• March 17, 2011
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Getting Personal: Be Appropriate or Beg for Forgiveness

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When it comes to improving customer relationships, contemporary wisdom posits that organizations should connect with cus-
tomers on a personal level. After all, who wants to be treated like a number or a stereotype? However, if they’re not careful, companies trying to get too personal too quickly can get burned, so knowing the right mix of personalization is paramount.

It can be tricky, though. Clearly, doing too little to personalize interactions with customers and prospects would likely make them feel disconnected to your company and brand, as Editorial Assistant Koa Beck points out in her cover story, “The Feminine Marketing Mystique.”

According to research cited in the feature, more than half of women feel misunderstood by marketers in various industries, and 91 percent said that marketers don’t understand them. Part of the problem is that too many marketers assume they can appeal to women by casting a wide net based solely on their gender. Some scenarios work better than others, but when you move further away from industries that cater to women, it tends to get progressively worse.

But even a company that targets women should not assume to know them when crafting an advertising campaign, or when considering the design and layout of a retail store, for a large female audience. That is especially true when the company has very little information about the audience. In an advertisement, a company is better off focusing on the feelings that it wants the product or service to convey. For example, women who buy a product might appreciate similar things about it—perhaps it makes them feel independent, confident, or elated. However, they might have completely different values and behaviors, so an ad shouldn’t attempt to identify with their values and behaviors.

Once she becomes a customer and an organization has behavioral information about her, it can leverage it to further the relationship. But be careful that you don’t go too far. When adding personal touches to an IVR interaction, for example, the system should not be designed to assume that a woman calling from a specific number is the customer on record, because more than one person could be living in that house, apartment, or dorm room.

The system also shouldn’t assume that a woman wants to be addressed in a specific way (e.g., Ms. instead of Mrs.). In the feature story, “IVR Personalization: Strike the Right Balance,” by News Editor Leonard Klie, he writes: “Even the most well-intentioned businesses would soon learn that when they try to give a customer what they think she needs rather than what she wants or asks for, there is little forgiveness for a system that detours her away from her intended task.”

So personalizing customer communications is important. However, it’s essential to understand your audiences’ preferences and not assume that you know them. And, don’t personalize the communication whenever possible, but only when appropriate.

Editorial Director David Myron can be reached at dmyron@infotoday.com.

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