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Customerization Unleashed: Making Service Their Way

By Jamey Lutz and Chip Bell—

A newlywed couple spent the first part of their honeymoon at the Disney World Magic Kingdom, followed by another few days on a Disney cruise. On the morning of transition from hotel to ship they were told to pack and leave their bags in their theme park hotel room; someone would transport the bags to their stateroom on the cruise ship. Arriving on board they were pleasantly surprised to discover their MagicBand that opened their theme park hotel room also opened their room on board the cruise ship.

In early 2015, Google X (Google’s top secret innovation lab) secured a patent for a digital contact lens that many believe will revolutionize diabetes care. So what’s the connection between contact lenses and diabetes? Electronic sensors embedded in the contact will allow blood sugar levels to be measured from tear secretions. When blood sugar levels cross designated thresholds, a message can be sent via an app to the user notifying him/her to act immediately or contact a physician if the condition is serious.

Personalization, or as management guru Tom Peters called it, “customerization,’ is the new feature of successful customer experience outreach.  Customers want it “their way” because more and more they can get it that way!

Personalization has always been a characteristic of face-to-face encounters. We enjoy it monogrammed when service providers use our name, recall our last purchase, or thank us for being a valued member of their loyalty program. And, now it is even appearing on the Internet landscape.  Case in point:  Unique Fragrances.

Log onto Unique Fragrances and you are given a special opportunity in five clicks to create your own signature perfume. Once you identify yourself as a male or female, you chose the character (casual, sensual, natural, glamorous, etc.), the scent (fruity, citric, fresh, extravagant, etc.), the notes (50 aromas like orchid, white tea, violet leaf, cherry blossom, etc.) with detailed descriptions and photos, the bottle (20 different styles) and finally the label (name, design, and font). Talk about a gift that keeps on giving; this one is a sure winner!  So, what are the two principles important to customerization?

Think Local - Act Local

Personalizing service requires time and care; it cannot be a knee-jerk or a fast-tracked response.  It is unique to the customer and it must always be sincere and authentic. Customers know if your brand of service is a gimmick, an empty gesture, or a selfish ploy. When service is genuinely tailored to you, it reminds customers they are vitally present in an important service relationship. Having customers’ names on an offering or their needs embedded in it informs customers they are valued recipients, not just typical end users.

Order personalized award ribbons from the Award Company of America in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and your order comes with a thank-you note that contains the words “I am the machine operator who actually made your ribbons. I am very proud of my work. We want to give you highly personal service. If you are dissatisfied for any reason, please contact our customer service department. They will contact me and I will personally correct any problem. Thank you for your order.  We look forward to receiving your next order.”

For those who aspire for a healthier and more active way of life, Fitbit emerged on the scene in 2007 with a very different approach to fitness – proliferate the market with products that make it fun, social and empowering to exercise. As one of Fitbit’s slick advertising slogans states, “Every moment matters and every bit makes a big difference. Because fitness is not just about gym time. It’s all the time.”

We have a colleague who swears by his Fitbit wristband, leveraging the device to track nearly every movement in his day, from mundane activities (e.g. walking to the mailbox) to rigorous workouts, food intake and monitoring his sleep patterns.  He even has friendly competitions with other Fitbit fanatics through the electronic scoreboard option. Whether you are a devotee of this type of technology or not, the ability for users to control and customize their fitness lives has proven to be a financial game changer for Fitbit and other market competitors. 

Invite Customers to Help

“Dinner on the ground” was code for participation in small towns in the South when we were growing up.  While this event went with all family reunions, its most special form of community occurred after certain church services. “Dinner on the ground” was a super event for little boys to run, holler and pull ponytails pretty much unsupervised since their caretakers were occupied with set-up and cleanup. For the women, it was a time to show off a new recipe; men told tales over sweet ice tea of the one that got away. Everyone went home after eating way too much fried chicken and peach pie.

But, this “everyone brings something” event brought people closer and enabled them to feel more interdependent.  It was community in its purest form.  And, it was surely a sad day when someone got the bright idea of “just calling Big Al and having him bring the barbecue with all the trimmings.” Wise service providers attract customer loyalty by making the “dinner on the ground” side of service as inclusive, memorable and wholesome as a church picnic.

Community Footprints, the non-profit arm of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, recently launched Impact Experiences, a unique service program inviting group hotel guests to participate in activities that make a positive impact in area communities. To date, group guests have partnered with hotel culinary teams to prepare meals for a local hunger relief organization, as well as helping assemble backpacks with school supplies that were donated to students in impoverished locales.

The benefits of this program are far reaching. The company promotes collaboration in the communities in which they serve, while participating hotel guests gain a sense of accomplishment through participation in socially responsible activities. But most importantly, the program serves to provide a vital helping hand to those in critical need.  

Do your customers experience getting served as if they were your only customer?  Know your customers by involving them in your business. Tailor your service offerings so your customers can tailor theirs. Your customers will thank you for it!


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