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Customer Empathy is the Key to a Successful Personalization Strategy

December 1, 2020

To gain a competitive advantage in today’s environment, your organization must stand out among the hundreds of other brands that fight for the customer’s attention every day.

When performed correctly, personalization can be a powerful means for tailoring experiences that delight your customers and differentiate your organization from your fiercest competition.

When performed correctly, personalization can be a powerful means for tailoring experiences that delight your customers…

However, most organizations struggle to execute personalization properly. But why does this happen?

Many organizations fall into the trap of chasing the next “shiny object” and the latest trends without considering whether or not it aligns with today’s consumer expectations. Typically, this involves investing heavily in resources and technology with little return on those investments.

Organizations also tend to move too quickly into personalization and “run before they walk.” Often, this results in one-off personalization campaigns that lack a proper strategy and a well-defined roadmap. This approach can lead to an inconsistent and disjointed customer experience.

Personalization efforts can go too far, creating a “creepy” customer experience that drives away potential customers instead of delivering a clear, resonant message at the right time. When users see that you know too much about their behaviors, you risk scaring them off.

Personalization efforts can go too far, creating a “creepy” customer experience that drives away potential customers.

Lastly, attempts at personalization frequently lack empathy, which is the missing piece to success in personalization. Empathy is vital for connecting with consumers directly, especially under this “new normal” that the current COVID pandemic has created.

“Personalization wasn’t supposed to be a cleverly veiled way to chase prospects around the web, showing them the same spammy ad for the same lame stuff as everyone else sees. No, it is a chance to differentiate at a human scale, to use behavior as the most important clue about what people want and more importantly, what they need.”  — Seth Godin

Why Empathy is So Important to the Customer Experience

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected how consumers purchase and the way they behave. Consumers are buying online more than they have in the past, forcing organizations to make a digital shift to compete.

Ultimately, the organizations that deliver the best customer experience will succeed as 2021 approaches — and beyond. But what does a great customer experience look like today?

It’s more than knowing the last product customers viewed or other products they may like; it’s about capturing and listening to their feedback to understand their current needs. Once you know how customers feel and what they truly desire, you can amplify your personalization efforts to close the “empathy gap.”

Even companies that benefited from prior personalization success will need to reevaluate and adjust their personalization strategy to thrive in the current climate.

Solution-Focused Recommendations

Product recommendation quizzes are becoming increasingly popular today for direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands. These quizzes serve as examples of how you can use personalization to create a unique and memorable customer experience. They ask consumers a series of questions about their specific needs and desires to serve them the most relevant products.

Brooks Running’s Shoe Finder is an excellent example of how to use a solution-focused product recommendation quiz to create empathy with customers without obligating them to purchase.

example of website personalization

The Shoe Finder asks customers a series of questions about their specific training method, pre-existing health conditions and injuries, and the preferred shoe style. At the end of the quiz, customers are presented with several shoe recommendations based upon what they answered. The Shoe Finder reduces the time customers spend researching shoes, alleviates any analysis paralysis that they may have, and reassures them that they won’t order the wrong shoes.

While this type of personalization is powerful and effective, it’s essential to be aware of the economic climate and how it impacts your customers’ budgets. Today, the pandemic has affected many consumers’ budgets, influencing how they spend and what they spend on, and this is why it’s critical that you avoid pushing customers towards expensive products for the sake of greater profits. Instead, you should opt to offer products that address their wants and needs, even if it means selling a cheaper product and less profit. Those organizations that resonate with their customers and empathize with them will benefit from greater customer loyalty and higher customer satisfaction.

How to Use Personalization to “Empathize” With Your Customers

image representing empathizing with customers

Building empathy with your customers isn’t easy and takes time, but it’ll pay dividends in the long run. To empathize with your customers, you must start by ensuring that they have a voice within your organization. You should consider the sentiments that your customers echo as you plan and develop your personalization strategy.

While you may know who your customers are, this alone won’t be enough. You’ll need to solicit the customer feedback to understand what they need, what they like, and what they don’t like. A “Voice of the Customer” program can help you accomplish this.

A “Voice of the Customer” program allows you to uncover valuable customer insights to fuel your personalization strategy and help you identify and address real points of friction along the customer journey.

A ‘Voice of the Customer’ program allows you to uncover valuable customer insights to fuel your personalization strategy and help you identify and address real points of friction along the customer journey.

Ultimately, a “Voice of the Customer” program will help to:

  • Bridge the empathy gap between you and your customers
  • Provide opportunities to close the feedback loop
  • Show your customers that you understand the problems they face, the emotions they feel, and the obstacles that stand in their way

It’s essential that you craft personalized experiences that add real value to your customers and bring them closer to what they genuinely desire, not that you know lots of information about them.

How Empathy Brings Value to Your Personalization Efforts

image of women experiencing online personalization

Success can be measured by looking at quantitative outcomes like increased cart adds, more transactions, and greater revenue. You’ll also benefit from more customer engagement, higher customer satisfaction, and improved customer loyalty.

In the second edition of the “State of the Connected Customer” report, Salesforce Research surveyed more than 6,700 customers and found that “72% percent of customers share good experiences with others,” and “62% of customers say they share bad experiences with others.” Salesforce’s findings highlight why it’s vital to measure the long-term outcomes of your organization’s efforts.

One outcome to measure and analyze is your Net Promoter Score (NPS). This key metric sheds light on your customers’ perception of your brand and the likelihood that they will recommend your company, products, and services to their friends, family, and colleagues.

Another outcome to measure is Customer Satisfaction, or CSAT, which scores your customers’ satisfaction with your offerings. Today, it’s easy for customers to leave if they’ve had a bad customer experience, so make sure you proactively monitor this score.

Paving the Way to Success in Personalization

If you want to gain a competitive advantage with your customer experience, you’ll need a rock-solid personalization strategy that quickly adapts to today’s environment and the conditions that impact your customers.

To accomplish this, you’ll want to have a sound “Voice of the Customer” program in place that allows you to gather real customer feedback and build customer empathy, which will enable your team to evolve the customer experience as needed.

Are you interested in developing an effective “Voice of the Customer” program for your organization? We offer a “Voice of the Customer” Quick Start to help you do just that.

If you want to take advantage of your “Voice of the Customer” program and use this knowledge to craft delightful, one-to-one personalized experiences, we also offer a Personalization Quick Start.

Josh Morrow
About the Author

Josh Morrow is a Senior Conversion Optimization Strategist at Blast Analytics. He has extensive experience in helping enhance their customer experience through strategic a/b testing, personalization, user experience design, and conversion-focused copywriting.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn. Josh Morrow has written on the Blast Digital Analytics Blog.

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