Surprise! Making Customer Birthday Experiences Stand Out

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My son and I have birthdays a few days apart in January and I always love observing what various companies do to recognize us on our special days. My son’s information isn’t plastered all over the interwebs yet but I’m sure my birthday is stored in many company CRMs.

This year I couldn’t help but notice that many of the companies I do business with all have a similar marketing automation to send an email to wish me a happy birthday. While I appreciate any effort to wish me a happy birthday, this felt a bit routine and blah. All of the emails blended together with none really standing out.

It was reminiscent of the dozen or so emails I got from sales folks at various companies on January 2 saying, “Hey, it’s been a while since we last spoke. I’d love to connect and hear about your plans for 2019.” If everyone is following the same playbook it’s awfully hard to set ourselves and our customer experience apart from the rest.

I’ve talked about the concept of Lagniappe in the past — a creole word meaning bonus or extra gift. Giving customers a little something extra is a great way to delight them and build loyalty. We should expand this a bit, taking a page from Chip Bell’s book, Kaleidoscope, and be sure we’re adding some extra sparkle and shine while we’re at it. Customer birthdays are a great time to both give a little extra and add a little extra to make your business stand out. Amid all of the routine emails and cards, here are the couple birthday experiences that stood apart from the rest for me this year.

Free cookie at The Muffin Mill

My son chose coffee cake for his birthday dessert. I chuckled a bit at the non-traditional request but the laughter stopped when I tasted the coffee cake from The Muffin Mill, a local bakery here in Eugene, Oregon. The cake was amazing and made for a great birthday for my son, but that’s not the reason this experience stood out.

The Muffin Mill has become a Saturday morning staple for my family over the past year, largely because there’s not a bad item on the menu, but also because of Dave who owns the business with his wife. Even when the line is out the door, Dave takes the time to give each customer a smile and the assurance that whatever items they’ve selected are a great choice. He says things like, “That cranberry orange scone is right out of the oven. You wouldn’t believe how many of these we sell” or “Great choice with that cinnamon roll. It’s the best thing on our menu.” I always appreciate the vote of confidence and it’s made the Muffin Mill a place I love to visit with my family.

On our most recent trip to pick up the birthday coffee cake, Dave took the experience to a new level. Rather than simply selling us the cake, he invited my wife to go pick out a cookie for our son for his birthday. It was totally unnecessary but took a typical interaction that was already very good and made it a whole lot better.

Free drink at Starbucks

I always make it a point each year to go to Starbucks for my free birthday drink. Frankly, I don’t have a Starbucks nearby so my status in their loyalty program has slipped a bit. That’s why I was surprised and pleased to find that they still offered me a birthday beverage. I went through the drive-thru and informed the barista that I had a birthday drink. As he handed me my drink he said, “I hope you have a great birthday.”

Honestly, since I’ve probably had a birthday drink at Starbucks each year for the past decade, it’s mostly become routine and expected. When the barista took the time to wish me a happy birthday, he moved it from a routine, once-a-year transaction to a special one.

Conclusions

There are a few insights we can draw from these experiences:

  1. Sending customers a note of thanks or an email to commemorate a special occasion is good but may get lost in the shuffle with all of the other companies doing the same thing.
  2. Giving customers something extra like a free drink, or cookie, or whatever your business happens to sell is better, especially when it’s unexpected.
  3. Encouraging customer service professionals to personalize the experience by recognizing the signs that it’s the customer’s birthday and wishing them a happy birthday is best.

Those three things together make for a winning combination and are key to the experiences that stood out during this year’s round of birthdays. Now think about your last birthday? What companies honored you on your special day? I’ll bet some of them stood out more than others.

Jeremy-Watkin-Blog-Profile
Jeremy Watkin
Director of Customer Experience
FCR

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience for FCR. He has more than 18 years of experience as a customer service, customer experience, and contact center professional.  He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Customer Service Life.  Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership.  Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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