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Creating a fully personalised customer experience

We’re living in a world dominated by connected devices and one where consumers are not afraid to use them and more importantly can afford them. This new world and new way of thinking and interacting is putting extra pressure on brands to deliver superior, quicker and more seamless personalised customer experiences. Traditional ways of marketing and working simply won’t cut it if you want to stay ahead and deliver the expected experience consumers demand. But what does this look like?   

Improving the customer's experience is a top priority for many businesses, yet a study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service.

Traditional ways of working are slowing down progress

Many companies still fall into the trap of keeping marketing, design and tech teams in silos. This way of working causes a huge amount of waste. Marketing and designers create new concepts, which receive approval ‘from above’ to progress. Sometimes this approval happens without any user testing or validation that customers will use it. The approved idea gets handed over the wall to the digital and technology teams to build. At which point, the realisation hits that this new concept is going to cost vastly more than has been budgeted for. This either ends with a mediocre experience delivered to the customer or the project simply goes to waste and never sees the light of day.
There is then the other side where a new, innovative product is created inside the tech and digital teams and marketing is not brought along for the journey or brought in too late. This can then lead to inefficient budgets being allocated to market the product, or the tech team not considering the customer and creating a great digital product without testing it on the customer. This results in a poor customer experience which leads to the demise of the product, which then frustrates the marketing teams.
Businesses need to break down the siloes between marketing, design, and technology. They need to work together and place the customer at the centre of everything. A new idea needs to be quickly tested on customers, and this information needs to feed back into the teams, allowing them to quickly pivot and develop a better experience. Marketing teams need to understand and embrace low-fi prototypes before demanding highly polished designs. It costs $1 to fix a design on paper but $10 to fix it in photoshop or development.
Businesses also need to remove the fear of not speaking to the customer. We can’t assume what the customer wants and thinks, and equally, customers don’t always know what they want. This is why we need to put ideas in front of them early and get feedback. Businesses need to break down the fear of speaking to and testing on customers.

Having a broad and deep understanding

To truly create a personalised customer experience we first need to understand the customer journey and pain points across all the touch-points. Creating a service design blueprint allows you to see the interactions, happy moments and paint points across the full journey. It allows you to map gaps in your process as it touches on all the customer touch points. More importantly, a service design map also maps the various systems from which the information is coming.
This process helps bridge the gap between marketing and digital teams.  Suddenly everyone has a high-level understanding of the potential technical complexities and the customer pain points, and everyone has empathy for each other’s teams. A service design blueprint allows the business to focus on which area to priorities first.
Large organisations may need to go a little deeper and create an integration blueprint which maps the deeper complexities of systems that are relied upon to deliver the right thing to the customer. Having this understanding allows teams to give a better estimate on how much a new digital product or improving an existing pain point could cost. Thus resulting in the right budgets being applied when the project is kicked off.

Combine empathy and data

Those that combine customer empathy, data and technology will be able to deliver highly personalised experiences. With any improvement in the customer journey, we need to have a great understanding of who we are designing for. Face to face customer testing, and in-situ feedback will always deliver great insights and allows us to improve the product we are creating. Incorporating this with data and technology that has been built to respond quickly allows us to quickly adapt a message or interaction to deliver a better and more personalised experience.
Using correlation and location-based data, including the path to purchase or non-purchase and promotion conversion rates along with other rich sources of customer data such as purchase patterns and demographics, enables businesses to identify and selectively trigger the ‘next step’ with individual customers, potentially at the very moment they are making a decision to purchase. Couple this with empathy and customer-centred design and you can create not only personal but very powerful customer experiences.

Create the moments that matter with context-aware technology

Having more empowered customers that demand transparency is driving the increasing demand for ‘the moments that matter’. With a world full of so much choice, customers no longer want to have irrelevant products served up to them; they want to be given products and services that matter to them when they need them. Consumers no longer want to repeat personal information that they expect brands to know throughout their customer journey and decision-making process.  To meet this demand will require more than just making a new digital product or improving some pain points for customers. It requires businesses to think and work differently, customer experience design and technology will need to be placed at the centre, new platforms will need to be designed, and legacy systems will need to be wrangled with.

It may sound challenging, but it is possible. Disney had the vision to create a seamless and personal customer experience, and by fusing customer experience and technology together, they have managed to remove an amazing amount of friction from the customer journey with their MagicBands. There is no need to rent a car, waste time at the baggage carousel or explain to the waiter who you are and what you want to eat. Through understanding who their customers are and the use of technology, Disney is able to deliver the right thing to you when you need it, all through the use of a simple wristband. For the customer it’s a seamless experience, for Disney, it’s thousands of sensors talking to the MagicBand, and 100’s of systems linked together to create MyMagicPlus which has turned the park into a giant computer—streaming real-time data about where guests are, what they’re doing, and what they want. It’s designed to anticipate your desires.

Place the customer at the centre of new tech

When embracing new technology to enhance the personal experience of our customers, we still need to place the customer at the centre. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of embracing a new trend and forgetting why we are doing it, what it offers the customer, which problem it solves for them, whether it enhances or hinders their experience, where it fits into the broader ecosystem of customer touchpoints and what value it will ultimately deliver back to the business? We need to consider all these elements when adopting a new form of technology.
Chatbots and AI are some of the latest innovations getting brands excited, but like any technology, we need to use it to enhance a customer's experience. For example, a chatbot should not be used to replace every interaction; sometimes customers just need to speak to someone! For those interactions where a chatbot can be used, we need to ensure that empathy and human centred design is still held core to the design.  The chatbot needs to use a language that engages the customer in a way that they understand, it needs to quickly know when to direct the customer to human help to avoid frustration, and it needs to avoid the user having to type unnecessary information where a simple button will create a quicker interaction.     
Immersive and sensory-based technology can add to the personal buying experience for customers and allow them to create and experience their luxury goods. This solution won’t work for every brand, but for Jaguar it allowed customers to experience their own Jaguar or Land Rover model. The consumer controls what they see and hear through an iPad and Microsoft Kinect sensory technology and can choose the model, make, colour and features of a car. The experience also allows consumers to get into the car to check out interior features with a 360-degree view and to make real-time changes.
For brands to truly create the personalised customer experience and ensure their brand is not only meeting customer's expectations for today but is predicting what their next move will be tomorrow, business structures and ways of working need to change. Customer Experience Design and technology need to be at the centre of the business. Marketing and Technology teams need to work together with designers acting as the glue between the two teams to ensure the customer is always given a voice, the interaction is intuitive, seamless and a customer problem is being sold. 

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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