experience. To avoid this, conduct as much research on your audience, their behavior and their preferences as possible so you can start to see them as individuals rather than acquisitions.

Once you have a customer persona to work with, it's time to put some fundamental audience segments in place. By grouping consumers together based on location, similar interests and other commonalities, you can ensure you're better meeting their needs.

Lastly, use an analytics platform you can trust. Look for software with features like text and speech analytics so you can capture feedback across all channels alongside satisfaction ratings that allow you to measure and optimize your customers' perception of your brand experience.

Embrace privacy and transparency

Your customers shouldn't shudder at the thought of how your company handles their data privacy. That means your customer privacy policy should be readily available and easily accessible to anyone who wishes to investigate your approach to data. Consumers will be looking for evidence that you're committed to protecting their personal information.

The more transparent you are about your policy for collecting and applying customer data, the more likely consumers will be to trust your brand and volunteer their information. This goes a long way toward developing that customer-brand bond.

Reward loyalty

One of the advantages of having lots of accurate data at your disposal is that you'll be able to track your customers' loyalty. To strengthen their relationship with your brand, recognize and reward their repeat purchases and the valuable feedback their behavior provides.

When your customers complete a survey about their customer experience, enter their name into a draw for a gift card. Email your customers personalized follow-up messages after they've interacted with a contact center agent to demonstrate your appreciation for their business.

Personalized content and ever-evolving marketing and CRM technologies don't have to be scary. This year, keep your customers' point of view in mind and leave the spooky stuff to Halloween.

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