Personalizing the customer experience

If anything is certain in business, it is that understanding customer expectations—and the ability to fulfill them—will only become more important. It is not surprising then that 77 percent of U.S. CEOs believe that they could significantly improve their understanding of their customers.

77% of US CEOs believe they could significantly improve their understanding of their customers.

“We're reimagining what the future looks and feels like for our clients. We're going from only thinking about our clients – to also thinking like our clients. It's about getting into their mindset to better understand their needs and evolving expectations, says Penny Pennington, Managing Partner, Edward Jones.

KPMG’s research reveals that understanding the customer includes many different facets, starting from motivation, the best channels for engagement and shopping, the impact of life events on shopping and spending, and decision making about how much customers are willing to spend. Making things tougher, these variables vary by individual customer, which is why creating the shopping experience requires precise and nuanced personalization.

“Companies are investing in the personalization of customer experience because they see it as a winning strategy,” says Julio J. Hernandez, KPMG Advisory partner and leader of the firm’s Global Customer Center of Excellence and U.S. Customer Advisory practice. However, 58 percent of CEOs say that the investments they have made in trying to personalize the customer experience have not delivered the growth benefits they were hoping for (compared with 7 percent last year). Hernandez attributes these results partly due to the increased focus on measuring and attributing the results of personalization, marketing and broader front-office investments.

Creating shareholder value means creating everybody’s value.

Hikmet Ersek
President, CEO and Director
Western Union

Creating true customer value


Data is, of course, the key to understanding the customer and also measuring the results of marketing campaigns. KPMG’s research reveals that a majority of customers (71 percent)[1] are willing to trade their data to the company for better customer experience and personalization, improved security, and better values and prices. At the same time, however, a majority of customers feel anxious about unauthorized tracing of their online habits by companies and other institutions and about identity theft

“While there’s a clear recognition that understanding customers is very critically important, there’s also a clear mandate to make sure companies do so in an ethical and a protected way. Companies are navigating this in a very proactive manner, to fuel profitable growth,” says Hernandez.

CEOs are also very mindful of creating values that their customers expect from today’s business. Eighty-one percent feel it is their personal responsibility to ensure that their organization’s ESG policies reflect the values of their customers. Meeting customers’ expectations in terms of values is part of an overall value proposition of U.S. CEOs.

Values-driven customer understanding

Companies face a choice about what types of causes to get involved in and promote, and very often such causes are tied to companies’ competencies or the needs of the communities they operate in. For Hikmet Ersek, President, CEO and Director of Western Union, supporting education, was, in a way, a call from his customers. The number one reason that people send money via Western Union worldwide is for education. Thus, Western Union Foundation is committed to the support of global education, and it draws on strategic philanthropy and the strength of Western Union’s core business assets, including cause marketing, employee engagement, shared value products and services, and advocacy.

And while many CEOs (49 percent) struggle to link growth strategy with a wider societal purpose for the organization, for Ersek, you can’t have one without the other: “Creating shareholder value means creating everybody’s value.”