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Optimizing Personalized Customer Experiences While Protecting Customer Data

Companies who can deliver the most satisfying customer experiences will win in today’s hyper-competitive business landscape. And the best customer experiences (CX) are the result of careful and exhaustive data gathering and analysis of preferences, behaviors, feedback, and engagement. The percentage of B2B companies that consider CX an integral part of company culture has grown from 3% in 2015 to 86% today.

The goal of every company must be consistent CX across products, services, and channels, with maximum speed and minimal friction at every touch point. The best way to achieve this goal is with a dedicated team exclusively focused on the customer. Dedicated CX teams not only work to improve the CX at every touchpoint (and continually increase levels of personalization) but also collaborate with internal teams that affect the CX, from Sales and Marketing, to Operations, and Engineering. 

Personalization: The New Table Stakes

There is no question that personalization is important for sales and brand reputation, and no shortage of statistics to support the value of a personalized approach. For example:

  • 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase when brands offer experiences personalized to them.
  • 40% of consumers are more likely to spend more than they had planned when experiences are highly personalized to them.

Personalization is no longer a “nice to have” but an expectation of customers. It’s so important that 71% now expect personalization in their CX. For businesses, strong CX organizations enable companies to stay nimble and be more responsive to their customers.

While most research into personalization has concentrated on B2C marketing, we’re seeing the same demands for stellar experiences with B2B customers, who attach an equally high value to information tailored to their business needs and their own innovation.  

Whatever the market, one rule is universal: the more customer data, the more effective the personalization. Internal databases can provide significant personalization data, such as purchase history, which can be a key to proposing effective cross- and up-sells. Third-party databases can provide useful enhancements to the customer data you already own including interests, brand loyalties, and demographic information. Finally, real-time factors such as geolocation or even the weather can prove valuable on the front end of a sales opportunity. 

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Security Is Critical

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The data that drives sales and helps build long-term relationships is extremely valuable, but it comes with important security responsibilities that, if ignored, can result in lost customer confidence and even steep fines.  All personally identifiable information (PII) must be secured, both to protect customer privacy and to ensure regulatory compliance. New regulations have emerged in the past few years that take privacy concerns to new levels, such as the European Community’s General Data Protection Regulation or the California Consumer Privacy Act.

Customers who supply PII must:

(1) be informed exactly how, and under what circumstances, that information will be used and

(2) grant permission for its use, often on a case-by-case basis.

For example, will an email address be used only for business communications, such as scheduling, or for marketing as well? Will it be shared with third parties? All of this must be made explicit, and explicitly approved by the customer. 

Best practices for ensuring customer privacy include:

  • End-to end data encryption (both at rest and in transit) so the customers data is always secured. 
  • Role-based access controls to ensure information is only shared with individuals who need to have it – and only the data they need to do their jobs. 
  • Batch aggregation of data can be used to effectively anonymize PII. This can be done across all customer data or segments such as vertical markets.
  • The “right to be forgotten” must be respected. This is not a trivial challenge. In large companies, an individual’s PII can easily reside in a dozen or more databases. Locating and identifying it is a labor-intensive, manual process that should (and can) be automated. 

Once these practices are in place, they should be documented in a way that can be shared with customers as it illustrates respect and a commitment to protecting their privacy.  

In conclusion, CX can be an important differentiator for every company, and personalization has proved to be one of its most important components.  Personalization requires collecting data, and when that data falls into the PII category it must be handled so that customer privacy is preserved, and customer wishes about how it may be used are respected. Fortunately, many of the processes involving data security and regulatory compliance can be automated.

Recommended Automation Blog: Automation And Full Integration For Service Management Keys To DevOps-Driven Digital Transformation

The bottom line: improving the CX through personalization has its challenges, but the rewards are well worth the effort. 

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