Why Personalised, Consistent Customer Experiences Are No Longer Optional

by John Watton

Posted on 05-02-2018

A few years ago, I went on a Mediter­ranean hol­i­day with my fam­i­ly. As crea­tures of habit, we would go to the same café every evening where the ser­vice was errat­ic to say the least. The prices, prod­ucts and ser­vice qual­i­ty var­ied huge­ly depend­ing on who was serv­ing us. One night a beer would cost €2 and come in a small tum­bler. The next night it would cost just €1 but come in a pint glass.

We found this hilar­i­ous at the time—it was like restau­rant roulette—but none of us would accept this incon­sis­tent ser­vice out­side a relax­ing hol­i­day set­ting. If my local café took the same approach I would avoid it like the plague and go some­where with high­er standards.

As con­sumers we crave con­sis­tent and per­son­alised expe­ri­ences. They set our expec­ta­tions and help build our sense of loy­al­ty to a brand. When a com­pa­ny deliv­ers incon­sis­tent expe­ri­ences, our expec­ta­tions are con­found­ed and we have lit­tle rea­son to give them more business.

That’s why it’s wor­ry­ing that many brands still take an incon­sis­tent approach to their cus­tomer-fac­ing ser­vices, espe­cial­ly on dig­i­tal chan­nels. The Adobe Expe­ri­ence Index—a study help­ing brands under­stand cur­rent con­sumer expec­ta­tions in Europe, how they’re evolv­ing, and what to anticipate—reveals that com­pa­nies are still com­ing up short in this regard by deliv­er­ing dis­joint­ed expe­ri­ences that leave a neg­a­tive impres­sion of their brand.

To over­come this, busi­ness­es first need to break down the bar­ri­ers to con­sis­ten­cy in their own organ­i­sa­tion. It’s not enough to roll out a slick new mobile app or inter­face. These ser­vices need to be built on a com­plete behind-the-scenes under­stand­ing of their audi­ence, which comes down to a more uni­fied approach to cus­tomer data through­out the company.

Anoth­er take­away from the Adobe Expe­ri­ence Index is that Gen­er­a­tion Z (con­sumers between 18 and 24 years old) have much high­er expec­ta­tions of brands than old­er gen­er­a­tions. For them, con­ve­nient, per­son­alised and con­sis­tent dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences are table stakes. In the UK, for instance, mil­len­ni­al respon­dents said they would be impressed if an air­line auto­mat­i­cal­ly rebooked them on a new flight if their ini­tial one was can­celled, while con­sumers in Gen Z sim­ply expect this lev­el of service.

Inter­est­ing­ly, our crav­ing for per­son­al­i­sa­tion gets stronger as we get old­er. In Ger­many, 91 per­cent of con­sumers over 66 years old believe busi­ness­es should deliv­er per­son­alised ser­vices whether serv­ing cus­tomers in-store or online, com­pared with just 69 per­cent of respon­dents between 18 and 24 years of age.

This reveals a crit­i­cal nuance that some com­pa­nies might over­look, which is that our con­cept of per­son­al­i­sa­tion evolves with age. Con­sumers in dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions have grown up with dif­fer­ent needs, dif­fer­ent expec­ta­tions, and dif­fer­ent lev­els of famil­iar­i­ty with tech­nol­o­gy. Any brand that tries to appeal to every demo­graph­ic with the same approach is only reveal­ing that they are unaware of their own cus­tomers’ needs.

Of course, it’s not enough to just deliv­er on expec­ta­tions. Con­sumers want to be delight­ed at every turn. They want expe­ri­ences that stand out for being par­tic­u­lar­ly smooth, unique, or per­son­alised. From a gro­cer that pro­vide cus­tomers with a voice assis­tant to help them nav­i­gate its aisles, to a hotel that allows its guests to use their mobile phone as a room key, to an air­line that sends pas­sen­gers time­ly updates on the sta­tus of their checked bags—it’s the lit­tle things brands do that delight us and make us come back for more.

The gaunt­let has been thrown down, and brands, no mat­ter what indus­try they’re part of, must ensure they’re deliv­er­ing on con­sis­tent and per­son­alised dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences. It’s a big ask, but one no com­pa­ny can afford to ignore. Soon enough, even tourist trap cafés will need to adjust. Now, that’s a dream worth fight­ing for.

Topics: Digital Transformation, age, CX, demographics, Generation Z, personalisation, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA