Personalization or go generic?

Having spent most of my career in hospitality, I see things very different than most. I have a special eye for detail and also for errors. Most of that relates to my own hotel experiences. I can almost guarantee that my experience of staying in a hotel is not the same as yours. I am constantly looking for the good and bad. I read everything from the welcome packet at the hotel to the in room dining menu, verbatim. It is now a part of what I do. Is it personalized? Is it generic? Did they spell my name correctly?


I had the pleasure of attending Social Media Week in New York a few weeks ago. I was really pleased to learn of a company called Hello Alfred. Alfred is the weekly subscription service that handles your grocery shopping, laundry, dry cleaning and house cleaning so you can spend your time doing the things you love. What really peaked my attention was something that the CEO of Hello Alfred spoke about. She had talked about how important it is to build a relationship with the customer, while also delivering superior service. It is so easy to provide a service, but creating a relationship at the same time is key.  Instead of leaving a print out with boxes for the customer to check off what they like and don’t like, they leave a hand written note, because that is what actually feels human and sincere. This is what got me thinking. The hotel company that I spent 9+ years working for had always encouraged hand written notes and making the guests stay as personalized as possible. Maybe that is why I am such a stickler to personalization.

I recently hit a milestone for a company that I work for. I was honored that so many people wanted to congratulate me via LinkedIn, but then I started reading and replying to the messages. They were all the same! They all said the exact same thing! How sincere is that? These people took the time out of their day to congratulate me, but their messages were so generic. It took the feeling of being special away, and sort of made me feel offended. Here I was trying to take the time to personalize each response yet the person that sent me the message didn’t. I would almost rather nothing than a generic message that is being sent to everyone else. Some people had sent the exact same message when I got the job a year ago. There was almost no thought put into it. LinkedIn reminds you it’s my Anniversary and all you have to do is hit a button and the generic message is sent. It’s that easy. But is it special?

What is the point of generic messages? I get them often on Twitter too. I reply to every single one, as personalized as I can make it. Every time I turn around, something else is being invented that eliminates the interaction of humans. Why take away the personalized touch and computer generate everything? It’s almost as bad as me checking into a hotel and getting a letter that says “Dear Guest”. Are you really too lazy to type my name? It isn’t like you didn’t know I was coming. Hello Alfred is a perfect example of taking a service to another level by adding in the touch of personalization. Maybe I am a bit too sensitive to the issue, but I feel that personalization is a basic need when providing a service. I just don’t understand why people choose to be generic.

Do you agree with hand-written personalized notes or generic ones? Please tell me why! I would love to know what you think.

Jenna Fuchs, Consultant