Thank you for choosing to read my article on leveraging technology to balance scale and personalization. My name's Mary Poppen, I'm the Chief Customer Officer at Glint, now part of the LinkedIn family.
Balancing scale and personalization
The first thing I want to do is talk a little bit about what I mean by scale and personalization. Here is how I think about balancing the two.
Scale is ultimately about the people, processes, and systems that are driving the customer experience. How we're delivering for our customers.
The more efficient we can get in the way people deliver and how they deliver the systems and technology will really help us drive a more efficient, cost-effective delivery for our customers.
But at the same time, we want to focus on personalization. This is ultimately focusing on directly our customers’ individual needs and making sure as we deliver our products or services, we have their unique needs in mind.
This personalization will drive an amazing customer experience. It will help drive significant value to the customer because it's targeting their specific business outcomes and positive internal results for you and your business.
If we can balance the amount of scale we're putting in place with the amount of personalization we can offer our customers, then both a low touch and a high touch delivery model will each drive a significant customer experience and customer outcome.
I wanted to level set and keep that in mind as you go through this article.
I also want to share a favorite quote of mine, “When the customer comes first, the customer will last” from Robert Half.
What it reminds me of is something I like to call customer intimacy.
Customer intimacy is knowing your customers better than anyone else and being able to deliver what they need, when they need it, in the way that they want it, and ultimately, before they even know they need it.
This is really the key to delivering personalization and deep customer value. However, a key challenge for all of us is to balance this personalization with scale, so that your organization is able to deliver an amazing experience to customers but do so in an efficient and profitable way.
In this article, I'm going to focus on how you can prepare for the future now.
More about scale
The people, processes, and systems that are needed to deliver an amazing customer experience but to do so at a level that you can bring on lots and lots of customers at once.
Build the foundation
The first thing I think about when I think about scale is building the foundation. If you think of scale as a pyramid, the bottom layer is the foundation.
This is really where we determine the ideal customer journey. What does it take to deliver a wow experience for your product or service?
Try not to get caught up in what can work or can't work. Just lay out what the ideal experience would be.
From there, you can hire the right talent with the right skillset and knowledge to deliver on that experience and define some consistent and repeatable playbooks that will help the team build consistency, and help your customers with adoption.
Operationalize the function
Once you have the foundation set for scale, now you can start to operationalize the function. We move into the middle of the pyramid. This is really the opportunity to establish your key measures. What are your KPIs for success? To create some cross-functional visibility.
Giving your product, marketing, sales, engineering, a look at:
- What is the customer experience?
- What is the customer satisfaction with your product or service? And
- What value are you providing that customer?
That should be shared across every team. Creating an ongoing customer feedback and action loop.
In this stage, it's really important to make sure you've got multiple channels for customer feedback, and you're communicating with the customer on the action you're taking based on their feedback so they understand taking the time to give you feedback, its actually resulting in something positive and a change within the product or the service you're providing.
Ultimately, in this middle layer, it's a great time to implement critical systems for the CS function. Making sure your systems for support, for training, for measuring customer health are all systems that will meet your needs and can be integrated so this view of the customer can truly be a 360 view.
Drive a customer-first mindset
Finally, at the top of the pyramid, is really the ability to drive a customer-first mindset. Once you've built the foundation of the customer experience, and you have the right people in place to deliver that experience, you've got the systems and the measures and the visibility into the customer experience, you can now share that through the rest of the organization and help drive cross-functional accountability.
Because really, customer success is everyone's responsibility. Here's an opportunity as well to leverage all the data and insights you're collecting for an early warning system. Making sure you can start to predict some of the flags that either create significant positive value for the customer or potential churn risk.
Then, a bit more advanced opportunity in this stage is to create a customer community. Both online and live events are a great opportunity to build a customer-first mindset and to continue to deliver the scale you've established through the foundation operationalizing the function, you can now accelerate that scale at an advanced level by leveraging things like a customer community.
That is how I think about scale.
I want to talk a little bit about operational magic. I love the word magic. This is a little nod to the Harry Potter fans reading. I have someone on my team who helped me create these visuals and she's a big Harry Potter fan so I think it's very fitting.
But in thinking about what the future of CS and CX will look like, we need to consider there will be a significant amount of automation in computer intelligence to leverage for scale and personalization in parallel.
The human touch continues to evolve to activities that are increasingly more value-add for your customers. While the more tactical items are automated.
As we think about technology, you should continuously revisit your journey mapping to uncover areas where you can automate more of the experience while ensuring CSM has had the opportunity to play a more strategic role in the relationship.
Success plans can also be automated, such that key outcomes are flagged when they're off track and the CSM can take proactive action to partner with the customer to get back on track.
I'm going to talk a little bit more about what we can use advancements in technology for round success plans and playbooks later in the article.
Playbooks can also be automated to ensure CSMs are nudged to key points in the customer journey to add value such as when new product functionality is released.
