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3 Ways Your Hyper-Personalization is Subtracting Value

6 min read

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Recently I flew from Dublin, where I live, to Volt’s new HQ outside Boston. Apart from the usual travel delays and headaches, what made the journey stand out was the significant number of late, delayed, and out-of-context or tone-deaf messages I got around my upcoming flight. 

And it’s not just from the airlines. 

Companies are fire-hosing customers with inaccurate and ill-timed messages that make customers want to churn. 

If we’re truly in the age of customer experience, the fancier, glossier version of customer management, then we need to start thinking about how we treat customers: are we treating them like people or like message repositories? It appears that some companies see a giant dart board when they look at their audience, but when they throw the darts, they’re blindfolded. 

Great customer experience can’t come from blind darts. 

Here are the three key ways your misguided, mistimed “hyper-personalized” messages are hurting your brand’s reputation and creating customer churn. 

1. It’s harming your signal-to-noise ratio

Power (ie, frequent) product users tend to require, and receive, a lot of communication. Much of this communication is important and useful, but the road to great customer experiences lies in striking a happy balance between usefulness (signal) and irritation (noise). 

To a certain extent, this is the whole point of hyper-personalization, but it’s always going to be a productive exercise to sit down and work through all the interactions a power user can have, even when everything is going perfectly. 

An example of ‘noise’ would be an email I received from my airline the day before I was due to leave, extolling the joys of economy class. Given that I’ve flown with this airline eight times in the last year, it’s logical to question why, at this point, I would need a three-page email telling me things I already know about flying economy. 

Instead, how about, for example, sending me an offer for premium without sending me an offer for premium? Meaning… sending me a quick email featuring the leg-room difference between economy and premium and giving me a button to click to upgrade my ticket in two seconds. That’s that kind of “noise” you want to be making for your customers. 

2. It’s literally ruining the customer experience

The second problem with your hyper-personalization is that it’s interrupting, in a really bad way, the customer experience. 

These could be the most damaging thing companies do with their hyper-personalization: if you’re going to make an offer or provide information, make sure it’s accurate and timely because if it isn’t, you’re only going to do more harm than good. 

A classic example, to go back to the airlines (poor airlines), is the message telling you what gate your flight is leaving from. If the gate changes and the message arrives late—ie, after the gate-change—you’ll go to gate 43, find out you need to be at 57, and only then get a message saying you need to be at 43. The message is late, but how are you to know that? As a consequence, the customer experience has been actively harmed.

3. It’s making you miss opportunities to generate revenue

The third and potentially most important way your hyper-personalize is subtracting value is via missed opportunities to reduce friction and sell things to your customers (a la the economy-to-premium offer mentioned above).  

While the airline has been busy sending you useless emails and inaccurate and/or untimely alerts, the gate staff are about to bump-up a random passenger to business because economy is overbooked. With the right technology in place, you could, for example, text your frequent flyers about something new, fun, and exciting, and happening right now: a five-minute auction for that precious business-class seat. 

Even if it only raises $50, it’s revenue that wouldn’t have otherwise existed, and you’ve just created a chance for some customer fun, which means customer engagement, which means free marketing via social sharing by customers, which means more brand awareness and exposure, which ultimately means more bottom-line revenue.

What can you do to improve hyper-personalization?

Most of the time, the ideas behind companies’ hyper-personalization campaigns are extremely well-intentioned but very poorly executed. The problem is that the poor execution isn’t coming from the well-intentioned humans behind the campaign, it’s coming from the well-intentioned machines behind the campaign. 

The fundamental issue is that a lot of today’s hyper-personalization technology systems are operating with an email mindset in a world no longer driven by email, which allowed for cushy, 10-minute or even 10-hour reaction times. In the age of edge computing and 5G, though, things run very differently—the product (in most cases, an app) essentially lives within the end user’s decision-making process and can—or should be able to—influence events as they are happening instead of reacting to them after the fact. The less time your data management system spends between learning something and acting on it, the less chance there is that its resulting decision on the event-related data will be late, slow, inaccurate, or misleading, and the higher the likelihood that your company will be able to fully capitalize on 360-degree customer data to create revenue through perfect, hyper-personalized offers given at just the right moment to just the right customer. 

Volt Active Data has customers such as FlyTxt who are doing exactly this: reacting within a couple of milliseconds to an event to supercharge their hyper-personalization and drive profitable customer experiences

So, instead of a nightly messaging cadence pulling in Johnny-come-lately data for offers that have the opposite of the effect of what you intended—ie, they show the customer that your company in fact doesn’t know them—what you need to do is what Volt customers are doing, which is architecting their systems for sub 10-millisecond intelligent decisioning that uses in-event data—as opposed to after-event data—to delight the customers with perfectly timed, and pitched, offers. 

David Rolfe