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The top personalisation slip-ups and how to avoid them

In the first blog in this series, I discussed what made personalisation such a popular topic in marketing and customer experience circles, alongside some stats that helped us understand its popularity and the level of investment in it (in a nutshell: customers will behave more favourably towards your brand). 

I also highlighted that one of the reasons personalisation is such a hot topic is because, while people love the idea, their minds usually think of failed personalisation, and they struggle to remember when it’s been done well. 

The fact is, when a company attempts to personalise, it’s more likely to fail than succeed, and this can often be an embarrassing blunder. 

As personalisation is such a hot topic, several sources looked at what it means to get it wrong: 

  • 41% stopped dealing with a company because of poor personalisation as well as a lack of trust (Accenture) 
  • 80% of brands are likely to give up on personalisation by 2025 (Gartner) 
  • Only 20% of organisations are effective at personalising at scale (Forrester). 

Not everything is doom and gloom though. Salesforce highlights that 53% of customers are more than happy to share their personal data if they receive personalised treatment. This tells us that despite a move towards more privacy in recent years, the appetite is most definitely there. 

Collecting data is only one part of the puzzle. Being able to retrieve it across legacy systems and combine it into a readable, useable and accessible format is where it often gets painful. It is far too common for legacy systems to get in the way, for you to get all the information you need from across the organisation but with systems that don’t talk to each other.  

In fact, Gartner estimates that this is the main challenge for 27% of personalisation hopefuls and remains a hurdle for organisations large and small to overcome.  

Even when the data is right, things can still go wrong. 

Fail: messing it up on table stakes? 

Including someone’s name in the conversation is the obvious starting point. 

Now, in the contact centre, your agent will be smart enough to avoid saying ‘Hi [customer.first.name], how may I help you today?,’ but they can still get it wrong. 

There are two challenges when using people’s names in the contact centre. 

  1. Mispronouncing names  

Your agent may come across a name they’d struggle to pronounce, but getting it right is crucial to build rapport and show consideration upfront. 

Some agents tactfully start their greetings with ‘I apologise if I get it wrong but is this how it is pronounced?’ and I can tell you, as someone who gets their name mispronounced constantly, I appreciate this consideration. 

Now, if I tell you how to say Gustavo and you call me 5 different names during the call, I won’t be pleased (no, I do not respond to Gustav, Gostof, Gaurav or Augusto). As a matter of fact, the unnatural overuse of someone’s name is the other failure in this context.  

2. Repetition ad nauseam 

Hearing your name may generate some dopamine, but it needs to feel natural rather than forced or scripted, as the person on the other end of the phone can instinctively feel it.  

‘Gustavo, I hear the problem you are facing Gustavo and I want to make sure we solve it for you Gustavo. Am I okay to put you on hold for 4 minutes while I investigate Gustavo? Thank you Gustavo I appreciate that’ (an actual conversation I had a few weeks ago). 

This isn’t particularly sweet to hear and sometimes it actually annoys me to have my name said so many times (and extra penalty points if you manage to mispronounce my name too). 

Adding someone’s name to your conversations, doing it naturally and without excess is a basic requirement, yet one that is extremely easy to get wrong. Ensure your script and training do not let you down. 

Fail: Not taking context into account 

Data and past interactions can often offer your agents valuable context. 

If you see that the person called three times the previous week, are you going to treat them as a repeat caller and try and understand what the conversations were, or are you going to just follow your core script and ask them about their issue, as if it was the first time they’ve reached out? 

As a customer, you know what you’d like to be done, but is that how your organisation acts? 

Giving your agent the relevant data isn’t enough. Training, trusting and empowering them to use that data to tailor the conversation is a significant step in the right direction and will go a long way to having your customer feel like you care, instead of letting them think you see them as a walking wallet.  

Fail: Using the wrong data 

You can get things spectacularly wrong if you use incorrect information to make your decisions. Beyond the classic ‘recommended for you’ email full of products you would never consider buying, there are several more noteworthy examples. Amongst the most famous ones, we have Pinterest congratulating single women on their wedding, or Adidas sending an email to some of their customers with the headline ‘Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon’ (yes, the one that suffered a bombing attack in 2013).  

While these are grotesque marketing fails, embarrassment can also easily happen in the contact centre. 

If you want to personalise, make triple sure that the data you have actually measures what you think it measures and that it is of decent quality, or prepare yourself for a fiasco.  

Fail: Going too far 

Sometimes, the use of data can become borderline creepy, as Charles Duhigg highlighted in his hugely successful book The Power of Habits. 

He shares the tale of US retail giant Target who became so advanced in their analytics, they were able to predict when a woman was pregnant before she even had the opportunity to tell anyone about it! All of this was purely based on their shopping patterns. They then used that information to send tailored coupons to these shoppers through the mail. As you might imagine, this was not well received by customers. Some felt it was extremely intrusive of them (how could they know that?!) while others discovered their teenage daughter was pregnant. 

Knowing something about your customer does not mean you should use it in your interactions with them. Some avenues are best avoided – your customer might not want to know what you know about them. 

Do not improvise! 

When thinking about customer experience, there are two sides to the personalisation coin. When done right, it unlocks increased loyalty and engagement with your customers. Get it wrong and customers will not be so kind to forgive, you risk losing their trust, and may even reconsider doing business with you. 

Personalisation isn’t something you should attempt on your own. Instead, play it safe and bring in experts such as Premier CX to support you on that journey. 

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Premier CX is a creative agency specialising in contact centres. Our award-winning team works with some of the UK's most successful brands.

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