Customer Experience Innovation Blog with Toni Newman

Are you kidding me?

I confess.  I‘m about to rant.

Rant about an insipid but unfortunately prevalent trend that is out there in customer experience and to be honest, it is a trend that is really starting to bug me.

It’s called Personalization – the attempt to create connections with customers by appearing to personalize communications and offers.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Not only is Personalization a great idea, it is an essential element for success in the Seductive criteria of Five ‘S’ experiences – customer experiences that help you attract, keep and engage more customers more often.

My issue is with the apparent misunderstanding of Personalization and the resulting complacency that misunderstanding creates.  Complacency that renders many attempts at Personalization both mind numbing and naive. (In my personal opinion.)

It is not because we have access to technology that can insert someone’s name into a document (just like our newsletter provider inserts your name into this one) that we have somehow achieved Meaningful Personalization.  Is it nice to have your name at the start of a document that you know is the same one that has been sent out to hundreds or thousands of people?  Sure. And when it’s not there, we notice.  We are somehow disappointed that even that minimal amount of effort has not been made.  But do we actually believe that because technology has inserted our name into a communication, someone somewhere has actually thought about us and personalized the message? Are you kidding me?

Okay – so I may be overreacting just a touch.

Personalization is a very valid tool that can be applied to a variety of Touchpoint Opportunities to create Five ‘S’ customer experiences.  My concern is that our dependence upon technology to create this Personalization is in some way lulling us into a false sense of accomplishment.

Margaret Rousse, writing for, says”Personalization in some ways harkens back to an earlier day, by making consumer relationships more closely tailored to the individual.”  She goes on to talk about the myriad of software products available to “personalize” just about anything and she’s right. However, we need to ask ourselves, do these modern interpretations of Personalization really create meaningful experiences that “harken back to an earlier day”?  Is our reliance on technology serving us well where Meaningful Touchpoint Personalization is concerned?

Yes – there are those who are doing it very well.  I love being “remembered” by Amazon and browsing through the exciting lists of suggestions that have been tailored to my personal needs and interests – or should I say, tailored to my personal needs and interests as perceived by Amazon’s technology upon review of my past shopping behaviors.

For the rest of us, however, investing in an incredibly expensive system that analyses customer purchasing habits might well be a little out of our reach.  So what’s left? 

What’s left is simple. We look at our High Influence Touchpoint Opportunities and we ask ourselves how can we differentiate our customer experience by adding the element of Meaningful Personalization.

Here’s a great, real world example.

I recently received a SendOutCards card from two different sources. (SendOutCards is an amazing online greeting card system that enables you to send out “handwritten” - you can choose computerized handwritten style font - and personalized - you can add photos, personal messages whatever you would likecards.)The first card was from a supplier in honor of US Thanksgiving.   It was pretty but nothing special.  First thought – I’m Canadian so if this card was meant to be Seductive to me, shouldn’t our US supplier have sent it for Canadian Thanksgiving?  Second, my name was on the outside of the envelope but not on the inside of the card. (Yes – I know it’s the technology that puts my name in but yes – I noticed that the effort to ask the technology to do this hadn’t even been made.) Thirdly, the supplier’s logo on the card took up more space that the message to me which, by the way, included the words “we appreciate you.”   Are you kidding me?  The missed opportunity here was even worse considering that this company specializes in marketing and the lack of effort in this card did not do any favors for their Why You story!

The second card was from a colleague whose brand is all about humor.  First thought - the card was funny and therefore completely congruent with the brand story. Second, the colleague in question included a message that actually had my name in it! Thirdly, this colleague had taken the time to include a beautiful picture of my family that he had downloaded from FaceBook.  And fourthly, he must have had the card and envelope sent to him first because his name was signed on the card – in actual ink!  Now that’s how you do it!  (And because I love to give credit where credit is due, this colleague’s name is George Campbell or, as he is more commonly known, Joe Malarkey – the “worst motivational speaker in America”.  Check out this amazing and hilarious speaker at

These two SentOutCards experiences demonstrate perfectly the point that I want to make. Technology can make our lives easier but it can also lull us into complacency. It remains our responsibility to put in the time – to go the extra mile that moves our customer experiences from satisfying to spectacular; from predictable to exceptional; from “That’s nice” to “That’s something I need to tell all of my friends.”

So right now, make a list of 5 Touchpoint Opportunties in your business or organization that you could make more Seductive by adding the element of Meaningful Personalization.

InnovaT!on Insights …

3 Essential Characteristics of Meaningful Personalization

Once you have a list of Touchpoint Opportunities you’d like to work on, here are 3 essential characteristics of Meaningful Personalization to keep in mind.

1. Knowledge

The more you know about what is of value to me, the more that you can personalize your message in a meaningful manner.   Collecting knowledge – both explicit (I’ve shared it with you for some reason) and implicit (I’m part of a target market group that you know really well) – is essential. 

However, if you want to really get a leg up on the competition, why noT! ask different questions about what truly matters to your customer base. Create innovative customer experiences that actually provide incentive for them to answer your questions and see what happens!

2. Relevancy

Knowledge may be important but it doesn’t turn into power until you can apply that knowledge in a way that is relevant to me.  It’s not enough to know what I buy. You need to understand why I buy it. You need to make the effort to go beyond the obvious.   One might even say, as long as you’re going to send me a card, why noT! make the effort to personalize it in a meaningful manner!

3. Authenticity
Authenticity is about trust and therefore it is the glue that holds Meaningful Personalization together.   Don’t try to fool me or pull the wool over my eyes. Show me that you deserve the payoff that comes from the effort to create Meaningful Personalization and I will most likely follow you anywhere but rest assured.  The moment that the little voice in my head says “Are you Kidding Me?” the jig is up.  It’s game over and your customers may never give you the chance to redeem yourself again.

Now, Imagine the Possibilities and Go Get Personal!

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