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customer experience
Vanessa Hamilton
  • By Vanessa Hamilton
  • Apr 17 2014

Big Data can make a difference, but it’s people who make the REAL difference

There's no doubt that personalisation through BIG Data is one of the hottest topics around. For many brands now, the Holy Grail to customer loyalty is 'highly targeted content, presented at the right time, to the right customers, via the right platform'.

According to research from Celebrus and Teradata, 80% of brands that responded to their survey see personalisation as key to their marketing success over the next two years and 78% plan to use real-time data in their multi-channel customer experience in the future. Katharine Hulls, VP Marketing, Celebrus Technologies, sums it up:

“The ‘always-on, always-connected’ consumers of today are demanding more engaging and relevant content from brands and organisations. They expect to be communicated with as an individual - and organisations that fall short of this are missing a key component of their customer engagement.”

Image: Bryan Cook
Image: Bryan Cook

But just what is the missing component?

This focus on integrating technologies to maximise data collection and analytics overlooks one of the most important elements in customer experience: the role played by people in building emotional connections and loyalty to a brand.

Think of the most memorable experiences you’ve had of a brand. Think of those WOW moments you tell everybody about. Chances are that it was a person that made the difference - not a pop-up ad. It’s not what messages a brand sends you (or when they send them, or via what device) that make the difference – it’s how it makes you feel.

So-called personalized messages mean little if they’re followed by an impersonal, robotic script. Chummy greetings irritate rather than inspire when introduced to a buffet of items you might like to buy!

A bit less personalization and a bit more personal

A customer experience programme should focus on how your people bring your brand to life for customers and how their ‘branded’ actions and behaviours make your customers feel about your company and what it stands for.

Yet customer experience is often something designed in head office with little input from front-line operators. Something of a dichotomy when you consider that front line staff are the closest to your customers in every sense. They are better placed than anyone else in your organisation to hear what customers need, expect and value from your brand.

One of the the best ways to engage and inspire your people around customer experience is through branded experience training

We have a saying: ‘vanilla training produces vanilla service’. So if you want your people to deliver a meaningful and valuable experience for your customers – one that differentiates your brand from your competitors and drives customer loyalty – you have to create that same experience for them. Here’s a quick sum-up of how to develop a branded training experience:

  • Base your skills training on what customers expect and value from your brand, not on what you think they want or on generic ‘off the shelf’ customer service skills.
  • Engage your people in defining and designing the skills and knowledge needed to deliver your brand – they are the experts on customer interactions.
  • Think about how will you sustain focus, maintain momentum, motivate performance and recognise and reward your people for delivering your brand.
  • Involve managers in ‘owning’ and supporting success – they are ultimately accountable for the customer experience in their shop, branch, bank, site, hotel and they create the conditions for success through their leadership attitude and behaviours.
  • Remember your front-line people are experienced adults. You need to appeal to their heads, hearts and hands. In other words, your customer experience programme needs to answer these questions:

Why are we doing this?

How it will benefit me and our company?

What do you want me to do additionally or differently?

  • Empower your people with the information and authority to make decisions, and take action, for customers – and support them when they do.
  • Integrate the branded behaviours into every touchpoint of the employee experience, so you’re hiring, developing, involving and recognising people who live your brand.

We’re not saying that data isn’t important. It’s essential to keep learning about your customers, their preferences and what’s important to them. It’s what you do with that data that matters. Personalized marketing shouldn’t be at the expense of genuine human engagement that shows - not tells - your customers how valued they are.

Engaging, involving and empowering your people to bring your brand to life will inspire them to deliver a customer experience that will differentiate your brand. Ultimately, this is what will make your organisation stand out in the crowded marketplace where everyone else is busy crunching numbers.

© Smith+Co - the customer experience consultancy

Vanessa Hamilton is our expert in helping organisations bring their brand to life through enabling their people to create a differentiated experience. See more

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