CX Best Practices: Make Every Customer Feel Special Through Personalization

The best customer experiences make your customers feel special. Personalization is one of the best ways to achieve that goal without breaking the bank.

A nice touch

I belong to a great health club and fitness center called the acac (lower case intentional.) When I walk into the main entrance, the people behind the reception desk happily scan the bar code on my member tag. My profile appears on the screen in front of the person who scanned me in, and he or she usually greets me with a cheerful “Hi Frank! Enjoy your workout!”  While the latter half of that greeting is unrealistically optimistic, it provides a small personal touch.

But let’s be honest: I know they read my name off of the screen, and that many of the staff wouldn’t know me without that prompt. That’s ok. I appreciate the attempt at a personal greeting, even if the cynical part of my brain knows that it’s artificial.

True personalization

Like most members of the health club, I have a fairly consistent routine: I visit on the same days and generally at the same time. Most of the time, my routine coincides with one staff member’s work shift.  Her name is Donna.

When I walk into the club, it’s a good fifty-foot walk from the front door to the reception desk, but when Donna sees me coming she enthusiastically greets me. “Hi Frank!” she says, and logs me into the club without me having to show my member tag. I glide past the desk, feeling like a VIP.

Donna greets dozens of people in the same way every morning. She must know hundreds of members by sight, so I’m hardly unique. But she makes every one of us feel special.

Special is awesome.

Personalization as demonstrated by Coke cans and bottles

Yeah, I know the Coca-Cola company is cynically manipulating my emotions and pretending to care about me. I’ll still fight you for the Frank can.

Get real

We are wired to pick up on many subtle things. Entire chunks of our brain are dedicated to interpreting the verbal and non-verbal signals that make up communication with our fellow human beings. In other words, we’re pretty good at detecting insincere messages.

For example, the words “valued customer” have never, in the history of ever, made a customer feel more valued. The recorded message that assures you that your business is important while you spend twenty minutes on hold rings hollow. The telemarketer who reads from a canned script and makes a weak attempt at casual chatter drives you to view the conversation with skepticism, not friendship.

On the flip side, we recognize when a person invests real effort in understanding something about us. On my honeymoon, the receptionist who checked us into the hotel remembered my wife and I and greeted us by name (without computer assistance) the next morning. At one of the restaurants I frequent, they only have raspberry-flavored iced tea on the menu, but when the manager sees me walk in he puts on a fresh pot of regular tea.  I feel like royalty.

At Walt Disney World, cast members will crouch down to child-height and ask a child in costume for her autograph. Nothing makes a six-year old in a princess dress as happy as an adult stranger treating her like royalty.

Invest sincere effort in making your customers feel special. They can tell when you’re faking it, and that backfires. Personalization only works when it’s personal.

Don’t spend a fortune

It doesn’t cost the acac anything for Donna to remember the guests. The regular iced tea at my favorite restaurant costs just as much as the raspberry-flavored tea, but I choose that restaurant whenever I can. Disney does not pay their cast members extra to bend down.

Like all great elements of customer experience, you must design the parts that make your customers feel special. Figure out where you have opportunities to create that feeling, and then design it into the training you give your people. Watch what your staff is already doing, and ask your customers if anyone on your team has ever made them feel special. Then take that idea and scale it up across your team.

Exceptional customer experiences are all about making the customers feel special. How does your organization do it?


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