So what do customers want that brands need to provide? In addition to a valuable product or service — the table stakes — brands need to understand an anticipate their customers’ needs and preferences and offer solutions to their challenges and answers to their questions. This means that brands need a way to personalize the messages, offers and experience for their customers in order to provide relevance and value beyond simply making a sale.

In this article, I’m going to look at three critical actions or components needed to building meaningful and effective personalized customer experiences, or as I say in my newest book of the same name, build a house of the customer.

Let’s explore three pillars of our house, as well as the foundation that ties it all together.

Understanding the Customer

The first pillar of our house allows us to begin by making sure that we know who our current customers are and who our ideal new ones should be. Thus, understanding the customer allows us to determine how to personalize content, offers and experiences.

In order to understand our customers, we need to not only know about them — their demographics — but what they do, or their behaviors. While some challenges to data collection have been posed by limits on third party data services, brands should instead look at this an opportunity to enrich the value of their first-party data. Through customer data platforms (CDPs) and other tools, it is now imperative that brands build their own first party customer data strategies and programs in order to continue to improve and enhance their ability to deliver meaningful and relevant content, offers and experiences.

Related Article: Get the Foundational Use Case Ready for Your Customer Data Platform

Serving the Customer

After we have this solid understanding of our audiences, we need to provide them value in order to win new customers or build loyalty with existing customers. This second pillar is critical to the customer experience and means that we need to tie relevance to our product and service offerings based on what we understand about the customer from their behavior and what they’ve shared with us already.

In other words, we take our understanding of the customer and tailor the content, offer and experience to match. To make this more of a challenge, brands need to take into account the channel switching that their customers are doing. This means that rather than providing a personalized experience on a single channel like a website or email, they need to account for all of the different channels and touchpoints that an individual may be interacting on. This includes offline channels as well, such as brick and mortar retail locations, or phone support.

Serving the customer well takes an integrated effort across channels and based on a thorough understanding of the challenges the individual wishes to solve. By connecting problem with solution, and doing so in a consistent manner, our house of the customer provides real value to the consumer and they are more likely to reward us with repeat purchases, referrals and overall loyalty to our brand.

Listening to the Customer

This brings us to our third pillar. In order to ensure that we are improving our efforts over time, we need to listen carefully to what our customers do, and find ways to do things better next time.

Learning Opportunities

This means having methods of measuring and understanding individual customer behaviors, how products and platforms are performing, as well as a way to understand how the multiple channels that a single individual may interact with over time contribute to the overall experience and affect their loyalty.

It also means approaching customer relationships as a long-term relationship. Utilizing a customer lifetime value model, as opposed to a stronger focus on the short-term by prioritizing net new customers, allows a company to focus on the future of more valuable customers.

Related Article: CMSWire's Top 10 Voice of the Customer Articles of 2022

End Result: An Agile, Customer-Centric Culture

Finally, we need a way to operationalize all of this and ensure it continues to improve over time. This forms the foundation of our house of the customer, and it is where an agile, customer-centric culture comes into play. It’s not enough to simply say we want to provide the best possible customer experience, we need a way to ensure that our teams are working together to make it happen.

The first component of this is agility. While this may include more formal Agile practices like Scrum or SAFe (two incarnations of the application of Agile principles), I mean this in a broader sense where the brand is nimble and open to change and has systems of continuous improvement so that what works today can continue to be modified to work tomorrow, and the next day.

The second component of this is customer-centricity. This means that everyone in the organization — everyone — sees their role in relation to the customer, and takes pride in their ability to contribute to being a leading brand in serving happy and loyal customers. As I often say, when this is done well, customer satisfaction is both the motivation to employees as well as their reward for a job well done.

Conclusion: Customer House-Building a Team Sport

Creating the engaging, personalized customer experiences that consumers crave and even demand is the continual challenge to brands of today and the future.

As I say in my book, "House of the Customer," it takes a strong, sustained effort that is supported by leaders, driven by employees, felt by customers, and shared with the world. I wish you the best as you build your own house of the customer!