The individualization of customer relation is the new concern of marketing departments. After mass marketing, after segments, we’ve reached the ultimate level of granularity. Bus as for any trend emerging as a “must have”, it’s legitimate to wonder if it’s so essential and if it’s not the new decoy and, if not, how to achieve it.
From a conceptual standpoint, the individualization of customer relationship is not a revolution. If it has not been done before it’s because businesses did not have the means and customers were not able to exist as individuals and make businesses know they expected more attention from them.
Answering everybody at the same time often means answering nobody
The problem, when business treat groups and not individuals is that trying to please everyone at the same time often leads to please no one since the lowest common denominator is never satisfying for each person taken individually. Hence the interest of segmentation and narrow meshing that, taken to their extreme extent, lead to individualization.
A second aspect is the servicization of economy. People buy less and less products but services or, in other words, services take an increasing part in the valuation of a product. If “on-demand” can’t apply to all products, it’s a basic requirement for services. Today, it’s unacceptable that a customer is not recognized with his history, its context, his expectations and tastes when interacting with a business. No one accepts that the waiter at the coffee-shop at the corner does not know how many sugars one takes with the morning coffee after having been a returning customer for weeks. That’s the same for any business. If we consider that we are in an experience economy that’s a powerful value creation lever.
Customer experience at the center of value
Either in a sales or servicing activity, either in B2B or B2C, customer relationship must be individualized. Since data exist, not using them is a professional misconduct. And what’s about customers one does not know ? Without getting extreme and credit technology with benefits it does not have, it’s possible for some customers, in some industries, to learn a lot about them by analysing their online behaviors and social signature.
What leads us to social data analysis. It’s in some ways a means to customer relationship individualization. Big data and cognitive computing allow, by correlation, to predict an individual behavior through the analysis of mass data. So back to segmentation and group processing ? Not at all. In this case the group is not a factor of the analysis, it’s a part of the result. More, it’s not anymore about deduction (I listen and I deduce) but induction (I observe and I suppose). More approximate ? No. Complementary and as least as relevant provided business use the right data. Applied to marketing and customer relationship, cognitive computing leads to a kind of predictive individualization even more one know very few things about the customer.
Since customer relationship is both necessary and possible, what’s needed to achieve it ?
Technology alone is not enough for an individualized customer relationship
Of course some technology is needed. No technology will solve human and organizational issues but we have to admit that, in this field, it makes a difference. It makes possible what was impossible before : joining CRM and cognitive computing. But even before thinking of exploiting new possibilities, businesses need to make the most of what they already have, what is not the least challenge. Break application silos that host customer data and makes that, today, no one has a comprehensive view of the customer. If we want to correlate and analyze customer’s history we’ll need data covering all the sides of their relationship with the business.
But believing that technology alone will be enough would be a big mistake. The solution is both human and organizational. Organizational because a good customer relationship depends on things that are owned by departments that work on the same goal without collaborating. Then because putting customer experience at the center of one’s value creation model means more than processing data and making them available to the right person. It’s about implementing two things. One focused on customer experience in terms of offer, services and capabilities to deliver this experience. That’s the role of a chief customer officer. The second aims at empowering employees, make them autonomous in the way they manage the relationship and make real time decisions to deliver an individualized service.