Data Driven Marketing

Podcast: American Express' Personalization Journey

Podcast: American Express' Personalization Journey

January 26, 2021 | Tricia Gabberty

How American Express Achieves World-Class Customer Service

What does personalization really mean in marketing today? According to Anthony Mavromatis, Vice President of Customer Marketing Analytics and Data Science at American Express, defining personalization has to be contextual to the brand and mission.

“For American Express, our mission has always been to deliver world-class customer service, and personalization is a way of continuing to anticipate and meet the needs of our customers,” he said. “Personalization in that context means showing our customers that we know them, we understand them, and ultimately, we have their backs in every interaction.”

I interviewed Mavromatis in the first episode of our Data Dialogues podcast about American Express’s journey in providing that Holy Grail of customer experience across an omnichannel world.  Listen to our podcast below or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you hear, please subscribe.

The Road Required Stamina and Grit

Below is an abbreviated portion of our interview:

As a consumer and a proud cardholder of American Express, I myself have noticed the progress you’ve made in the space of personalization. And it's a hot topic. Tell us about the journey to bring that experience into a more one-on-one dialogue, as well as making it relevant and having the proper cadence and resonance with your customers?

Data Dialogues 

Anthony: First I'm glad you noticed, and we're always excited to hear that type of feedback. I know the journey for us started almost three years ago today when I first took on the responsibilities of delivering an across the enterprise personalized experience. The starting point was definitely a place where a lot of some things worked, but a lot of things didn't. I quickly was overwhelmed with different platforms, different solutions for implementations. And I think that's the case in a lot of companies with a lot of legacy platforms that built up over time. 

That’s where we pushed the issue of working across product, not just data science, but product technology and marketing partners to say, "Let's pause. This digital world is coming at us very quickly." We have a lot more touch points. Expectations are very high. What do we want to do in terms of delivering that experience of a world-class service? What do we need from a personalization capability perspective to be able to do that?

And that led to a lot of very lively sessions, but also very liberating sessions. For example, a lot of technology partners said we have too many platforms we're managing. You have too many different algorithms running. You have a marketing thing like I don't have enough leavers to be able to customize the experience and deliver the experience that we want. So, in many ways it's almost cathartic.

But that was frankly the foundation. And we quickly realized this vision was going to require multiple years of investment and a very disciplined manner. And you know, very few companies have the stamina and grit to say this is a long-term transformation. We're going to stick with it. We like the vision. 

I think that's the Genesis there. And if we fast forward now two, almost three years to the day, we have a single capability. We branded it Orchestra, as in orchestrating across content channels and experiences that operate at least in the U.S. and then from an omni-channel perspective.

Tell us about Orchestra. What does it do? What is unique about it?

Anthony: Orchestra is our centralized solution for delivering on our personalization vision in line with the company, vision and goals of delivering a world-class service. It powers in real time in a channel agnostic manner and at scale. The classic questions of what, how, when and why -- all these decisions in a way that optimize for the same objective, functional KPIs.

If I start with what I think is the most important piece and the biggest challenge we faced, it was different channels had different goals. One might be focused on delivering what is most relevant in that particular time, but only certain types of content. And, of course, that might be different across different channels. So the most important piece, at least from a business and a customer experience perspective, is ensuring the same experience irrespective of where and when the customer is interacting with us. 

And organizationally and also tactically, that means every touch point has the same objective function or group of KPIs that you're always monitoring and trying to optimize for.

And I think one of the smart things we were able to do is make sure that we focus on that first and get alignment across the organization all the way up to the CEO that this is going to deliver the experience that we want. And that alignment, quite frankly, has served us really well over the last couple of years. And I believe it will serve us going forward. 

The next order of business is how do you execute that in a flawless manner? How do you execute that in a customer-centric manner? How do you do that in a way that's super rapid? And I think this recent environment has shown the importance of being able to evolve rapidly with the changing needs of our customers.

For more on this interview, listen to the full podcast.