This page is a basic primer on personalization.

You are unique.

That’s why you should be treated like an individual. No one else has your same combination of genes, skills, experiences, attitudes, goals and needs.

For the past 100 years, our economy was going through a revolution. Mass production raised our standards of living, and in return people accepted a higher degree of uniformity. That revolution is over, and the need for uniformity is, too.

It is sheer nonsense that we force children to sit in neat rows in classrooms of 30 or more, each learning the way the teacher and school system prefers to teach – rather than the way the student learns best.

It is mindless torture to deal with most companies, as they force you to remember your “customer number,” press “3″ then “2″ then “5″ then “4″ then get disconnected.

It is close to barbaric the way our medical system treats diseases instead of people, minimizing the differences between us, even though understanding those differences will vastly improve the quality of our lives.

Want us to put it in terms of dollars and cents?

Here are the primary benefits of personalization to customers. If you deliver these benefits, you can increase your revenues and profits while you lock in loyalty.

Save time: Eliminate repetitive tasks; remember transactional details; recognize habits and shorten the path to engage in such habits (example: frequently called numbers on a phone should automatically go into the phone’s memory).

Save money: Prevent redundant work (example: make it easier for employees and suppliers to know someone else has already solved the problem that they are currently facing); eliminate service components unnecessary to a person; identify lower-cost solutions that meet all other specifications.

Better information: Provide training; filter out information not relevant to a person; provide more specific information that is increasingly relevant to a person’s interests; increase the reliability of information; replace “average” information with information specific to that person’s environment.

Address ongoing needs, challenges, or opportunities: Provide one-stop services; allow flexibility in work hours, job responsibilities, and benefits; accommodate unique personal preferences (example: allow employees to customize their office space, within certain boundaries); recognize and reward achievement with special treatment.


Personalization has its roots in the abilities to gather, filter and sort information, and there are certain information-driven activities that deliver one or more of these benefits. To help you quickly identify and consider the possibilities, here are some of the most effective strategies to add value by acknowledging both the differences and similarities between people:

Combine: Merge information a person already has with that of others, to provide additional insights. For example, one researcher has studied the side effects of a certain drug, while another understands in detail the mechanisms that cause the drug to work. Together, these two bodies of knowledge have much greater value.

Compare: Show how prices, quality or specifications of one option match up to others. This type of comparison-shopping is already in great evidence online.

Connect: In most large companies, data exists in “silos.” Information about a customer or employee might exist in eight different databases, in different parts of the firm. Disconnected, this data can’t help the company or the stakeholder. Firms can connect this data, providing a more accurate picture of the firm’s interactions with that person. The flip side of this activity is that connecting previous disparate data removes a level of privacy and enables the company to learn things about a person that it was never able to deduce before.

Explain: Clarify how, when or why to use a product or service – or to perform a task – precisely when a person needs such help. People need easier-to-understand – and access – guidance about navigating new technologies, processes and challenges.

Find: Locate a person, product or service based on supplied specifications. This answers the question, “Who can give me what I need?”

Monitor: Track the status of events, news, or actions of others. While customized news and information is already popular online, most firms have barely scratched the surface of monitoring possibilities. For example, some day care centers now provide parents with Web access to video cameras that allow them to see what their children are doing at the center.

Recommend: Suggest a course of action based on historical data, the current environment, or predictive models. The greater the consequences of a bad decision, the greater the value of trustworthy recommendations.

Remember: Most people are still more frustrated about what companies forget about them, than what they remember. Firms can strengthen relationships simply by remembering what happened the last time they interacted with an individual, and not requiring the person to tell them the same thing twice.

Reveal: Highlight a pattern or conclusion that was not previously evident. By showing an employee non-obvious differences between the composition of their rejected versus their accepted proposals, a firm could simultaneously increase efficiency and reduce stress.

Sort: Change the order or grouping of information, making it easier for people to see patterns. Stop & Shop does this, by re-sorting consumer purchases every time a consumer chooses a different objective (i.e. low sodium vs. high fiber.)

Trigger: Prompt an action when certain criteria are met, such as the purchase of an item when its price falls below $150. This is the essence of the trusted agent concept, using computer-processing power to serve as a constant watchdog for the person’s interests.

The more literally a company 1.) uses a customer’s information to 2.) provide unique benefits to that customer, the more likely that personalization will influence a customer’s behavior. Most companies ignore or minimize this second step, which generally results in a program that doesn’t work as promised.