How to deliver personalized service to your customers

Personalization has its roots in the abilities to gather, filter and sort information, and there are certain information-driven activities that deliver one or more of these benefits. To help you quickly identify and consider the possibilities, here are some of the most effective strategies to add value by acknowledging both the differences and similarities between people:

Combine: Merge information a person already has with that of others, to provide additional insights. For example, one researcher has studied the side effects of a certain drug, while another understands in detail the mechanisms that cause the drug to work. Together, these two bodies of knowledge have much greater value.

Compare: Show how prices, quality or specifications of one option match up to others. This type of comparison-shopping is already in great evidence online.

Connect: In most large companies, data exists in “silos.” Information about a customer or employee might exist in eight different databases, in different parts of the firm. Disconnected, this data can’t help the company or the stakeholder. Firms can connect this data, providing a more accurate picture of the firm’s interactions with that person. The flip side of this activity is that connecting previous disparate data removes a level of privacy and enables the company to learn things about a person that it was never able to deduce before.

Explain: Clarify how, when or why to use a product or service – or to perform a task – precisely when a person needs such help. People need easier-to-understand – and access – guidance about navigating new technologies, processes and challenges.

Find: Locate a person, product or service based on supplied specifications. This answers the question, “Who can give me what I need?”

Monitor: Track the status of events, news, or actions of others. While customized news and information is already popular online, most firms have barely scratched the surface of monitoring possibilities. For example, some day care centers now provide parents with Web access to video cameras that allow them to see what their children are doing at the center.

Recommend: Suggest a course of action based on historical data, the current environment, or predictive models. The greater the consequences of a bad decision, the greater the value of trustworthy recommendations.

Remember: Most people are still more frustrated about what companies forget about them, than what they remember. Firms can strengthen relationships simply by remembering what happened the last time they interacted with an individual, and not requiring the person to tell them the same thing twice.

Reveal: Highlight a pattern or conclusion that was not previously evident. By showing an employee non-obvious differences between the composition of their rejected versus their accepted proposals, a firm could simultaneously increase efficiency and reduce stress.

Sort: Change the order or grouping of information, making it easier for people to see patterns. Stop & Shop does this, by re-sorting consumer purchases every time a consumer chooses a different objective (i.e. low sodium vs. high fiber.)

Trigger: Prompt an action when certain criteria are met, such as the purchase of an item when its price falls below $150. This is the essence of the trusted agent concept, using computer-processing power to serve as a constant watchdog for the person’s interests.

The more literally a company 1.) uses a customer’s information to 2.) provide unique benefits to that customer, the more likely that personalization will influence a customer’s behavior. Most companies ignore or minimize this second step, which generally results in a program that doesn’t work as promised.