How to Create a Very Personalized Customer Experience

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I just stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Lansing, Michigan. I’ve stayed at many Crowne Plazas in the past, and they are nice hotels, however, the experience at this one was quite unique. It was a personalized experience, and the way they went about it is an excellent lesson we all can learn from.

First, the concept of personalization is to make the customer feel like the experience is somewhat unique to them. If I’ve stayed in a hotel and made a special request, the hotel may note that in my record, and the next time I stay at that hotel, they might remember the request so I don’t have to ask.

What the Crowne Plaza Lansing did was different. Before I go any further, you need to know a little about me. You probably know I travel around the world delivering keynote speeches on customer service and experience. I log about 150,000 miles a year as a “road warrior.” I also have hobbies. I do card tricks and magic. I also play guitar. So, now that you have some background, here’s the story.

When I walked into my room, I noticed a note with a shoe shine kit. It was handwritten and read: This will work wonders on the shoes of a road warrior. Then I noticed some beer. Not just any beer, but a special brand called Double Magician and Staff Magician. I’d never heard of these brands, but apparently, it was a local brand. I also noticed a guitar. A note next to that read: We heard about your hobby. Thought you might enjoy making a little music during your stay! From your friends at the Crowne Plaza. WOW!

And, finally, when I returned to my room that night there was not the customary mint that some hotels leave on the pillow. There was a plastic top hat with a chocolate bunny in it – as in the magician’s rabbit in the hat trick! Holy cow! Actually… Holy chocolate bunny!

So, I had to find out who was responsible for this and say thanks for this unbelievable experience. That person is Robin Goodenough, and she and the Crowne Plaza team are amazing. What did they do? Simple. They Googled my name and found my profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. It was easy for them to see what my interests were. From there, they wowed me with a personalized experience.

Some may find what the Crown Plaza team did to be a little “spooky.” I didn’t. If anyone posts something on a social channel like Facebook or LinkedIn, they should anticipate that others will see it. And, using the information posted for the purposes of creating an amazing and personalized customer experience, well there’s nothing wrong with that.

Thank you to my friends at Crowne Plaza Lansing! You created a truly memorable experience. Can’t wait to come back and visit you again!

9 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Shep: thanks for relating this experience, and I’m glad it was positive for you. The ‘spooky’ reference you made in your penultimate paragraph reminded me of a radio interview I heard last year. The interviewee was a Western journalist working in Moscow, Russia. He described discovering an English-language psychology book on the nightstand in his apartment, bookmarked on a page with subject matter that was very specific to him – in an intimate sort of way. According to the journalist, it had been placed there by the Russian secret police to remind him that they knew a bit more about him than he might have realized. Every profession has its unique set of jocular pranks, I suppose.

    I mention this, because I think there’s a fuzzy line between knowing enough about your customer, and knowing too much. As a travel customer, I like having the hotel know my floor preference, newspaper preference, and that I like to know the location and hours of an affiliated gym (if any) without having to dig around for those details. In short, I’m OK with the hotel knowing certain stuff directly related to my visit.

    I’ve never experienced anything close to the vignette you described in Michigan, but I tried putting myself in the situation you described, and I would have found it disturbing, at best. If I ran marketing for Crowne Plaza, my policy would be to assume expectations for privacy for every guest, unless that guest expressly granted permission to share the type of details they uncovered about you. It doesn’t matter whether the information is already ‘publicly available.’

    People stay at hotels for many reasons, and I trust that a measurable segment of them are content being near-anonymous. I don’t need to go into details. Privacy in general is a delicate customer matter, and in the travel industry in particular. I think it should be handled with great care.

  2. Hi Andrew – I agree that in some ways doing something like this might be, as you say, “spooky,” but not this. As mentioned, they did their homework based on what they knew about me. And, when the client booked me into the hotel, they told the hotel I was the speaker for their event. This happens quite often. So, the Crowne Plaza was doing what they do for their special guests. In any situation you must evaluate reasonable to do. Thank you for your comment. Appreciate you taking the time to respond.

  3. Hi Shep: thanks for giving more context to your article. I can understand that the hotel’s familiarity with your background was appealing to you, but whenever and wherever customer privacy is concerned, I recommend erring on the side of preserving customer privacy. Happily, there are less-risky, equally effective ways to separate customer experience apart from the pack.

  4. Personalized experiences are an interesting issue nowadays. Certain sorts of organizations have turned out to be exceptionally gifted at conveying the personalized benefit. Consider a lodging you’ve remained at before that invites you back and recalls that you enjoyed a specific kind of cushion, a particular daily paper, and a corner room. The experience is winding up increasingly normal, and this sort of administration is traverse into numerous different businesses, particularly retail.

    With clients changing rapidly and anticipating that retailers should know their necessities and propensities and give them customized offers and encounters, the inquiry for retailers isn’t whether they have to change — it’s ‘The place to begin?'”

    New research demonstrates that buyers are expecting, if not requesting, exceptionally personalized experiences. Furthermore, the uplifting news, for those organizations that can convey, is that clients are ordinarily ready to spend more when they get such exclusively custom tailored service. They need personalized recommendations.

  5. Hi Andrew – I agree, but in this case they knew (because the client told them), their guest was a speaker. So, it was a matter of stepping up and doing the research. Turned out to be an amazing and memorable experience – one that I wanted to share with the world (and I did). Thanks for your comment!

  6. Hi Shep: an interesting issue your article exposes is the relationship between a variable or tactic, and a desired outcome. In your situation, a ‘very personalized’ experience had a positive outcome. Many companies – including some my own clients – infer a straight linear relationship. If a ‘very personalized’ experience had a good result for one person or group of persons, then a) it applies to larger populations, and/or b) a higher degree (e.g. ‘extremely personalized’ or ‘intimate’ experience) must be even better. I question that. My hypothesis is that almost every variable in business has an inflection point where return on investment or effort declines or becomes negative. When it comes to the efficacy of personalization, that hypothesis needs to be tested.

    Assuming a straight-line relationship is one of the most common logical fallacies I see. “[A] is good, so more of it must be better.” Or, “customers demand personalized experiences, so ‘more personalized’ must be even more preferable.” A research study on whether an inflection point exists with personalization, and if so, where does it exist? I believe an inflection point exists, and it probably varies by demographic. Digital natives would likely be more accepting of greater personalization than I am, for example. Still, knowing how consumers perceive personalization would be not only be interesting, but useful and timely.

  7. Hi Andrew – Thanks for your insightful comment. In some cases, too much of a good thing is not a good thing. “More personalized” may be too much. It takes a balance, and good companies (and good people) are able to find the point of balance.

  8. Good discussion. Most of the commentary about personalization is about how to do more of it, and increase accuracy. Because in general, so say the surveys, consumers want more personalization and companies want to provide it.

    But there’s been precious little discussion about how to determine the right amount. As Andy points out, more is not always better. What’s welcome to one traveler is creepy to another.

    It seems that personalization itself needs to be personalized. Each consumer should have the right to turn it up or down, and have businesses respect that. So even if Andy is a very frequent traveler, if he wants to get the generic experience the hotel should know that.

    The assumption seems to be that if a consumer shares information, whether explicitly of through behavior, that they are authorizing its use however the business deems fit. While some, perhaps most, will welcome, that doesn’t mean it should be applied to everyone.

  9. Hey Bob – Great point. “Personalization needs to be personalized.” Each case should be on its own. For the VIP you’re trying to impress or the frequent traveler you just want to do something special for, all should be handled individually.

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