How 3 Brands Impacted My Customer Experience in Opposite Ways
Everyone who reads my blog knows how I feel about relationship management and customer experience. In June, I was on vacation and had amazing and horrible brand experiences, and, while I’m not going to mention the brand names, I want to share how things played out because they are perfect examples of how personalized communication can go very right and very wrong.
Example No. 1: Great Experience With a Major Financial Company
I typically use one credit card for everything due to my ever-addictive pursuit of membership rewards/points. As I prepared for my vacation, I used this one card to buy airline tickets, book tours and reserve hotels. Two days before I was scheduled to depart, I received an email from my credit card company that:
- Indicated it looked like I would be traveling in the next few days.
- Wished me happy travels.
- Told me that it had noted the account so I would not get any flags or fraud alerts when charges started coming through from a location that was not in my normal location patterns.
- Gave me a local and toll-free phone number to call should I have any concerns or experience any problems.
Under no circumstance did I feel like “Big Brother” was looking over my shoulder. As I was trying to close out my workweek, get packed, organize pet-sitting and manage all the other crazy things that happen before long vacations, this was such a nice email to receive.
First, it provided me with pertinent information. Second, it made me realize the company is “on top of my account” in a good way. And, third, it made me smile because the company wished me a nice trip.
Example No. 2: Good and Bad Experiences With a Major Hotel Company
As mentioned above, I am forever in pursuit of “points.” This worldwide hotel chain is one I frequent often. Over 15 years, I had built up 500,000 points—just what I needed to stay at an amazing 64-acre resort with my 10-year-old son on our 10-day trip to Hawaii.
In my profile and through my specific reservation, I answered that my preferred communication method was email—never a phone call. Several days before my arrival, the hotel asked if I had a cellphone number that could be used for text messages. My cellphone number was already on my profile, so I confirmed the number.
As I touched down after a long flight, the hotel sent me my first text, saying it was looking forward to my arrival in a few hours. It also gave me some helpful information about checking in. A specific person asked if I had any questions and signed the second text from the hotel. Me being me, I decided to test it out, so I texted back a question. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, I got the answer to my question, which was a request to text me a link to the room service menu since we were arriving later. This was a very good experience!
Throughout the 10 days I texted several times, and each time I received answers very personally and very quickly. Each text included the sender's name. I have no idea if that person really existed, but it made me feel like I had a personal “connection” to someone at this massive hotel. That was a really great feeling!
Now, unfortunately that all got a bit overshadowed on the last day of the trip.
As mentioned earlier, I used points out of my hotel rewards account for my stay. It is very clear that my name—and my name alone—is on this account. It is also very clear that I am a female—based on my name and that I check that box on my profile.
Since this hotel was a family-friendly one with many activities, you are required to tell the hotel who, specifically, will be staying in the room. Needless to say, I indicated Kellen, my 10-year-old son, as secondary on my reservation, and checked the boxes for male and child. The hotel listed him as Mr. (its default for males). I’m betting some of you already are groaning and anticipating what happened.
The day before I checked out, the resident manager of the property sent a lovely email to my personal email address, asking how my experience was, if I had feedback, etc. The manager addressed the email, “Dear Kellen.”
With my account, my reward points and my name as primary on the reservation, I’m not sure how it happened, but Kellen was the only male on the reservation. I’m not claiming gender bias, but it was a bit of a bummer when I opened it. And, in case anyone is wondering, no, a separate email was not stuck in my spam folder addressed to me. I felt so personally connected throughout the entire trip, yet when the hotel asked how my experience was, it couldn’t figure out the right person to ask.
I bring this up because: how many times do nonprofits struggle with personalization?
We have Mr. and Mrs. accounts for our older donors; we have a Mr. on the account, but the Mrs. is the one who writes the check. For our older donors, this is not a problem. For younger donors, assuming one gender or one person over another as the primary is going to be a problem.
If you don’t know, ask the question—don’t make an assumption. And whatever you do, use the system you have and the data in it. When all else fails, send it to both people. An email addressed, “Dear Angie and Kellen,” would have never caused a problem in my eyes.
Example 3: Bad Experience With a Major Airline Company
I am a very loyal flyer with a major airline company—not only because I like my points, but because I truly believe it has excellent service, pricing and options. With that said, this example is 100 percent about management of data and communication.
To make a long story short, there was a large problem on one leg of my trip. As a result, the airline sent emails to all the passengers with an apology and a “gesture” (the airline’s word, not mine) to credit a certain amount of miles to the reward accounts. Since my son had a ticket, he received an email (to my email address) addressed, “Dear Kellen.”
A second email arrived to my personal email address. It had my reward number on it, but for some reason it said, “Dear Devon.” Obviously, this is some kind of mail merge problem since my name on my account is Angela. I overlooked it, as I understand how mass communication is not foolproof. Well, this seemed to cause more problems than I realized.
Upon checking my accounts, imagine my shock to see Kellen’s miles credited but not mine. Why? The issue of “Devon” versus “Angela” created a problem in the system, so my miles were never credited—who knows about Devon’s. I am now two weeks into these discussions with no resolution, and the last conversation was, “Well, I will see if I can honor this for you.” Honor this for me? I was on the same flight as my son and already have been told that all passengers on that flight were given the exact same “gesture.” Why would this even be a question? Five letters—D-E-V-O-N.
The lesson: If you’re doing a mail merge, if you are building code to personalize communication, check it once and then check it again to make sure it is right.
Now, for those of you thinking I’m just being picky and exaggerating, OK, fine—I am picky. But as a direct marketer who has lived her whole career winning and losing at the hands of data, these things could have been avoided.
And let’s not forget the amazing jobs done above by two companies that used data and data trends to make me feel special and like I was having a one-on-one experience. So, it works—but you have to be diligent.
Another lesson I learned? Sometimes just one thing can sideline the greatest experience. So, if your company has a bad situation or episodic problem, don’t fall back on a high satisfaction score from the previous measurement.
Every experience, every touch, matters to our fast-moving consumer base.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.