Personalised vs. Individualised communications: Going the extra mile
Jan 15, 2019
Every year since his wife gave birth to his son, our CTO David has been receiving emails from his health insurance fund informing him about breastfeeding and pregnancy ailments. Something’s off here. First of all, the department that sends out these emails should know that he’s a man. Secondly, he has been receiving this kind of emails for the past four years. His son is 3,5 now. They should know this as well.
Creating and reaching out with individualised communications starts with using correct data. Unfortunately, while you just as about everyone might suspect otherwise, a lot of organisations fail to even get these basics right.
Individualisation: The extra mile
The quest for customer retention and loyalty has led many businesses down the path of personalisation. Although years ago customers might have perceived this as groundbreaking and revelled in the sight of a bankmail starting off with “Dear Linda,”, times have changed. Personalisation doesn’t cut it anymore.
Once it was about being polite and original, but not about relevance. Individualisation is. When do I provide what content? In order to individualise, you need data about the motivations and behavior of your individual customers in the context of time. Individualisation comes down to omni-channel data-driven communications. Consequently, it forces companies to go the extra mile, but nonetheless, it’s what customers have come to expect.
Two years ago our CTO David took his family on a fantastic holiday to Mallorca. A year later, in February, he got a beautiful printed communication with a picture of Mallorca and the message: “Geert, do you remember your fantastic holiday in Mallorca last September? It’s getting time to book quality time with your family”. It also suggested three hotels in which he could have been interested.
He gave a 5-star review about that specific vacation and booked that holiday in February, the year before. He is sure they used that information to engage with him. And it worked. He booked the same hotel with the same travel operator this year. That’s individualisation at its finest.
When and how?
Besides using correct data in individualised communications, understanding your customers is crucial, as well as knowing when each and every one of them expects a certain communication or needs particular information: at a specific time of day, during a period throughout the year (summer sales) or in a certain stage of life. Also you want to know how they wish to receive these communications. While youngsters practically live with their smartphones glued to their hands, print remains a popular channel with the older generations.
As such right timing and using the channel of preference are key. As a business you might have the communications to contribute to your customers’ user experience, if you fail to deliver them at the right time, you will end up pushing away the people you reach out to, instead of pulling them closer and boosting customer loyalty.
That’s what happened here. Last summer, our poor David’s car broke down on his way back from sunny Spain. Getting home was a nightmare, also from a communication perspective. He got one text saying that "The breakdown service will be there soon to tow your car“, while he was already waiting two hours in the garage to where his car was towed. Another text came in when he was resting in Luxembourg after driving for 2 hours with the replacement car: "Your replacement vehicle is available for pick-up at Zaventem Brussels Airport. DO NOT REPLY!". Despite all good intentions, all these communications did was confuse and aggravate him because of bad timing.
Challenges of Individualisation
It’s clear that individualisation does come with certain challenges. First of all it forces you to harvest and analyse quite some data to get your message spot on. And it’s essential that your customers retain as much control as possible about their data and preferences or they will tune out.
Also, different customers need different content. With data-driven and conditional content, you can reduce the effort to the minimum. Then there's ownership. As employees are the closest with customers, they are the ones driving the individualisation. And getting individualisation up-and-running is just the beginning. Measuring the impact and optimising is the next step.