Today’s business environment pushes tech and automation as the solutions to every problem, it seems.
But in this quest for ever-increasing efficiency, it’s easy to lose sight of a core business reality: Your customers are humans, and they still like to be treated as such.
Customer service departments certainly should leverage technology and work toward greater efficiency — but not in a way that frustrates and dehumanizes customers. Instead, businesses should work toward a tech-powered personalized customer service approach.
In this guide, learn what personalized customer service is and why it matters. Then we’ll give you eight simple ways to start providing more personalized customer service that you can implement right away.
What is personalized customer service?
Personalized customer service is tailoring your approaches to customer care based on specific information about individual customers, including where possible their anticipated wants and needs. This information can include their name, their purchase history, existing and past customer service or support tickets, and anything else that your business might already know about the customer.
Small and local businesses tend to have an easier time offering personalized customer service. Think of that local coffee shop or boutique retail outlet that sees regular, repeat traffic: Staff at stores like these tend to learn their customers’ names and preferences and can offer a level of service that big-box stores can’t match.
But digital-first or digital-only businesses and any business on a growth trajectory don’t have as easy a time creating consistently good personalized experiences.
Businesses like these need tech solutions to enable them to turn customer data into an elevated and personalized experience. They may have customer data already stored in their customer relationship management (CRM) software, but surfacing the right data at the right points in the customer journey remains elusive without the right tech tools.
Personalized customer service is the kind of thing that seems like an obvious right move — what business wouldn’t want to offer it? Delighting your customers by anticipating their needs has all sorts of follow-on benefits, from customer loyalty to customer engagement and more.
Yet, we all know from numerous personal encounters with airlines, warranty call centers, and maybe even healthcare providers that personalized customer service is far from universal. Many businesses have yet to find a way to successfully bring that personal touch, tailoring their efforts to the individual customer.
Why does personalized customer service matter?
Personalization matters because your customers are people. And people like to be treated like people.
That’s true whether your customer service and help desk teams are all human customer service agents or if you’re using some automation such as an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot.
Personalization, when implemented effectively, improves your efforts across the board, making both human and automated responses more, well, human.
One survey found that nearly 70% of people want to receive personalized communications (such as including their first names in email correspondence). Because that’s how people communicate with each other — by name!
Personalized communication (in the form of live chat, at least) is also much more prompt than most legacy methods. This matters because 90% of customers expect a near-instant response to questions, according to a HubSpot survey.
Personalization matters for another crucial reason: It works. As many as 80% of respondents to an Epsilon/GBH survey indicated they were more likely to make a purchase from a personalized offer than a non-personalized one.
So to sum up: Personalized customer experiences make your customers feel better about your brand, leading to better customer retention and higher sales. It’s an area that’s worth an investment for almost any business.
Benefits of personalized customer service
We’ve already mentioned a few of the benefits of a personalized customer service experience, including intangibles like better meeting customer expectations and more concrete factors like increased sales. Let’s look deeper at four specific benefits that make personalized service a best practice for ecommerce support.
Provides more impactful conversations with consumers
You want every customer service interaction to make an impact — the right kind of impact, of course. Personalization is one key to getting this right.
To be clear, a ho-hum, bare minimum, forgettable customer service interaction is better than a terrible one. But far more valuable is a customer service encounter that actively improves the customer’s opinion of your company.
A customer interaction that gets right to the problem almost immediately and resolves it quickly and professionally is one that makes an impact. Add in warm, personal touches, and you have a winning combination.
Raises customer satisfaction
No one likes yelling at a phone tree or IVR system. No one likes generic form emails that clearly didn’t take into account whatever they put in the ticket.
Approaches like these actively harm customer satisfaction, while personalization does the opposite.
Personalized customer service greets your customers quickly and personally. It also reduces the time to problem resolution because your customer service agents have better information at point of first contact.
By treating customers like the humans they are and solving their problems more quickly, personalized customer support inevitably raises customer satisfaction.
Leads to consistent business
When businesses improve their customer service efforts through personalization, they typically see an increase in sales. HubSpot found that 93% of customers were more likely to return as repeat customers at businesses they categorized as having excellent customer service.
And remember the survey we mentioned earlier? 80% of respondents say they’re more likely to click “buy” on a personalized offer.
Think about the size of your customer base. If you could make a small change that would cause 80 to 93 percent of that customer base to buy more, more often — that’d be a no-brainer, right?
Increases your volume of loyal customers
Take off your business hat for a moment and think about your own life as a consumer. When you need to contact customer service for something at home that’s having issues, what’s your immediate reaction?
It probably isn’t one of joy and excitement.
The truth is, we’ve all had plenty of terrible CS encounters. The bar for post-purchase customer support is set pretty low. And that — putting your business hat back on — gives you an opportunity.
By turning your business’s customer service strategy around through quality personalization, you have the opportunity to turn customer service into an asset that builds brand loyalty and creates more raving fans of your product or service.
