How personal is personal enough for your customer experience?

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Over on his Customer Excellence blog, Eric Jacques sparked a discussion about the benefits of a consistent vs a personal experience. I tossed in a comment there, and thought it would be fun to continue the conversation here.

Is a “personal” experience always better?

Instinctively, you might think ‘of course.’   Yet the question reminds me of a leader I met a while ago.

The scene: I was the keynote for a leader meeting, where I was asked to talk about the performance payoff for customer experience.  Well into the conversation, someone in back raised his hand:

“What do you do if your customers don’t want a customer experience?”

The group chuckled. But I was curious. “Say more.” I asked.

“I’m the regional VP of sales for a national packaging company. We deliver a GREAT customer experience! We tour the operations where the packaging will be used. Do custom design. We offer to inventory the packaging, and deliver in small batches over time.”

Frustrated, he continued: “Now, more and more often, customers are turning away from us. They’re putting their business out to reverse auctions on the web. They don’t want a customer experience!”

Of course this leader’s customers did want an experience.  They wanted an experience that was consistently IMpersonal, fast and price driven.

The painful (perhaps) but necessary (always) choice

His company was left with a choice: shift the experience offered to match the what their customers had come to value, OR continue offering a highly personalized experience to a new set of customers that would value (and pay for) it. Continuing to invest in delivering a highly personalized experience to his current customers would be a leak of both revenue and profit from his company.  By the end of the conversation, no one was chuckling.

While personal intuitively seems always better, to truly know we must understand what needs we’re solving for which customers. And perhaps it makes my point too well, but I’ll bet this Virgin Mobile ad evokes a reaction from you:

So!  How personal is the right personal for your customers?

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