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Using EDM to personalize your business


Personalizing your business is one of those things that never really seems to go out of style and that remains one of the most powerful ways to use EDM. Making a system respond in a reasonable yet personal way to a consumer or other customer is widely, and correctly, seen as a way to bring better service to bear in a scalable way. Personalization has some synonyms too like “behavioral targeting”, “precision marketing” and “micro segmentation”. Personalization means more than just scripting responses, it means providing the best response in each situation for that specific customer. Technology has been evolving steadily to help in personalization. Content management systems and more dynamic websites make it easier to display personalized content. CRM and call center applications support more dynamic scripting and displays and work faster, so that a call center representative can use them while in a conversation. Analysis of unstructured text and even voice, better support for newer channels like SMS and email all contribute. Without an EDM approach to decisions, however, all this will be for naught.

Providing “extreme” personalization requires:

  • Fine-grained, analytically-derived segments for targeting so that customers feel that responses (offers, messages, style) are really aimed at them and understanding of their needs and wants.
  • Rules to implement policies and regulations to make sure that every channel, every representative, interacts appropriately and legally every time.
  • A customer’s own rules and preferences must be taken into account. When a channel is picked for a communication it should be based not just on effectiveness but also on their preferences. Customers must be rewarded, with more personalized service, for providing you with the data you want from them about their preferences.
  • It is not enough to measure response, you must move to prediction of responses. You must be able to get a reasonably good estimate of how a particular customer (or at least a micro-segment of your customers) will respond to a particular message or offer. People will not feel that you have personalized your interaction with them if you keep offering things they don’t want.
  • Effective correlation of lots of data inputs so that all your information can be brought to bear on the personalization. No matter how customers have interacted with you (email, store, web), you must reflect that total set of knowledge in your interactions.
  • Rapid response despite the complexity of all this – personalizing a response only helps if it can be done seamlessly and that means quickly so that the customer sees the same response time for a personalized response as for a generic one.

The best way I know to do all this is to adopt EDM for the critical decisions as only an EDM approach will let you truly personalize these decisions and thus your business. Adopting EDM give you the business rules platform you need for best practices, regulations and customer preference rules. Business rules management systems also allow business managers to bring their expertise to bear directly by empowering them to manage the rules. Predictive analytic models ensure that the data you have gathered is turned into something executable, not just reported on. The forward-looking aspect of predictive analytics also makes for better personalization based on what you will want/need not what you used to want/need. Decision services act as a focal point to bring all your data together and then deliver the personalized decision across all your channels. Finally, adaptive control gives you the kind of test and refine approach you need to make sure that your personalization is working for your customers.

Personalization must deliver value to customers, they must appreciate it, otherwise they will not participate and without their participation your ability to gather the information you need to personalize effectively will be limited. EDM helps you move personalization from the trivial to the effective.

Before wrapping up this post, I want to use one of my favorite examples – Interactive Voice Response or IVR systems. Think about the IVR systems you use or the ones your company runs:

  • Do all customers get the same option or do you decide what options to offer each customer based on what you know about them?
  • Are the options the same when you get a call from a prospect as when a customer calls?
  • Do you make any attempt to predict what your customer might be about to do based on what you know about them so you can prioritize those options?
  • When you add an option to your IVR, ATM or other self-service channel do you think about each customer and decide if they will want to see or hear that option?
  • When your automated systems refer a caller to a person to make a decision does that person do anything to make the decision that the system could not do?

Most companies would have rotten answers to these questions. Why? Because they are not thinking about these decisions at a micro level (wiki) – they are thinking about them only at a macro level. The trouble is that each customer assumes, consciously or unconsciously, that these decisions were taken specifically for them. If you make them listen to the same 5 options every time, even though they always pick one of two, then they assume you don’t know them or don’t care. Every time you or one of your systems interact with a customer you make a decision about that interaction. If you choose to make it the same way every time then that’s your choice but you are still making that decision. Personalization should mean changing this so that every interaction feels personal.

One last thing. Seth Godin once had a post called Blow up your home page. Part of personalizing the experience your customer has comes from your web presence and, when a customer or prospect visits the “home page” of your site, it feels to them like you made an explicit decision to display that content they see. But did you? Probably not. Probably you made a decision about everyone who visits or perhaps you made a decision for everyone with a little bit of space reserved for logged-in users to get something special. But the whole page – its design, its content, its arrangement – can be driven by what you know about a customer, a previous visitor or even typical new visitors. This is extreme personalization, taking that hidden decision (what should this customer see on this page at this time) and making it explicit.


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