Customer centricity and AI: personalisation versus trust

By Derek Lewis
In the fiercely competitive business world, companies are increasingly personalising their solutions and services in a bid to stand out from their rival...

In the fiercely competitive business world, companies are increasingly personalising their solutions and services in a bid to stand out from their rivals. By utilising the likes of big data analytics and AI, companies aim to understand more about their customers and tailor the approach in a bid to drive sales and loyalty. But how can businesses do this well without damaging consumer trust? 

The benefits of personalisation could be huge, with 93% of companies seeing conversion rates increase due to personalisation, according to eConsultancy. However, consumer trust has been damaged due to well-known breaches and scandals like Cambridge Analytica, leaving people cautious about handing over their data. What’s more, businesses will face hefty fines if they breach new regulations, such as GDPR.

Companies must now take extra-care when collecting customer data, but it actually goes further than that – there must be an element of give and take when it comes to personalisation. 

Data - Driving sales and improving the CX?

The majority of companies have explored, and continue to explore, how they can best utilise technology like big data or AI to drive sales. A lot of the use of this technology has revolved around how businesses can better target customers or improve the customer experience. However, it’s not just businesses that are looking towards a more personalised, tailored experience – customers expect it too. In fact, nearly one third of consumers expect companies they engage with to know more about them, and almost half expect specialised treatment for being a 'good customer,' according to research by Accenture.

The key to creating winning personalised experiences going forward, however, will not be how much data can be collected, rather it will be ensuring trust is built with the consumer and the data they do collect is used effectively. In essence, make sure your company’s use of data creates a win-win situation for the business and the consumer. 

For example, companies can use the information they have gathered to offer specific products they know a customer could be interested in, as well as tailor-made offers or loyalty bonuses. However, businesses can’t appear to be spamming a customer – just because they purchased a toothbrush once, they won’t want to be seeing offers for toothbrushes every week. Businesses must make offers more targeted, built on a genuine understanding of the customer.

Another way in which businesses can personalise a customers’ experience is by tailoring the content they see on a website. For example, in the B2B world, if you know your customer is a finance director, you can push content towards them which would be more focused for their interests i.e. discussions around the bottom line or cost. This rids the need for the finance director to search around the website for the information they need and allows the company to grab their attention from the moment they visit the website.

Going forward, we will see companies increasingly use a variety of tactics to create a personalised experience to boost sales, but this approach must give something to the customer, whether that’s special discounts, an improved experience, or hand-picked content.

Building trust

As well as making sure it’s not all ‘take’ from the business side, companies also need to commence a trust building exercise with their customer base. 

Savvy customers now want to know what data is being collected, how it’s being used and how it’s being stored. Therefore, companies need to ensure that it is the consumer that draws the line on the information they share, and this line is likely to vary from sector to sector. For example, people are much more likely to give more detailed, personal information to a healthcare provider than a streaming service.

When data has been collected, businesses must also have a protocol in place for the safe handling and storing of data, and the correct procedures need to be explained to every single member of staff. After all, a lot of data abuse stems from internal issues.

The future of personalisation

Companies will have to overcome the hurdle of trust if they are to deliver standout personalised experiences that keep the consumers happy. Going forward, business leaders will have to think carefully about the data they collect, how it's stored and, more importantly from a CX perspective, what the consumer will get in return. Businesses should be putting themselves in the shoes of customers. What information would you be happy sharing and how would you expect a business to use it and store it?

By Derek Lewis, Head of Customer Experience at Maintel 


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