One size doesn’t fit all for customer communication

By Amy Beth Miller

I figured that the “Packed with Pride by Steve M.” sticker on the mailing envelope was part of an effort by the department store to personalize its customer service. If my package held something fragile, like stemware, I would be impressed.

Instead, the sticker gave me a slightly creepy feeling. Steve M. might be a perfect gentleman, just doing his job, but I don’t want to think about him handling my new undergarments.

That incident got me thinking about many organizations’ failed attempts to personalize the customer’s service experience.

For example, I’ve been a customer at a bank for a decade. When I swipe my card and enter my PIN, the ATM instantly pulls detailed information about my finances. Yet as soon as I enter the PIN, the ATM asks whether I want to continue in English or Spanish. Every time.  If it knows how much money I have in my savings account, why doesn’t it also know that English is my preferred language?

And why doesn’t an organization that prides itself on having a rich database of information about customers, use that information to better serve them? 

I appreciate that the bank is trying to offer the best possible service to a diverse customer base. But because it flashes the same message to every customer, I suffer a moment of inconvenience with each transaction. Just storing that bit of information would personalize what is a very impersonal experience.

Even a customer service campaign with the best intentions can fail when the organization doesn’t account for its customers’ differences.

A local outpatient surgery department sends postcards to recent patients wishing them well on their recovery. Although I think the department should have spent a few extra pennies on envelopes to ensure patients’ privacy, I like the overall idea.

However, while a patient who had a kidney stone removed might appreciate a card with the staff’s smiling faces, that same card could bring tears to a woman who is recovering from a miscarriage. And I hope that the department at least had someone paying attention and pulling cards destined for patients who died shortly after the surgery.

A moment of thought is priceless, even in a big-budget customer service campaign.

What generic messages irk you?

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4 responses to “One size doesn’t fit all for customer communication

  1. On cans of Amy’s Soups, the instructions read: “Please do not overcook.”

    Generic. Meaningless. How do I know what overcooked looks like? Or undercooked?

    Great soup, terrible communication. It seems like nothing but it drives me crazy.

  2. This isn’t related to this particular post, but I don’t know where else to post it.

    Is there only one Nitpicker, and this is their nook? Or is this a nook for many of us nitpickers? Shouldn’t it be “Nitpickers’ Nook”?

    • Jan, you bring up a good point; “Nitpickers'” would be more inclusive, and we’re looking into a logo redesign. We’ve always thought of this blog as a place for any nitpicker to come and share ideas (“a nitpicker’s nook”), and if you read it that way, the singular possessive makes sense. However, because we do want all nitpickers to feel at home here, the plural possessive is probably a better fit. Thanks for joining the discussion!

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