Commentary

Improving Personalization: AI, Trust, The Human Channel

Today’s marketing climate is evolving. Heightening data privacy concerns, shortening consumer attention spans, and an ever-growing list of marketing channels are creating new challenges to building long-lasting consumer relationships.

At the heart of the new era of marketing success is contextual personalization: building customized experiences that draw from known individual needs and preferences. To nail new personalization strategies, let’s explore a few focus areas for brands:

Use AI as a friend, not a crutch. While the progress AI has made in market segmentation and data analysis has been groundbreaking, AI, at its core, is meant to complement existing technology and human capabilities, not serve as a catch-all. A measured approach is the best way to introduce AI into any organization. Bear these things in mind when implementing AI:  
-- Digest and grow AI organically to avoid being overwhelmed
-- Thoughtful adoption helps justify investment, as AI’s intended value is built into strategy, and directly linked to goals
-- Be realistic. Prioritize specific needs and only explore the AI solutions that can be beneficial

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Build trust.  The value of trust is also growing, affecting the way brands approach marketing. Whether it’s where to spend ad dollars or how it’s shaping data strategies, trust is a metric brands can’t afford to ignore.

Customers feel more comfortable entrusting brands with their personal information and preferences if interactions are relevant and respectful. Anchoring customer relationships in trust creates several scenarios:

-- Brands pay closer attention. Building trust requires a brand to pay attention to customer preferences and feedback, and deliver relevant experiences that meet expectations.  
-- Attention to personal preferences leads to longevity. According to a Forbes article, 52% are more inclined to change brands if a company doesn’t offer personalized communication.
-- Loyalty is within reach. Delivering relevant experiences and trusted interactions enables brands to create a safe space for the relationship to evolve, developing a deeper connection with customers beyond transactions. That loyalty translates to evangelism and high-value word-of-mouth marketing.  

Deliver added value via the human channel. While we get excited about what technology can bring to personalization, we cannot forget that the most personalized experiences are those that involve humans. The human channel, as it’s often called, is arguably where the most critical relationship-building between brands and customers happen. This can be a salesperson at a store, a customer service representative, or even CMOs who make themselves available when a widespread customer issue needs to be addressed.

A few ways to take full advantage of your human channels:

-- Proper training is crucial. Imagine how different your experience would be if an airline was empathetic, apologetic and informative the next time your flight was delayed or canceled. Develop the interpersonal skills of your workforce to be the positive front line of your brand.

-- Problems are opportunities. Brands never hope for customer backlash or a Twitter rant about a product or service — but most will get them. How a brand handles these situations is what distinguishes bad from great.

A good place to start would be to try to follow the LEAF rule:

-- Listen to understand the customer’s issue
-- Empathize with the experience they’ve had so far
-- Jump into action with real, immediate solution
-- Follow up to gauge their satisfaction

Rinse and repeat if necessary (which hopefully it won’t be!)

Combining new technology with the human channel to build trusted and loyal relationships will set up your brand for long-term success.

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