What Customers Really Think About Your Personalization Efforts!

Personalization: Despite what mom said, sometimes it is OK to ask personal questions.

Personalization: Despite what mom said, sometimes it IS okay to ask personal questions.

Personalization: More Than a Trendy Word?

When I was a little girl, my Mom told me, “We don’t ask personal questions.” I’d already embarrassed her enough by asking in my little high pitched toddler voice whether her hairdresser was a man or a woman.

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But today’s guest, Ernan Roman, says that we must ask personal questions in order to offer the level of personalization that customers want. 

How Do You Ask Personal Questions Without Irritating Customers?

You need to earn the right to ask personal questions, says Roman. And you have to provide value to customers in exchange for them sharing with you. He suggests starting with in-depth interviews with several customers to find out what motivates them, and what they would find valuable in exchange for revealing more personal information to you. Renee Racine, in our interview about customer panels at Indigo, discussed how willing many customers are to share if they see that you are truly trying to improve based on their suggestions. Ronan agrees. 

Not everybody is going to be willing to commit to hour long interviews, but there are simple steps you can take to at least move in the right direction.

1. Don’t Ask Too Soon

If somebody asked you to marry them on your first date, you’d back off really quickly, right? Well that’s essentially what you are doing when you make people fill in a long form in order to even download your white paper. Realistically, the data you get from it will be of questionable value anyway, because even people who want the paper enough to fill in the form are likely to put in a lot of fake information. Just ask your sales reps how often they’ve tried to follow up with someone only to find the phone number was a fake. Take the time to woo them. Send them the info they want without demanding a lot of other information. Then follow up gently, with related information that they might also find of value.

2. Don’t Ask For Too Much At Once

Even once you’ve moved on to the second date, they still probably aren’t ready to meet the family. Be patient. Ask a couple more questions, based on what little you already know about them, to deepen the conversation.

3. Make it Clear How They Benefit From Answering

It drives me crazy when companies demand you register before you can place an order online. Don’t do that! Instead, let them place the order, and then at the end ask if they’d like you to save their information to make things faster for them when they come back. By showing the customer a benefit, you are much more likely to get agreement.

4. Make it Easy To Answer

The novelty of being asked to fill in a survey when I get back to my computer about a real world experience has long worn off. As Roman notes in our interview, at that point the company is asking me to do a favor for them. Why should I? The theoretical chance to win a $100 voucher isn’t enough for me to bother. Try adding at least three zeros!

5. Use Other Ways To Gain Personal Customer Knowledge

Equip your store staff with tablets and easy ways to note customer preferences while they are interacting with customers (and as soon as they have left the store). Get your call centre staff to record whatever they learn about individual customers as part of their call logging process. Invite customers out for coffee or lunch to probe them about their customer experiences and how you could personalize your offerings to better meet their needs.

Once You’ve Got Personal Data, Use it Wisely

Many companies are collecting reams of personal data, but just using it for more of what Roman calls “spray & pray” advertising. Don’t make that mistake.  

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