It’s one reason why companies like Apple or Trader Joe’s or Subaru have such a devoted following. When you win customers through a better experience, you win more long-term customers.
8 simple ways to provide excellent personalized customer service
Providing excellent personalized customer service seems overwhelming — even impossible — for many businesses, especially during periods of rapid growth. It’s true that developing a comprehensive personalization strategy takes resources and effort, but there are all sorts of simple ways to start transitioning to a more personalized approach.
Check out these eight fairly simple ideas for creating a more personalized experience — and see if you can implement a few of them right away!
1) Provide proactive customer service, not reactive
Old-school customer service and support is almost universally reactive: You wait until the customer has a problem, and the customer must reach out to initiate the customer service encounter.
Thanks to new technology developments (or even just better planning), many businesses can now offer proactive customer service that anticipates when customers do or might need assistance. For example:
- Car dealers do this for scheduled maintenance like oil changes and tune-ups.
- Printer brands can sense (or predict) when users are low on ink and automatically initiate the reorder process.
- Web-based businesses employ an automatic chatbot on the homepage for the same reason.
This last example is perhaps the most interesting: Customers are coming to your site for some reason or another. A proactive greeting that says “Can I help you solve your problem?” feels infinitely more personal than forcing the user to comb the website and find the right contact information.
For more on the differences between proactive and reactive customer service, check out our full article on the topic.
2) Greet customers by their first names
There’s a reason that car salespeople learn prospective customers’ first names within the first few seconds of an encounter and then use that first name seemingly every other sentence. It’s a science-backed approach that builds trust and familiarity. People like hearing their own names and feel a closer connection with the person using them.
Whatever way you’re interacting with your customers, you likely have access to their first names. Throughout your communication channels, use these first names! Train your CSRs and your chatbots and your email marketing team to use first names consistently wherever it’s contextually appropriate to do so.
This is likely the easiest way to add personalization at multiple touchpoints and even across an omnichannel service approach.
We recommend using templates for email (and other channels). But only if your customer service platform allows for dynamic templates that can automatically include the customer’s first name. Efficient for you, personalized for your customers.
3) Have open lines of communication and ask for feedback
Customer feedback can be an important tool for your customer service team, and you’ll get better quality feedback if you make it easy for your customers to provide it.
Some businesses seem to make it as difficult as possible to reach customer service, which inevitably causes consumers to be agitated when they finally do reach a human agent.
Instead of this, take an approach where customers can easily reach you over multiple channels (omnichannel approach), each with open lines of communication.
4) Make sure you understand your audience
As you work to further customize your approach, refine the way you use data and customer engagement platforms so that you continue improving how well you understand your audience — what they want, what they’re asking for, and more.
Whether it’s a human agent relying too heavily on scripts or a chatbot doing essentially the same thing, nothing destroys your personalization efforts than a customer service message that badly misses the mark. There’s nothing more frustrating for the end user than when they clearly explain a problem, only to have an agent fire back a message that has nothing to do with the question asked.
Analyzing data from your CRM can help you identify trends and common issues. This data can help you find common questions that are better handled via a FAQ or knowledge base, saving your CS teams and your customers time.
5) Utilize new technologies and tools
Personalization at scale requires the use of the right new technologies and tools to keep your customer data centralized and accessible and to answer their questions consistently and with that human touch.
Gorgias is an all-in-one platform for ecommerce merchants looking to improve their customer service and helpdesk functions, from automated chatbots to customer self-service. It’s the perfect place for DTC ecommerce brands to start scaling their personalization efforts and drive more revenue.
See Gorgias for yourself — sign up for free today.
6) Provide your customers with choices
Not every customer wants to interact with your brand or CS team in the same ways, so it’s important to give them choices. Some want to go directly to your-brand-dot-com and talk to the chatbot on the main page. Some will close that bot out instantly and start hunting for a FAQ or even a phone number.
Worse, some will skip your site entirely and put you on blast via one or more social channels.
Since we know customers are going to do this, go ahead and proactively give them those choices. But keep communication clear and streamlined so that the choices don’t become overwhelming.
7) Be as human as possible
Customers appreciate hearing their first names and getting their answers quickly, but foundational to all of this is simply being human (or as human as possible). Human agents and chatbots alike can be robotic, stiff, and detached — or they can be warm and empathetic.
Invest in getting your staff and systems communicating as humanly and empathetically as possible. Your customers will notice.
8) Respect customers’ privacy
Personalized customer service is only possible (ethically and even legally) when customers agree to share data. Make sure you’re handling this properly, and then further respect your customers’ privacy by keeping their data secure.
Deliver world-class personalized customer service faster than ever with Gorgias
Personalized customer service may feel like it’s too complex to get right or just out of reach for your business, but we’ve given you several easy-to-implement steps that can get you heading in the right direction.
If you’re ready to move more aggressively into personalized customer service, you need the right tech tools, including Gorgias.
Gorgias empowers ecommerce businesses to deliver world-class personalized customer service and helpdesk services faster than ever. See how right now — sign up for free to get started.