waiter in tuxedo with white cloth draped over arm
PHOTO: Valentin B. Kremer

At one end of the spectrum is service, and at the other, familiarity. Picture these two different experiences: 

In the first one, you walk into a clothing store you’ve been frequenting for years. The clothes fit well, they’re affordable and they’re stylish. More importantly, every time you go in, the associates remember you. They address you by name, they have a sense of your personal style, they know your size, and they know what new items you’re likely to be interested in. 

Now imagine walking into the same store, again, one that you’ve frequented for years. You’re not acknowledged walking through the door, the clothes don’t seem to be organized by size or style, and an associate tries to sell you a heavy winter coat, even though it’s July and 85 degrees outside. 

One of those experiences feels bespoke, catered and meaningful. The other is slipshod and depersonalized. In this age of customer experience innovation, there’s nothing preventing every customer interaction, whether in person or online, from resembling the bespoke experiences provided by stores where they know you by name. 

So, how can you create white-glove experiences, the kind that are typical at a high-end retailer or spa, across the entire customer journey? Here are a few key steps that will get you there.

Nail Down Data Management

Different parts of your organization are customer-facing, which means that different parts of your organization actively capture customer data. Unfortunately, that data probably lives in silos and is not immediately accessible by those who need it. If marketing doesn’t have access to customer service data, for example, they can’t suppress customers who have lodged complaints from new email campaigns, potentially making an already bad situation even worse. 

Meaningful customer experience is built on a foundation of data. Customer data needs to be in one place, and there are a few different ways that can be achieved. Customer data platforms (CDPs) are at peak buzz, topping Gartner’s hype cycle, but they aren’t the only way to get your data house in order. Virtualization — keeping your data where it is replicating it in real time in a central location — presents a path to data centralization that shrugs off batch updates, compatibility problems and implementation delays. 

Related Article: Marketing's Chicken or Egg Silo Problem

Make Your Data Available

Having your customer data in one place is a great first step, but if it’s not being used to inform the interactions you’re having with customers across the customer journey, it might as well remain siloed. 

Human-to-human touchpoints are some of the most impactful and high-stakes interactions in the customer journey. Human agents are often handling customers at the most sensitive moments in the journey: during calls to customer service, for example. Make sure the people on the ground and in your call centers are capable of providing white-glove, meaningful customer experience by providing them real-time access to contextual customer information. Feeding customer information to human agents — say through an automatic pop-up when a customer dials into a call center — provides reps with the information they need to make the customer feel as if the brand knows them. 

Related Article: The Data-Driven Organization Is an Endangered Species

Leverage Automation

Not all customer interactions are person-to-person. In fact, most of the exposure your customers have with your brand will happen online. Extending the white-glove experience into the digital realm relies on the same fundamentals as enabling meaningful customer experience in a live environment. That is, you have to consolidate your customer data and make sure it’s available when and where it’s needed. For digital touchpoints, however, technology makes it possible to create meaningful customer experiences on the fly through thoughtful automation.

Enabling orchestration — linking disparate channels and implementing business logic to serve up responses or interactions based on triggers and customer histories— ensures you can deliver contextually relevant experiences automatically. By doing so — for example, by defaulting to display clothing in a user’s preferred size — you can foster the kind of familiarity online that’s usually reserved for in-person interactions.

Related Article: Customer Journey Orchestration Isn't Just for B2C Anymore

Putting it Together

Even in a digital age, high-touch experiences matter, wherever they happen. How you handle those interactions can make or break customer relationships. Baseline customer experience — where nothing breaks, but nothing is extraordinary, either — may have worked in the past. Customer experience differentiation, though, comes through meaningful or outstanding experiences, where customers are made to feel known, heard and catered to. 

When you have your data house in order, customer data is available where it’s needed, and automation enables meaningful interactions at every stage of the customer journey, you can replace baseline, run-of-the-mill customer experiences with meaningful customer experiences. From the customer perspective, white-glove treatment goes from a luxury to an everyday possibility. When you’re able to provide that, customers will reward you in kind — with repeat business, loyalty and, best of all, advocacy with friends and family.