A few weeks ago, I learned that my credit card number was part of a large data breach and that I needed to cancel it immediately. My first thought? Panic and trepidation  what if someone already charged on my card? What about the companies that I have recurring payments with  will they reject them and charge me fees? How do I remember all of the companies with which I even have recurring payments?

As all of these questions entered my mind and I started questioning my loyalty to Capital One, I received the following email (pictured) explaining what I needed to do as a customer and the companies that I needed to contact:


Capital One not only provided immediate relief but also demonstrated awareness of my individual profile and what could make or break my specific customer experience. It implemented personalization at a critical “moment of truth.”

Forrester’s research articulates that personalization  one of the top success factors for customer-obsessed businesses in 2016 is a critical pillar of customer experience and that organizations are starting to invest not only in personalization to stay competitive but also in individualized experiences that are enabled by personalization. (See my colleague Tony Costa’s report on this topic here.)

The reality, though, is a bit bleaker for many organizations across industries. The Customer Experience Consulting team here at Forrester recently completed a competitive benchmark assessment for a large technology vendor. Its objective was to determine where to invest in website and email improvements. To do this, Forrester:

  • Evaluated the vendor’s current-state personalization capabilities across many channels.
  • Benchmarked this company’s personalization capabilities against those of three competitors.
  • Recommended where personalization could help address key customer problem areas and capitalize on key opportunities.

Despite their reputations, we found that the benchmark firms collected only very basic information around their customers. They were weak at applying advanced predictive analytics and overall fell short of providing customers with an experience that they desired or expected.

Even those firms that already invested in personalization often approached it in an inside-out manner. They focused on how to add customized features to their website or email channels rather than understanding customers’ problems and using personalization as a solution to those problems. They often get caught up in technology decisions before considering how personalization will drive better experiences. You can see a weak approach to personalization when websites recommend products or services that aren’t truly relevant. For example, I recently purchased a home microbrewing kit as a gift, and ever since, the website has been recommending that I purchase commercial-sized fermenters.

So, who gets it right  and how do they do it?

Firms that succeed with personalization are proactive and intentional about it. They treat personalization as an enabler of better interactions from the customers’ view across their journeys. Rather than contemplating, “How can my organization implement personalization?” they ask, “What tasks and goals are users trying to accomplish, and how can personalization enable users to more seamlessly accomplish those?”

If your company is like most  not as far along as you’d like with personalization  here’s a set of actions you should consider taking to strengthen this critical capability:

  • Take an inventory of the data that your organization collects on your website from customers.
  • Research how that data and predictive analytics help fuel site views, product/solution recommendations, and communications.
  • Use Forrester’s personalization checklist to identify current capabilities against best practices.
  • Using your organization’s customer persona documents, create a list of tasks and goals that they need to accomplish on your website and via email/text (focusing on either the most common ones or the most important ones to the organization).
  • Map out and walk through customer journeys across channels in your customer personas’ shoes and evaluate whether those elements of personalization help, hurt, or don’t affect how customers accomplish these goals.
  • Invest in and implement helpful solutions where a lack of personalization is hurting customers’ abilities to complete their tasks or where the elements of personalization are negatively affecting their experience.
  • Bonus: Evaluate competitors’ sites using the same methodology to understand the competitive landscape and how to differentiate your customer experience through greater personalization.

Which company will be the next to save a customer through personalization in a key moment of truth?