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Jan 19, 2022

Old vs. New: Updating the Clienteling Concept for an Omnichannel CX World

As digital-first customer journeys that combine both physical and digital touchpoints become routine, the concept of clienteling is evolving. Traditionally understood as a technique used by retail sales associates to establish long-term relationships with customers based on data about their basic preferences, behaviors and purchases, clienteling has broadened its reach. If we accept that a core component of clienteling is to build a long-term relationship with a customer, it stands to reason that the concept should extend beyond retail to include every industry and involve every employee who interacts with customers.

When clienteling began to gain traction, a typical use case was for a store associate to use a tablet to access customer data while personally assisting a customer during an in-store visit, like a digital concierge. An updated vision instead anticipates use cases and templates for customer information that translate to healthcare, travel and hospitality, financial services or any industry or organization with a brand-consumer dynamic that has multiple customer-facing departments.

Regardless of industry, every use case shares a common goal of using relevant customer data to strengthen the relationship a brand has with a customer. What differs is the data needed to optimize the relationship, how that data is presented to the customer-facing associate, and how the data is used – particularly in a bidirectional manner. A doctor, for instance, could use an accurate, up-to-date profile of a patient to help develop a care plan during an in-person or virtual appointment, while also collecting real-time information to help continue the conversation.

Recreate the Corner Store Experience

If optimal business practices require that all customer-facing employees must knowledgably engage with customers in real time, with the same familiarity as the proprietor of a corner store, traditional clienteling models will not suffice. Establishing or strengthening a long-term relationship with a customer shouldn’t need its own terminology; continuing a natural conversation supported by data should be par for the course for every business. In other words, why wouldn’t a company make best use of customer data at the precise moment it’s needed to engage with a customer in real time as a natural extension of a customer journey, however and wherever it unfolds?

New research from Harris Poll in a Redpoint-commissioned survey makes it clear that customers expect brands to have a deep, personal understanding of them wherever and whenever they engage. Further, customers understand that such an understanding comes from the sharing of data. Consider that 69 percent of consumers surveyed said that in the wake of the global pandemic it is more important that a brand know their individual needs and preferences. And 65 percent say that a personalized experience that reflects a deep understanding is now a standard expectation. As for the data exchange, 66 percent of consumers surveyed said that they will provide more information about themselves if the brand or organization uses it to create a more personalized experience.

Customer Data: Every Interaction & Every Channel

A broadening of the clienteling concept comes as expectations for digital omnichannel customer experiences solidify. Almost every major retailer today has in-store kiosks, virtual agents, self-service pick-up amenities for orders placed online, etc. In healthcare, secure online portals can serve as a one-stop digital experience for a virtual patient visit linked to automated prescription refills and other follow-up care steps. The basics of clienteling are quickly becoming omnipresent, but a key element in the success of these programs will center on the data provided to the customer-facing service providers.

To deliver holistic omnichannel experiences, brands and organizations need to have a real time, single view of the customer, unbound by channel or data siloes. In a recent retail-focused Forrester report on the future of digital, 73 percent of decision-makers at global retailers have either implemented or started to implement data management and analytics initiatives to improve their complete view of the customer across channels. According to the report, typical use cases include the integration of in-store and online tracking and engaging customers “by tapping a lucrative omnichannel view of the customer using zero- and first-party data sources.”

A focus on zero party data sources – data willingly provided by the customer – validates the Harris Poll findings where a majority of consumers will provide personal data in exchange for a personalized experience. That, in a nutshell, speaks to the future of clienteling: the unfettered use of customer data by every customer-facing person in the organization to continue or build a long-term customer relationship with data as the foundation of a value exchange. The relationship is built on trust, with the understanding that the data provided by the customer will be transparently used in accordance with a customer’s wishes to create a seamless, omnichannel experience every time the customer interacts with the brand.

Related Content

What is Clienteling and How Does it Impact Personalization?

Clienteling and the In-Store Personalized Experience

Humanizing the Experience with a Single Customer View

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