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Author's profile photo Kirsi Tarvainen

Personalized Customer Service Is About Respect, Not About Spying

/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/all_customers_are_individuals_303256.jpgNo doubt personalized customer service increases customer loyalty. No wonder also contact centers are puzzling how to make their customer service more personal. But where is the line between being personal and being intrusive?  Does “personalized customer service” mean that the contact center agents need to know my hobbies and favorite color to have personal conversations and to make me feel like a valued customer? I don’t think so. Even if I might share those things in social media, I would not like companies to openly use that information –that would feel like spying, not like service.

This is how I would define personalized customer service: the company handles everything related to the customer relationship as smoothly as possible and treats the customer as an individual. But anything that goes beyond the customer relationship should be treated as personal information. So it is about respecting the customer and paying attention, not about spying.

In many cases, getting the basics right would already make a great difference:


1. Show me you know me. I am your customer, I pay my bills before due date, so please show me that you at least know who I am.  When I call you, do not make me repeat my name, home address or telephone number –you have that data already, please use it. I wrote more about this in one of my previous blogs posts

2. Give me options. I love self-service, so do me a favor and let me serve myself. Somebody might claim that self-service options like interactive voice responses are impersonal and thus to be avoided. But even if is not personal, I still think it is personalized.  By offering self-service options the company acknowledges that customers want choice. If I want to handle a routine task with my utility company at 10PM Sunday night and I can do that with a handy IVR service and don’t have to wait until business hours on Monday –well,  I think that is personalized service.

3. Communication is a two-way road. Companies tend to bombard their prospects with calls and emails when they trying to sell something. But once they have won the new customer, they easily forget about him/her. It wouldn’t be too much of a trouble to call every now and then and ask if everything is ok. Or even send an SMS. I just got an SMS from my eyeglass store, saying that they hope I am happy with the glasses I bought a few months ago and now they are offering a 50% discount if I want to buy another pair of  glasses. Thank you for remembering me, thank you for the offer and yes, please, I will drop by one day to see what new frames you have.

An extra incentive in making these basic things right is that they also reduce costs and/or increase revenue for the company. Also, they can be achieved with technology already available at the market –you don’t need any mind-reading tools or tricks.

But what about you, what measures would you add to the list? What do you value as a customer?

PS. if you want to hear more about this topic, I recommend the webinar “How Personal Is Your Contact Center”. In this webinar Energen tells about what they did to offer personalized customer service and save costs.

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      Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes
      Stephen Johannes

      It's a hard to achieve this for most companies as caller-id, IVR and other systems only get at best a 80% hit rate. 

      I must admit companies waste a lot of money on sending marketing materials aimed at "new customer" signup for customers who are old customers by doing "blanket marketing".

      The best recent example that I have is that SAP cold-called me(or someone claiming to be from SAP) and was trying to see if I needed any more information on CRM.  No matter how much I tried to explained that I was already dealing with an account executive at SAP, attended CRM conference this year, and wrote a book on SAP CRM technical topics, this person wouldn't give up.  If SAP had been using their CRM system to keep a good profile(not spying) on interactions they have had with me, they would have known that a random call to me probably isn't that productive and a waste of time in trying to drum up leads.

      The other example is how AT&T would send me mass e-mails to sign up for Uverse Internet when I was already a customer or Directv would send me e-mails to singup for directv service when I was already a customer.  I never understand why companies never take the effort to cross-reference marketing lists against customer lists.

      Take care,


      Author's profile photo Kirsi Tarvainen
      Kirsi Tarvainen
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Stephen,

      Thank you for your comment. You are right, there will probably never be 100% hit rate, but many companies still have a lot of room for improvement.

      You gave two good examples of using customer data (or in this case not using the data) in a way that adds value to the customer and is not spying.

      Just two minutes ago I had to register (=give name, address, email address...) into a online photo service in order to check and order the school photos of my daughter. I had just written ALL that same data in a paper form which my daughter had given to the photographer when the school photos were taken. I am not a great fan of paper forms, so having to fill in the same data twice is simply irritating. I did the same exercise last year, and I would be surprised if they remembered me next year...