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Digital Experience

How to Tackle Personalization in Digital and Non-Digital Channels


I recently sat down with Amber Armstrong — CMO at LivePerson — to discuss how her company is tackling personalization across multiple digital and non-digital channels. We also dove into how AI, chatbots, and machine learning can take the personalization conversation to another level.

Amber isn’t a novice at personalization or AI. She was the VP and CMO of Blockchain and AI at IBM, and she boosted marketing-sourced revenue for IBM’s Watson solution by 500%. So, she’s the perfect person to help us grapple with these big, personalization-based questions surrounding AI, data, and post-COVID customer service. Amber is here to tell you why you need to start thinking about traditional channels, data-driven personalization, and a fresh new wave of digital fanatics.

In this interview, Amber talks about:

  • Why personalization needs to go beyond the basics
  • Why you need to combine conventional and new channels into a single personalization strategy
  • Preparing for a “digital immigration”
  • The power of conversations in today’s data privacy landscape
  • Why your company should still consider voice a key channel

Watch this interview above or read on to get a bite-sized version of the conversation.

Today’s Interview

Name: Amber Armstrong

Background: Amber is the CMO at LivePerson — a world leader in conversational AI technology.

Find Amber Online: LinkedIn | Twitter

Personalization Goes Beyond the Basics

Amber talks about how AI is naturally conversational, and how that helps breed consistent personalization across channels. Personalization needs to go far beyond demographic information and first names.

For example, if a brand calls me by my first name (Daniel), I’m immediately disengaged. Only my mother calls me Daniel…. and only when I’m in trouble.

Great brands already know I like to be called Dan.

They use data from a variety of sources to create a holistic picture of who I am and what I want.

And that’s something AI agents are great at figuring out. Amber says they are “naturally personalized because you’re having a conversation with a person.” You can ask questions, get answers, and engage them in open-ended dialogue.

Better yet, most real conversations are naturally contentful. Customers go to your app or website and engage you directly. So, when you ask questions and get answers, you don’t have to deal with some of the trickier open-ended data acquisition and utilization questions.

Sure, there are some nuances to this (certain industries may have different rules), but engaging with people through AI or person-to-person interaction creates these amazing experiences that also fuel down-the-line experiences with action-packed data.

Some great stats to solidify this message:

  • 66% of consumers expect brands to understand their individual needs, and 70% say understanding their individual needs impacts their loyalty to the company. (Salesforce)
  • 80% of customers are more likely to purchase (product or service) from brands they feel truly personalize their experiences. (Epsilon)
  • 63% of consumers expect your business to know their unique needs and expectations. This jumps to 76% for B2B buyers. (Salesforce)

Prepare for More Channels; Not “More Important” Channels

Amber brings up an important point: none of the channels we used to utilize have gone away.

“We haven’t suddenly abandoned email, right?” Instead, “we’ve added Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, social media, and other channels.” These other digital and social communication gateways are also flooded with customers. You can’t “shift your focus” to a new exciting channel; you also have to support the traditional ones.

From a support standpoint, this makes bots incredibly valuable. They can help intelligently route people based on needs. You have a ton of channels to contend with, and you need to deliver picture-perfect experiences across all of them. But some of these traditional channels (think voice, SMS, physical mail, etc.) aren’t always “data-friendly.”

Amber talks about how LivePerson is using AI to get actionable data out of traditional channels like voice.

“We’re always going to have some level voice conversations between brands and consumers. How do we still get that same level of data and actionability out of voice [as we do with social platforms]?”

LivePerson is already solving this problem by getting data from all of their sources (including voice) and combining it with machine learning to continually improve their AI and people agents.

If you want to leverage personalization at scale, you need to think about data capture. You can’t have inconsistent experiences across channels. And you need to contend with traditional channels, which may not be as simple to mine for data.

Some great stats to solidify this message:

  • 75% of customers expect a consistent and personalized experience across all channels, including social media, in-person, email, voice chat, etc. (Salesforce)
  • 76% of consumers still prefer voice to reach out to customer support. (CFI Group)

Prepare for the Digital Immigration

For the last decade, there’s been a huge emphasis on digitally-native consumers. But Amanda says companies should be prepared for massive digital immigration. COVID-19 pushed many people (especially older generations who often have more comorbidities) to digital.

“It’s not going back to the old days where everyone went into the grocery store. People aren’t going to do that anymore. Some people are always going to want to go into the store, right? But there’s a large contingent that’s now really comfortable ordering online. It’s their new normal. We’re going to see that continue to expand. When people get entry-level digital experiences, they crave more.

I included an entire chapter in my new book, The Experience Maker, about COVID-19. COVID accelerated the digital support ecosystem, and it’s changing the way we all approach digital interactions. We need to personalize across age gaps, tackle complex data questions surrounding privacy and utilization, and start to focus on delivering a seamless experience across every channel.

It’s really important to take a look at how service leaders grappled with this influx of digital people. There are some great examples of companies that nailed “pandemic personalization.” We could all learn from them.

Some great stats to solidify this message:

  • 33% of consumers switched to a new buying method during the pandemic. (McKinsey)
  • 71% of consumers expect personalized experiences and 76% get angry when they don’t get these personalized experiences. (McKinsey)

Episode Highlights

Hungry for some bite-sized pieces of personalization candy? Check out these direct quotes from the podcast.

Agents Can Empower Bots — And Vice-Versa

“Well, and I think [empowerment is] from both angles. So, the AI empowers the agents to be better, and we have what we call Conversation Assist. And it really gives them lots of information and makes recommendations, and helps speed up responses by helping them understand what happened in the previous conversation.”

But there’s also this idea that agents — instead of spending all of their time just interacting directly — oftentimes solve a lot of the same problems. The agent is training the bot. And that back and forth is incredibly, incredibly important because that’s how the bot starts to really become much more human.”

Conversations Are Often Naturally Contentful

“When you start talking about personalization and privacy, you get into a lot of complexity very, very quickly — including where data can be stored, how that data can be used, who it can be shared with.”

“And so it’s not an easy answer for sure.”

“If someone actively engages with you, then you have permission to ask them questions and to gather information from them.” “[voice calls and in-app messaging] provide great opportunities to really understand that person and provide them with the right kind of information.”

Voice is Still Important to Personalization

“We end up in this world where everyone has their own personal preferences about the ways that they want to communicate. What brands have to do is line up to exactly what the consumer wants in whatever channel they want. And you know, it’s really interesting; a lot of those consumers want voice chat.

“They want to call, and they want to get an answer.”

Chatbots Can Change How You Approach Voice and Chat-based Service

“People also want what they want really quickly. And so if you actually deploy AI and the understanding from across your entire consumer base, you can actually handle 70 to 80 percent of all of the requests via the bots to satisfaction. And that’s the really important point, right?”

For more interviews with CX leaders, check out all of the episodes of The Experience Maker Live Show here. Thanks to my friends at Verblio for creating this post. Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.

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