• September 29, 2017
  • By Ian Jacobs, vice president and research director, Forrester Research

Personalized Customer Service Means Recognizing Low-Key and Diva Moments

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Many consumer brands have taken to creating routing workflows in their social customer service systems that send tweets from “Twitter Verified Accounts” to specialized white-glove, concierge teams. These accounts are reserved for public figures ranging from musicians such as Rihanna (@Rihanna) to politicians such as Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) to Goop-ies such as Gwyneth Paltrow (@GwynethPaltrow).

These companies are making two assumptions about these celebrities. First, that these Verified Accounts have a major megaphone, and any experiences they have with the brand, good or bad, will be seen by potentially thousands or even millions of consumers. That’s not a bad assumption given that Katy Perry currently controls an account with 102 million followers, and even twee ’80s pop star Howard Jones has more than 42,000 followers.

Second, though, the companies believe that these verified users act like special snowflakes with a “Do you know who I am?” sense of entitlement. That assumption will prove true for some public figures, but for others, not so much.

The variability of the sense of entitlement, and the amount of kid-glove treatment required, is as true for Joe Shmo as it is for the famous. Sure, we recognize that the issues we face as customers are not existential threats to the world as we know it. (Just think about the “First World Problem” hashtags and memes.) But just because we are self-aware doesn’t mean we don’t still occasionally want special treatment.

Recently I received an upgrade on a flight, an occurrence as rare as a kangaroo hopping through the streets of Toledo. There were minor issues with the seat I was given: The remote control for the video screen was inoperable, and there was a gap in the panels of the wall next to my feet.

These snafus left me in a quandary. I wanted to loudly complain to the airline’s staff, but I also recognized that I was now in a seat that could comfortably accommodate an NBA center. And yet, being in first class instilled in me heightened expectations for quality. The same issues in coach might have been an annoyance; in the rarified air of first class, the problems seemed to loom dramatically large. One person, two different levels of service required, depending on the circumstances.

Typically, we view companies providing some form of personalized customer service as differentiating themselves from the pack. Jill is not Ashley, nor does she want to be treated like Ashley by some random company. But occasionally Jill does not want to be treated like Jill, either. How can a company identify the moments when we need different types and levels of service than we normally do?

That’s when customer service journey maps come into play. Journey mapping has already deeply infiltrated the marketing and commerce functions of most large companies, and those maps often include customer service moments of need. But journey maps focused specifically on customer service provide different benefits.

A proper customer service journey map takes customer context into account. Was the customer a frequent flyer who just scored a rare upgrade? Did the customer just buy something from a retail location? Did the customer just bounce from a web FAQ to a chatbot to a chat agent?

Such information should provide companies the wherewithal to discern between when customers really just want a quick interaction to gather a specific piece of information, and when they want to be treated like royalty. Then companies can use that information to provide a differentiated personalized service experience.

Now if we could all just get the same level of customer service as Demi Moore (@JustDemi, more than 5 million followers).

Ian Jacobs is a principal analyst at Forrester Research. He can be reached on Twitter @iangjacobs.

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