Think You Know Your Customers? Think Again


Too many businesses are wasting their time and yours. You know what I mean, just open your inbox, and you’ll likely see an onslaught of irrelevant, seemingly random marketing promotions that have little to do with your interests or priorities. Ever ordered a baby shower gift and then been flooded with ads for diapers and formula? Or gone on vacation and still received emails for flights and hotels months later?

With the decades-long excitement around the power of thoughtful personalization enabled by technology, why do our inboxes still manage to feel like a dumpster fire? They rarely remember your last interaction; many of them feel like spam.

These disappointing customer experiences may seem like minor annoyances, but they fall far short of today’s soaring customer expectations – and can quickly be fatal to customer relationships

Research from my company, Freshworks, shows that two-thirds of consumers expect brands to consider their values when communicating. And they’re willing to help – more than three-quarters are willing to exchange information for a more personalized, faster and values-driven experience. So why do such few consumers expect to be wowed when interacting with brands? The market is ripe for a fresh approach to understanding customers – and turning those insights into delight. 

Break the silos and unify information

Most companies would tell you they have an abundance of customer data points. Knowing your customer’s individual preferences – from their buying patterns and personal style, to what’s in their shopping basket, how often they return items, and what they might need next – is now firmly baked into most marketing strategies. But, the problem is data isn’t integrated into marketing technology systems, which are too often broken up into complicated data silos. 

Companies may have a chat solution sitting in one silo, a customer support solution in another, and their sales and marketing solution in yet another. Insights from each platform are too often locked inside individual departments or workstreams, crippling a company’s ability to respond thoughtfully across any channel. This sounds like a problem we should have solved years ago, but the ongoing addition of new channels – Instagram wasn’t a sales tool just a few years ago – means companies are hustling to create new technology to manage it. And unifying those solutions inevitably comes last.

Without innovation, it’s only going to get worse. With web browsers set to mostly eliminate third-party cookies by 2024, marketers will lose the ability to easily track behavior across the web. Instead, we’ll rely solely on data we captured directly across our customer touchpoints: the website, chatbots, email and social media interactions. 

That’s not easy. Today’s consumers are multi-channel shoppers, meaning they might start off viewing a product on their laptop before moving over to their phone to complete a purchase. Bringing that data into one place is essential to understand customers and anticipate what’s next.

Personalization makes all the difference

Every marketing technology vendor claims to provide a full view of a business’s customer. Often these “data depots” are bogged down by too much data, falling far short of providing agile insights that help tailor a chat to a returning customer. 

Then the domino effect kicks in: service agents can’t find useful data, forcing them to reach out to IT for help – all the more time for customers to walk away. And that completely misses critical business opportunities  – like drawing on insights to turn a successful support fix into upselling other services.

To beat the bloat, companies should embrace portable and complete Unified Customer Records (UCR). For marketers, this is a game changer, as they can have a holistic view of the customer at their fingertips. With instant access to the right data, personalization becomes much easier, while also fueling even better support, smarter sales and superior customer experience. This effect is felt across the entire business, speeding time-to-value and helping marketing teams to create and manage detailed customer segments (like working parents of children under five who are seeking cleaning supplies) and to develop savvy multi-channel campaigns and create thoughtful communications. 

Knowing each customer is a table-stake for growth. By cutting out uninformed excess and respecting a customer’s inbox (or chat stream), companies can deliver the personalization today’s customers expect – and provide the delight all of us desire.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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