In April 2018, I wrote an article for Energy Central called, The Day a Man Named Stan Called Me Tiffany: The Importance of Personalization. I framed the topic with a humorous experience I had at a New York City restaurant that I frequented. The waiter, his name is “Stan”, called me “Tiffany” and since that isn’t my name, I explained how his mistake lowered my tolerance for the average food served in this establishment, specifically the egg rolls. They had an aftertaste that I didn’t really notice until he called me by the wrong name.
“Unless it’s written in a letter telling me that I use more power than my neighbors, I don’t want to be called “Tiffany” because it’s not my name,” I wrote. “Neither do utility customers. Being known makes transactions faster, easier and more pleasant. It builds a bond that includes but is not limited to an increased tolerance for mistakes, and yes, subpar egg rolls.”
My article wasn’t ahead of the curve; the value proposition of personalization had reached utility customer experience meeting agendas. But with many utilities grappling with where to start, the article seemed to resonate with readers because no one likes to be called the wrong name. I received several emails from customer experience professionals who wanted to get past grappling to personalizing.
Utilities have done a lot to advance personalization over the last two years. As a result, when the topic comes up during modern day discussions about utility and digital transformation some people see it as “So 2018”.
That is a mistake.
Personalization: An Ongoing Improvement Initiative
Because of the ongoing and rapid improvements being made to the technologies that enable personalization, related best practices and technologies need to stay on our radar—always and forever. If we become personalization passivists, we risk facing the dilemma that stared us down in 2018. Other industries, with more progressive customer experience shops, were making us look bad and utility customer satisfaction was taking a hit. In some cases, it still is and that isn’t good for business.
In my 2018 article, I discussed the prerequisite of personalization, big data collection and analytics. Again, this wasn’t a groundbreaking insight, but for those who were unsure where to begin, I suggested looking at their customer data because it is the starting point of personalization. Analytics, which gets the data talking, puts us on the path to create customized experiences for individual customers.
Fast forward to 2020. Data and analytics are still where personalization begins, but with the help of AI (artificial intelligence), analytics is delivering “hyper-personalization” (AKA: personalization 2.0). It leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and real-time data to deliver more relevant content to each customer. Key benefits include automating processes to:
- Ingest and analyze huge amounts of data;
- Predict customer behavior; and
- Customize individual customer experiences to increase customer satisfaction and deliver a stronger ROI.
Identifying the Goals of Hyper-Personalization
“Still, AI is just a means to an end,” writes MARTECHSERIES in the article, How to Leverage AI and Hyper-Personalization to Transform Mass Marketing to Precision Marketing. “AI or predictive technologies in a vacuum don’t yield business results. For AI to be impactful, it needs to be aligned to a Business problem or Marketing challenge. When AI-enabled technology is not connected to strategic goals, marketers may eventually find that they’re not investing in the right tools or solutions for their business needs, are not leveraging their data effectively, and are not able to effectively activate AI to personalize the customer experience—ultimately leading to lost revenue.”
The article continued, “When you connect those technologies to an actual Business or Marketing challenge, however, you move from Mass Marketing to Precision Marketing – from rote automation to surgical, intelligent outreach, and that’s when you see real gain in your Marketing ROI.”
The Proof is in the Numbers
Hyper-personalization is showing tremendous promise. According to Ascend2, a research-based marketing firm serving marketing technology companies and digital marketing agencies, 86% of marketing professionals believe that their hyper-personalization strategy is improving customer experience and 31% of those people report that the change is significant.
“To a growing degree, customers are making decisions about companies based on single interactions,” I wrote back in 2018. “When things go poorly, businesses stand to lose something (sometimes a lot), even regulated companies that don’t fear churn.”
This has never been truer than it is today and AI provides the best opportunity to perfect each and every interaction. What is the risk of not advancing the customer experience through personalization? I have been back to NYC several times since my encounter with Stan, and with so many other restaurant options, I have never returned for the egg rolls.
Learn more about CX advancements by joining the Utility 2030 Collaborative.