Digitalisation and Personalisation at face value are opposing forces

Read time: 3 minutes

Most organisations have spent thousands, if not millions, of dollars in the pursuit of using digital tools to achieve more profound levels of personalisation.

Given our conversations with nearly every business we talk to, most have failed.

How many times have you heard that digitisation is the answer to personalisation?

However, digitalisation and personalisation at face value are opposing forces. The former tries to remove the human touch and utilise technology to make time-consuming processes efficient. On the other hand, the latter is all about human connection, even if it means pursuing time-consuming activities.

Understandably, the business world desires the efficient blending of the two concepts. In reality, most often, we are left with a robotic nicety.

I was reminded of this recently when my father passed away. Following his death, we reached out to his mobile phone provider to discontinue the service. My mother typed into the online chat box that she requested to stop the service due to her husband dying the day before. The auto-response outlined what we needed to do, and while we waited, it then asked if we would like to keep the service and allow another family member to use it instead. Given the known circumstances, the audacity to upsell was simply unnecessary and insulting. The provider then wished my mother “a nice day".

It left a sour taste in our mouths because it was clearly not a good day. Finally, the thing that really got me was that we were sent an email confirming the discontinuation of service titled "sorry to see you go". Not as sorry as we were! The lack of sensitivity was off-putting, to put it nicely.

I'm not using this platform as an opportunity to take aim at that company, in particular, but rather show how some of the most prominent organisations still get the basics so very wrong, all in the name of personalisation.

What is a personalised experience?

The main issue businesses have is defining what personalisation means. It is impossible to define it abstractly because it needs to be defined in the context of your customer's needs. Otherwise, you’ll not be able to offer the highly sort after experience you are seeking to deliver.

Let's take a logistics company, for example. They conduct customer research and find out that their customers need to know exactly when their parcel is coming. Customers typically want to know where the package is, an estimated arrival time and then an exact date and time with a few days' notice.

A personalised experience would be sending text and email updates to the customer with regular updates but also including an option to opt-out of notifications, a way to contact the courier and leave the parcel in a designated spot on the property.

So how do you deliver a personalised experience?

1. Understand the context

Technology is not the shortcoming when personalising communication or customer preferences. Missing context is. 95%+ of all businesses never invest the time to understand the context of their customer's needs. It would be best if you spent time understanding the different emotional states of your customers. Because often, the emotional state of customers makes an enormous difference in how you deliver your service experience. Sending my mother an email titled “Sorry to see you go!” on my father's passing is one of those examples.

2. Be specific

I have lost count of how many times we have reviewed a Big Four Consulting Report, which told our clients that "customers value personalisation". That's not an insight; that's a statement of the bleeding obvious. Worse, they paid $500,000+ for the privilege and were still trying to understand what their customers wanted.

Be wary of obvious statements masquerading as insights.

The customer insights you draw from your research need to be more detailed…granular. You need to understand exactly what customers value and how you can provide it.

3. Make it flexible

Only some customers are going to fit neatly into your ideal customer journey.

Customers need opportunities to dip out of the mainstream path and seek help using an alternative path. My mother, for example, would have benefited from the company picking up on the keyword "death" and taking her down an alternative, more sympathetic digital customer experience journey. This could be as simple as not sending upsell emails following a disconnection or not asking for customer feedback whilst undergoing the process.

This is not a unique case either. Millions of people are unfortunately faced with experiences like this every day. The business realm needs to be dynamic and not try and push customers down the same path if t doesn't make sense to them.

Let's end robotic nicety and create genuine personal customer experiences in the digital age.

I hope that was helpful.

Catch you next week.

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