You’re living in a truly revolutionary and ever-evolving time for businesses. Big digital companies like Amazon and Netflix can give you recommendations on what to purchase or consume based on your prior habits. You see only ads for things most relevant to what you’re currently considering purchasing. This ever-growing trend of automated customization is causing people to expect that others know what they want. We’re growing accustomed to not having to make complex choices. This sounds great, right? Less time and mental energy spent on finding the perfect birthday gifts for your kids, the type of TV show that will hold your interest, a mattress that will get you a better night’s rest, and so on.
Now how can the benefits of a customized experience be translated to a service business? Particularly a small business that doesn’t have access to artificial intelligence? Believe it or not, you are in a better position to satisfy clients’ expectations for customized experiences than the big tech giants. In a recent study conducted by Acquia of over 6,000 consumers worldwide,
75% of respondents indicated that automated experiences feel too impersonal.
Personalization via technology is helpful to the businesses, but clients will actually value human personalization even more. And after all, the name of the game is always to delight the client. So what should you customize?
Here are seven elements of customer experience a service business can consider customizing:
1. The service offering itself (should be based on each specific client’s problems or goals)
2. Product recommendations related to the service
3. The medium for delivering the service (virtual, in-home, in-office)
4. Educational follow-up content related to the service (emails, video tutorials, events, print materials)
5. Conversation during regular interactions (remember details about the individual- family, work, hobbies)
6. Communication and scheduling methods (website, email, text, phone)
7. Client events related to common interests
Perhaps you have some ideas about elements of your customer journey that can benefit from personalization, but you aren't sure how to actually execute. First, it’s imperative to learn as much about your clients as possible. Data is the lifeblood of all those tech giants, but it’s just as important to your business’s success. Technology certainly makes it easier to collect and store data, but even if you’re working with good old fashioned PDFs and spreadsheets, you can make it work.
Below are a few suggestions for collecting client data.
Sometimes I feel like all I talk about is surveys but gosh, gotta have ‘em. You can use surveys to capture clients’ personal interests, objectives in working with you, preferences for how your service is delivered or scheduled, feedback on customer service interactions, etc.
Slightly different than surveys, assessments would be strictly related to the service you are going to provide, and measure the client on some dimension. For example, a business consultant may need to know their client’s sales, staffing, marketing, and budgeting practices to prescribe the right solution. An interior designer may want to assess the client’s style preferences so they can propose a design that the client is likely to love.
OPEN EACH CLIENT MEETING WITH FRIENDLY CHIT-CHAT
Service businesses are relationship businesses. Customer loyalty hinges on someone’s affinity for the person they’re doing business with. Therefore, having friendly conversations during regular client interactions is critical to building rapport. In addition, it helps you learn specifics about your client’s life and interests outside of what they’ve hired you to do. Storing, remembering, and referencing those details will make for future interactions that generate warm and fuzzies.
CRM OR SPREADSHEET WITH PERSONAL NOTES
This tip goes hand in hand with the former. Every service business should have some form of a client database. In addition to storing clients’ contact information, keep notes on the details you learn about them. It’s the only way you’ll be able to remember that Mrs. Jones plays tennis and has 3 grandkids. When you start asking her about her grandchildren during her next appointment, she’ll feel like she is truly valued as a customer.
You may be wondering if personalizing various aspects of your service offering will yield immediate results. Perhaps you aren't sold on making an effort to change the way you schedule appointments because it doesn't seem like something that would move the needle on customer loyalty. But consider this- when a client has a lifestyle that rarely allows them to make an actual phone call during normal business hours, allowing them to text you will increase the likelihood that they actually MAKE a future appointment. So that person who's been meaning to get in to see you? They may schedule an appointment the day you announce your new text-scheduling system.
For certain service businesses, you may also have flexibility in the ways in which you deliver a service. Perhaps in-home appointments aren’t industry standard, but you’ve collected data that shows customers would be highly interested in it. That mom of young children who just can't get into your office might be scheduling an appointment the day you announce your new in-home service. If you can offer a variety of mediums for delivering your service, you’ll have a competitive advantage and the ability to create superior customer experiences.
Beyond making your clients feel valued and nurtured, personalizing the ways in which someone can interact with your business increases convenience. And in our busy world, convenience is king.