As consumers today, we expect that any history we have with a company will lead to a personalized customer experience. We believe that our past purchases, calls, clicks and in-person conversations will be used to inform how we are treated in the future. We anticipate that our level of service will be commensurate with the dollar value of our relationship or better. And when all of this happens, we’re delighted. When it doesn’t, we’re incensed.

In today’s marketing environment, the stakes couldn’t be higher in getting this right, because each customer is no longer just an individual account number, transaction or relationship. She is, instead, a powerful brand platform in her own right—with the ability to reach millions of like-minded people with something as simple as one anecdote posted or tweeted out to the world. And while not everyone has the sway of Taylor Swift with juggernauts like Apple, there are thousands of examples where companies are called out by regular folks like me.

“Getting it right” can reap huge rewards in brand popularity. Take for example Amazon’s use of personalization for cross-selling to existing customers. Amazon’s stated mission here is “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company where people can find and discover virtually anything they want to buy online.”1 Consumers have taken to social media to endorse this approach, with 26.5MM likes on Facebook—just 1MM short of Kim Kardashian’s.2 Amazon’s popularity with consumers as the best perceived brand in the U.S. was further confirmed when it topped 2015’s Brand Index across industries for the third year in a row.3 How does this translate to consumers’ wallets? As reported by the New York Times, “Of every additional $1 Americans spent for items online this year, Amazon captured 51 cents.”4 Not bad. Who ranks second to Amazon in brand perception? Netflix, another purveyor of personalized recommendations.3

Not all examples are good, however. Take the misalignment of sales objectives to a retention context in the infamous Comcast “agent from hell” call, recorded and posted by a frustrated customer in 2011.5 For an agonizing eight minutes, the agent fought against the customer’s request to disconnect service. This story went viral for all the wrong reasons. Frustrated Comcast customers weighed in. An investigation of Comcast culture revealed a context-deaf organization where performance KPIs ignored customer journeys.6 This is, of course, “getting it wrong.”

Real-Time Decisioning offers a CMO the technology needed to personalize every interaction with each customer in a way that acknowledges the relationship history, customer value and real-time context.

Consider the CMO of a retail bank who wants to guide customers through an onboarding journey of adding a savings account. This CMO wants to use every available opportunity to influence customers: leveraging the ATM, website, mobile app, retail agents, call centers, email and direct mail. This CMO would also want individual interactions to be tailored to reflect the context, who the customer is, where the customer is in the new savings account journey, what the customer is most likely to respond to, and the channel being used. And every time the customer responds, the next best marketing activity is adjusted accordingly. Decisioning offers omnichannel customer interaction management like this across the entire customer journey. From the CMO’s standpoint, this technology realizes the vision of marketing to the segment of one. From the customer’s perspective, the experience is consistent, responsive and relevant.

While the promise of this technology is profound, it does not automatically deliver customer satisfaction and commercial benefits. In other words, you can’t just buy your way into a great customer experience. Decisioning requires business transformation as well: a shift in focus and an alignment in organization that reflects this shift. In most organizations, each team has a different focus, where KPIs are aligned to their own goals.

For instance, in agent-based channels the focus is on the balance between efficiency and customer satisfaction, as measured by average handling time and NPS. Marketing teams are focused on the sales and utilization of their brands. Finance on revenue and margin. CRM sits across these silos, but often without the influence needed to truly reorient the other teams to a customer-centric coordination that can leverage personalization effectively.

The key here is to bring the various technology and business teams together—not in function, but in a unified intention to organize strategies, programs and practices around the customer regardless of the channel of engagement or subbrand. In the buzzwords of our industry, we must all become customer-centric in our application of our specific practices and disciplines.
When we do, we can engage customers in a personal, dynamic experience that is very powerful. As a result, we have the opportunity to harness the best marketing platform of all: the individual voices of each and every customer.


1. 2/23/2016. Company Info Overview:
2. 2/23/2016.
Kim Kardashian West:
3. 2/15/2016. 2015 Annual Rankings:
4. 12/30/2015.
5. 7/15/2014.
6. 7/28/14.

Nicole Gleason

Practice Lead, Business Intelligence at Comet Global Consulting

Nicole leads the business intelligence and analytics function for Comet in North America. Her focus is to help clients gain the insights they need to measure the commercial benefits, fully leverage the models that comprise the always-on marketing brain and drive continuous improvement of their decisioning programs. Nicole has 15 years’ experience in data and analytics, applied to the healthcare, advertising, telco and financial services industries. She holds an M.S. in Social Psychology from Yale University, where her research concentration was on implicit attitudes and stereotypes.