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Personalization in Customer Experience vs. Customer Communications Management Blog Feature
John Zimmerer

By: John Zimmerer on May 8th, 2015

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Personalization in Customer Experience vs. Customer Communications Management

Customer Experience | Customer Communications | Personalization

Now that we’re collecting data on visitors and customers at every touchpoint and through every channel throughout the customer life cycle, and we know so much about them – their preferences, their behaviors, their purchasing patterns – personalization must be robust and effective from acquisition to service to retention, right?

Wrong. Respondents to the study we commissioned through Forrester Consulting identified insufficient ability to achieve the same degree of personalization across all customer communications as one of the three largest gaps preventing companies from being satisfied with their current CCM solutions.

personalization in customer experienceOne reason why companies are failing to achieve the same degree of personalization across all customer communications is because people who are focused on customer acquisition – marketing and sales – think of personalization in a slightly different way than those who are focused on customer service and retention do. It comes down to how much you know about your prospects versus your customers.

Before they are customers, people exploring a brand are just visitors or prospects. We don’t know them yet; all we have is a set of generalizations based on visitor behavior metrics gathered by the digital experience delivery (DXD) platform driving web and mobile customer experience. Though some DXD platforms are getting very, very good at delivering individualized experiences to digital channel visitors based on persona-driven assumptions, we still can’t really personalize communications in the way CCM leaders think of it until prospects become actual customers. Once they’re customers, they’re known to us. We have a relationship with them, and we can start to gather much more specific and meaningful data that help us move beyond personas into the realm of true personalization.

Another reason why companies feel challenged in their efforts to personalize customer-facing communications throughout the customer journey is because they’re not sharing their data across departments and business units very well. We’ve addressed that previously; the answer is a WCM-based CCM system that is open enough to use APIs to tap into both the marketing department’s digital experience delivery (DXD) platform and the more robust data collection and business logic capabilities of CCM for a more integrated use of data across the organization.

Access to Data + Robust Business Logic = Deep Personalization Capabilites

The formula for deep and consistent personalization at all touchpoints is access to data from both DXD and CCM, combined with the more robust business logic capabilities of CCM. We wrote previously about the differences between DXD and CCM regarding data. Let’s take a look at how the two handle business logic.

So what is business logic? According to the Programming Glossary at WhatIs.com:

“Business logic is the programming that manages communication between an end user interface and a database. The main components of business logic are business rules and workflows. A business rule describes a specific procedure; a workflow consists of the tasks, procedural steps, required input and output information, and tools needed for each step of that procedure. Business logic describes the sequence of operations associated with data in a database to carry out the business rule.”

In CCM, we use business logic to create highly personalized customer-facing communications that are relevant to and specifically meant for each individual recipient. Though we’re still working from templates meant for many, many recipients, and the system can generate millions of communications in a short period of time, we are nevertheless able to get quite granular in addressing individuals’ needs. The key is context.

Contextualization, Meet Personalization

With business logic, personalization and contextualization go hand in hand. DXD allows us to show alternate content based on fairly broad chunks of information, such as geography (e.g., as revealed by the IP address of a visitor) or the time of day a mobile app or web page is accessed. In CCM, though, we have the context to give a customer his or her own specific account information, make offers based on his or her previous purchases, follow up on claims or customer service issues, etc. We can also provide documents required by regulatory bodies—but only to those customers who specifically need them based on the states in which they live, the particular goods or services they have purchased, disclosures tied to their interactions with the company, and more.

It’s a difference of breadth (acquisition-oriented personalization) versus depth (service and retention-oriented personalization). The depth of the data you own requires a similar depth of personalization. When you only have learned data gathered from visitors, you don’t have what you need to go deep. When you integrate that with earned data– the kind of data you get as a byproduct of your relationship with existing customers – suddenly you can go much deeper than ever before and offer a more contextual and personalized customer experience (CX) throughout each customer’s journey with your brand.

With Greater Data Access Comes Greater Responsibility

One thing to keep in mind as you begin to share data more freely across your organization and strive for greater personalization, though, is the obligation that comes with possession of vast amounts of customers’ personal information. People within your organization who are not accustomed to working with real people’s names, addresses, health histories, financial records, and more (PII, PHI, aye yai yai) can run into trouble if you don’t put some safeguards in place to protect customers’ privacy. Again, here’s where we in CCM have already solved many of those potential data security problems and put responsible mechanisms in place to limit the availability of customer’s restricted information to only those who really need it to do business with those customers. 

Great care must be taken to limit parties who are not the intended recipients of sensitive information but who are still involved in creating customer communications. For example, CLIENT LETTER® can mask parts of a Social Security number or Medicare identification number automatically, depending on a user’s permissions settings. We can also protect images so those without permission just see a placeholder, and we can prevent certain blocks of text – such as legally required disclosures – from being altered.

Again, integrating data through a WCM-based CCM system with open APIs will allow companies to combine the strengths of CCM’s deep data, business logic, and safeguarding capabilities with DXD’s broad insights and multi-channel delivery capabilities to achieve the same degree of personalization across all customer communications. 

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About John Zimmerer

John Zimmerer is the senior director of marketing at Topdown, where he leads market research and outreach efforts for the company's customer communications and customer experience products. Most recently, John has been researching and writing about the future direction of the technologies that power customer experience, and is regarded as a thought leader in this area. John has nearly 20 years of software product marketing experience. His areas of expertise include market research, analyst relations, public relations and digital marketing.

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