Did anyone notice it was my birthday?

So today I turn 43. Ouch. Well actually less ouch and more wahay! That’s how I feel today. With a wonderful family, some great friends and heading a business which focuses on helping brands make customer experience work for them, I’m doing what I enjoy, so I am looking forward to the next year.

I’ve had a stream of well wishing LinkedIn, voicemail, text and emails so far. Italy, London, Latvia, Edinburgh, Australia – as far and wide as I could imagine messages have reached me. And with the school run still a priority even on this momentous occasion, a table full of cards and presents waiting at home when I return this evening for a special birthday dinner. It’s a day I look forward to and moments of it I will remember forever.

In fact, most media has been active in congratulating me. I clicked on Google and was welcomed with this simple but effective personalised message:

google birthday


How wonderfully simple. An opportunity to tailor content to me (and the other 23rd Februarians) and they took it.

So I then thought, how many other brands know my age and are always trying to find an angle to create relevance and cut through? They are always trying to hit me with messages relating to stuff of theirs I’ve looked at but not bought. I wondered if they’d managed to connect their business model to my world and recognise it was my birthday in their CRM programmes?

Of course not. CRM doesn’t stand for ‘Christopher Really Matters’. So unless I’ve popped up on a ‘he should be buying this widget he browsed for 2 seconds over 10 days ago’ list, or similar, I’m not of value to them today. To prove my point here are two of the most prolific data rich e-marketers communications which hit my inbox yesterday, at about the same time my wife was wrapping presents and boys writing cards:

amazon birthday

expedia birthday





Missing the art of personalisation

In fact, Amazon are asking me to buy gift cards for someone else! Here was a great opportunity to personalise content to me in a light-hearted, but emotionally connecting way. They miss their moment. Or rather the CRM algorithm does.

However, when I’m browsing a site, the company can manage to collect every impression I make and serve that content back to me as an offer I’ve obviously missed. I’m not quite sure how this logic stacks up. That would be like assuming we never take a wrong turn when driving, or we never say anything we don’t mean, or we are never inquisitive.

But who is to blame for this shortfall? is it the CRM or brands fault, or is it the people who instruct the decisions on personalisation?

I attended an airline conference last year where one of the ‘industry expert’ facilitators barked out the virtues of passenger personalisation as being the future for airlines. Along with empathy, I could buy this point. But then his colleagues proceeded to share an array of ‘made up bundles’ of packages of airline benefits they have created, which cost the customer more but actually give them less. And with a wink of his eye finished with a, “Now that’s personalisation”. To which the audience applauded. Oh dear.

The true art of personalisation

If you want to get it right, leave the CRM system at the door, leave the marketer intent on tripping the customer up at home and start thinking about how to really connect with consumers when and how it really matters to them. Because, it really doesn’t matter if we all get the same thing. If it feels personal to me, then it is.

Thank you Google; you’ve gained a few advocacy points today. All the others who missed their chance, remember it’s my world and on the whole I choose (based on how they behave on days like today), which brands live in it.

dragonTo finish here’s a little personalisation that can go along way. It’s an example of how to deliver a standard message in a personal way. The customer has completed the ‘any other request’ box with a cheeky, ‘draw a dragon on the box’ comment. So that’s what the pizza firm did. No doubt increasing advocacy and sales from customer who will be more committed because of the personal attention.

Happy birthday to me.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Consultant Lexden.

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5 thoughts on “Did anyone notice it was my birthday?

  1. Lucian Camp

    On the whole I do agree with what you’re saying, but like pretty much everything in life (and certainly everything generated by computers) these nice friendly birthday messages have the potential to go horribly wrong. For several years, for example, presumably as a result of some data-entry error, Cornhill Insurance had recorded my date of birth as 15 October (which is correct) 1903 (which isn’t).

    As a result, each year they sent me a card congratulating me on reaching the fine old age of 104/105/106/107 and so on, reminding me that it really was getting to be about time to do something about funeral plan insurance.

    The mailings stopped on what would have been my 110th birthday, in 2013. I must admit, I rather miss them – although they were completely wrong, it was quite nice receiving such warm congratulations.

  2. avanixgupta

    I found this hard hitting “If you want to get it right, leave the CRM system at the door, leave the marketer intent on tripping the customer up at home and start thinking about how to really connect with consumers when and how it really matters to them. Because, it really doesn’t matter if we all get the same thing. If it feels personal to me, then it is.”

    I think one needs to stop marketing all the time (or every so called opportunity) to deliver true CX else you only selling and its then a one sided affair and no body likes it 🙂

    1. Lexden | Customer Strategy Consultants Post author

      I’m glad you’ve touched upon this. I’ve always started with the customer on the basis that if you get it right for the customer everyone else will profit to. It’s a state of mind which has served me well. But to your point, if the thought is, ‘how do we market to these customers’ then it’s no longer a customer experience but a sales process. My version of this would be, ‘how do we enrich/improve our customers lives’. But because we are starting with a different motive we find means we arrive at an authentic branded experience. One which customers view as part of the brands relationship with them.

      I wold say this in response, if the customer experience culture in a company is sound, these moments are touch points which the brand naturally wishes to engage with the customer during because they matter to the customer, probably more than the brand. There doesn’t need to be a sales target placed against the activity. If the execution at an emotional touch points is authentic then the customer will invariably feel more favourably towards the brand. This feeling when reoccurring will deliver a more committed customer who will naturally be more inclined to be loyal to that brand.

      Brands can’t use these emotional experiences to redefine their relationship with a customer if they’ve had the sales focused strategy you mention. In this case, as you have cited, customers are skeptical. If the brand’s customers are feeling like this I agree they shouldn’t engage in making more of emotional touchpoints; leave it those more mature CX expert brands. They’ve probably got much bigger customer challenges to sort out first!


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