This article is based on a presentation given by Suyog at our virtual Customer Success Festival in 2023.
I'm Suyog Gandhi, Director of Customer Success at Salesforce, and it's my pleasure to delve into an exciting and essential topic - personalization.
As an AI enthusiast and a staunch advocate for customer success, I've had the opportunity to advise small companies and startups, primarily focusing on strategy and go-to-market planning.
In this article, I aim to unravel the concept of personalization. We'll explore what personalization truly means, understand why it's necessary, and dive into the strategies and approaches for achieving effective personalization. I'll also highlight the significant role of AI in crafting tailored customer journeys.
Emotional connections with brands through personalization
As we delve further into personalization, let's consider some familiar brands that we all know and love.
These brands span across various sectors - retail, enterprise tech, and more. What truly sets them apart isn't just the high quality of their products, but the emotional connection they establish with consumers through personalized experiences.
Take Google, for instance. It's far more than just a search engine. It's a custom-built highway, a gateway that leads you to a world of information, entertainment, and productivity tools, all designed to enhance your day-to-day life.
Similarly, Starbucks transcends the identity of just being a coffee shop. It offers a personalized experience for socializing, relaxation, and enjoying high-quality beverages in a cozy atmosphere.
Amazon, too, isn't just an online store; it's a personalized shopping haven, crafted to reduce your search time and bring products and services right to your fingertips.
Understanding customer psychology through cognitive biases
So, how did these companies manage to offer such exemplary personalized experiences? And more importantly, how can we emulate their success? The answer lies in understanding what customers want.
To achieve this, we must first dive deep into customer psychology. Let's explore the fundamentals of what our customers seek and how we can fulfill their desires through personalized experiences.
The psychology of our customers involves understanding cognitive biases. These biases are systemic errors in thinking that affect judgment and decision-making. While often perceived as harmful, they can be incredibly useful tools in personalizing customer experiences.
Cognitive biases in personalization
Let's explore a few cognitive biases and how they can enhance personalization:
- Cognitive load reduction: Personalization can significantly reduce cognitive load, making it easier for consumers to find what they're looking for. For example, consider the Netflix recommendation engine. It simplifies the process of finding movies, saving customers from browsing through the entire library.
- Confirmation bias: People tend to pay more attention to information that aligns with their existing beliefs. Personalization can leverage this bias effectively. Look at Amazon's recommendation engine – it suggests products based on consumers' past purchase history, tapping into their existing interests.
Emotional engagement through personalization
The key to successful personalization is forging an emotional connection with the customer. By showing consumers products and information that resonate with their interests and values, we can deepen their emotional engagement. This approach goes beyond just meeting needs; it's about aligning with the customer's identity and values, creating a more meaningful and lasting relationship.
The approach to effective personalization
The foundation of personalization lies in thoroughly understanding your customer. This is the first and most critical step. The next step is segmentation. By segmenting your customers, you can tailor your approach to meet their unique needs and preferences.
Utilizing appropriate tools and technology is essential for effective personalization. Aim to personalize each interaction with the customer to enhance their experience. Regularly monitor the effectiveness of your strategies and integrate user feedback into your process for continuous improvement.
Always keep customer privacy and security at the forefront of your personalization efforts. Understand that perfection is not achievable in the first attempt. Implement, learn, optimize, and repeat – this cycle is key to continuous improvement in personalization.
Evolution of personalization
Personalization has evolved significantly over time:
- Single message: We moved from a single message for everyone to segment-specific rule-based personalization.
- Rule based segmentation: Then we progress towards segmentation, rule based segmentation, and personalization for that segment
- Behavioral recommendations: We began tailoring recommendations based on individual customer behavior within each segment.
- Omni-channel optimization: Personalization extended across various channels – mobile, web, and others, offering a unified experience.
- Predictive personalization: Now, we're predicting customer behavior and preferences.
Looking ahead, the next step could be knowing what customers want before they do. This level of personalization aims to reduce customer cognitive load and anticipates their needs, driven by the right intentions. Achieving this requires strategic planning and innovative approaches across people, processes, and technology.
Operationalizing this level of personalization is not automatic. It demands a comprehensive strategy that effectively integrates all three elements: people, process, and technology. Let's explore how we can operationalize personalization to its fullest potential.
In our quest to achieve sophisticated personalization, data plays a central role. It's the bedrock upon which all our strategies and implementations are built.
The journey starts with the collection and cleansing of data. The quality of our final results hinges on how well we gather and organize this data. This involves leveraging various elements of our tech stack, such as CRM systems (like Salesforce), marketing tools (like Marketo), issue tracking systems (like JIRA), product management platforms (like Productboard), and customer success tools (like Gainsight, Tango, or Vitalii).
Once we've collected data from these diverse systems, we begin with straightforward reporting. These reports are created for different audiences, including individual customers, customer leadership, internal customer success managers (CSMs), organizational overviews, and cross-functional teams. The dual purposes of these dashboards are to assess the current health of our customers and our organization and to serve as a trigger point for further analytics.
By analyzing these reports, we can spot outliers and initiate lines of investigation. This is where our journey into deeper analysis begins.
Having laid the groundwork with data collection and preliminary reporting, the next crucial step is analysis. It's here where we begin to unearth valuable insights, understand trends, and identify opportunities for further personalization. This analysis is not just about looking at the data but interpreting it in a way that reveals the deeper needs and preferences of our customers.
Analytics is the stage where our personalization journey becomes particularly intriguing. Here, we uncover areas ripe for opportunity and improvement.
Through analytics, we can pinpoint problem areas and aspects that need enhancement. With a clear understanding of these areas, we can start devising strategies to address them.
As we implement these strategies, they feed into the cycle of value for customer success. This involves creating segment-based personalization plans that lead to significant and recurring value for customers. The goal is to achieve increased stickiness, higher loyalty, and better customer and product adoption. And then, we repeat the cycle.
Throughout this process, the emphasis is always on highlighting value to the customer. This approach is not just about solving problems but enhancing the overall experience and relationship with the customer.