Leveraging the journey map as the foundation for deliverables and measurement allows you to establish greater automation in the full journey. Well-defined success plans and playbooks lead to leverage new technology in a way that drives internal efficiency and greater customer value at the same time.
In addition, the technology can be used to summarize data and trends into insights the CSMs can proactively leverage and even better predict customer needs.
Speaking of prediction, the future of CS and CX is not that far away.
Future of CS/CX
Using your crystal ball for predicting customer needs, it's really not that far off into the future.
Centralizing customer data & leveraging AI
Centralizing customer data and leveraging AI to predict customer needs will mean a much more proactive and strategic role can be played by CSMs and customer intimacy which again, knowing your customers better than anyone else, and being able to deliver what they need when they need it in the way that they want it and ultimately, even before they know they need it will be even easier to achieve than it is today.
CSMs will have an opportunity to focus on delivering even greater customer value by leveraging individual customer insights to link customer business performance with the trends in the data.
Something really challenging to do today will become easier with technology, in that the linkage of usage of your product or service will be more easily tied to actual customer business outcomes.
Some outcomes can be generalized by industry or simply through the value prop of your product or service. But some outcomes can and should be specific to the customer. That's where the deeper customer value and personalization lies.
One of the things that are really difficult to do today is to capture all of the data and insights you have on a customer and combine that knowledge, correlate the data, and find those key insights. Data scientists are becoming more prevalent in CS, but their job is still really hard.
So a CSM could do this, but it would take a lot of manual work and a lot of time and they have to know the questions to ask and where to look. Data scientists who are focused on this might be more readily prepared to ask the right questions but they still have to find that data and information.
What AI is going to allow us to do is have the system, aggregate the data, and then tell us what the key insights are for our customers.
A future vision story
Imagine you're working with a large retail organization. Your product focuses on measuring customer satisfaction.
This customer has three years’ worth of customer satisfaction data and with an algorithm set to compare satisfaction trends with store location, store manager, employee engagement, and employee turnover you can understand specifically what is accounting for increases and decreases in customer satisfaction.
This allows you to guide your customer toward action that will have the biggest positive impact on customer satisfaction and ultimately drive greater revenue, increase brand awareness, and decrease employee turnover, etc.
This example of the power of AI applied to customer success shows how the CSM can leverage insights for this specific customer and is able to proactively recommend actions and changes that will help improve and increase results.
Having these insights and being able to guide the customer and their unique situation ensures the CSM is not just a vendor but a strategic trusted advisor and partner. This in turn leads to good for your own company, retention of this customer, a strong advocate and reference, and also growth via your other products, services, and offerings.
AI is helping accelerate the strategic imperative of CS
As a function in our team in organizations that are customer first, CS continues to evolve into a strategic imperative for businesses. At the same time, technological advances are helping accelerate this transformation.
I've talked with others in CS about the power of predictive insights for the last several years. But we've never been as close as we are now to being able to fully leverage this capability, without tons of manual work that is.
With robust customer success platforms focused on centralizing customer data, we're now in a better position to leverage AI for the power of predicting customer needs. A lot of legacy customer success software companies as well as startups are starting to invest more in this space.
What do I think is going to happen?
The five Ps to differentiated customer experience (CX)
I believe with these advancements in technology, particularly AI applied to customer data, organizations will be able to differentiate customer experience with five P's; playbooks that are predictive, prescriptive, proactive, and personalized.
Let's take a little bit deeper look at these areas.
Playbooks are really repeatable activities that drive consistency and scale. Within these playbooks, we're going to have the opportunity to be predictive, prescriptive, proactive, and personalized.
From a predictive perspective, we're going to be able to leverage insights that alert what customers are going to need. It's going to tell us what our customers are going to need in the future.
We're going to be able to be prescriptive with that information, how can our product or service fulfill those needs the customers will have?
Then it allows us to go to the customer early, even before the customer hopefully even thinks about it, getting back to customer intimacy, and provide guidance to them on what they can do to change or transform their results through the insights that we've gained and how our product or service can help them do that.
Then ultimately tying it to the personalized value, which is, what are their business outcomes going to be from leveraging these insights?
Once we have the ability to put all of these things together, combined, the five P's will drive amazing customer experiences at scale, allowing companies to wow their customers across all segments while maintaining healthy delivery margins.
It's really a win-win for customers and businesses.
So whether it's a high touch delivery or low touch delivery, these five P's will be able to be leveraged through the automation, the AI applied to customer data, as well as what the live people resources are going to be able to do to drive additional value, leveraging these insights and leveraging the automation in a way that the live interaction is an extension of the value of what the automated process can bring.
CS organizations that embrace this approach will differentiate themselves both internally in terms of key business results, as well as externally in terms of brand and customer loyalty.
I'm super excited about our future and our ability to balance scale and personalization to be able to predict and be prescriptive, proactive, and personalize the customer experience.