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Making it Personal

By Ryan J. Lebro, writer & translator

Say my name

When you order coffee or tea at Starbucks, your name is written on the cup as your order is taken and then your name is spoken out loud as your drink is delivered. Starbucks recently announced they are taking this to the next level by allowing customers to order drinks on a mobile device before even leaving the office for their Starbucks run. This is high tech personalized customer service. But, the key element is treating the customer as an individual.

As a business owner or employee, particularly if you sell to customers who speak many different languages and come from different cultural backgrounds, you know that localization and translation are key parts of your sales and marketing strategy. In addition to thinking about localizing your customer marketing and communications, have you thought about how to personalize it?

Get it right – get feedback!

Which of these email greetings is correct?

Hi José -- Check out these deals!
Hi Mr. Iglesias -- Check out these deals!

Unfortunately, both of these are incorrect. In English, Mr. José Antonio Rodríguez Iglesias prefers to be called Antonio; his formal name should be Mr. Rodríguez Iglesias. Also, if you offer the option of Spanish language emails, you should check with your customers to see which language they prefer.

It’s a great idea to send out personalized emails to your customers. However, proper execution is not as simple. And you don’t always have immediate feedback as in the Starbucks example. The solution is to design customer contact systems and processes that gather all potentially needed information up front, verify that the information is correct, and make it easy for customers to update their information. Instead of making it seem like work for your customers, why don’t you create an option for a customer to add their photo along with their name? They will correct their name at the same time, but it won’t feel like work! As you can see from this example, personal names can be quite tricky as conventions for writing names differ by culture.

What’s your identity?

You have lots of data about your customers. How do you make sense of that data to personalize your customer communications? Find out what matters to each customer. Some customers care more about the books they read, films they watch, or where they live or visit. Others are art aficionados or sports fans. Even if they are into something that is not your core business, find a way to recognize what your customers enjoy.

Where is home?

Customers move all the time. You find out about that when your customers update their “home” and “ship to” addresses on your e-commerce site. Did you just learn that a customer moved from Montréal to Vancouver? Now that your business knows about the move, how can this be used to deliver personalized content? A customer who has recently moved will appreciate content that takes into account that they may not know their new home as well as someone who has lived there a year (or a decade). Your customer is now living in a new city that is bilingual, has a different climate, and has a different culture. Find ways to welcome your customer to their new home and make it easier for them to settle in. If you know that your customer liked to do certain activities or buy certain products at their old home, check in with your customer to see if this is still the case. View your customer’s move as a way to stay in touch. It is worth the effort.


In conclusion, greet your customers by name, connect with them in meaningful ways, and listen.  Use deep personalization to drive deep loyalty.