Take This Personally

 Because I’m in the retail industry, friends and colleagues think I’m always in-the-know about trends in stores, products and services. About much, I am. The latest trend I’m being asked about, “Too Personal” however, I’ve experienced and am at a loss about.

Personalization and customization. Brands and retailers who offer product and experience that’s somehow customized or personalized are appeasing a fickle, “unique” customer– kudos. Personalization and customization have been on trend for several years now. I credit iTunes for its start. They allowed us to personalize our music choices in a finely tuned manner. Then we could customize our iPod’s color. Today, personalization and customization are in many industries: picking your pocket lining at Bonobos, piecing together your Mini Cooper’s design, having your initials engraved on the lenses of your glasses, using those stickers on your minivan window that indicate Mom/Dad/Kid/Dog– you know the ones.

Of the two trends, Personalization, has gone too far. It’s in too many places and it’s been pushed so far out of context that it’s become an irritation. A Pain Point.

What’s my problem? Insinuating a personal connection with a stranger. As in YOU, store associate, finding it appropriate to ask ME, the shopper, “what I’m up to today and what my plans are for tonight and did I work today? Where?” These questions are not “personalizing” my experience, they’re intrusive. They’re steeling me for how to shut you up without blatantly saying, “none of your business.” Surely for some, a pleasant conversation about their lives and immediate plans with the girl who first laid claws on them in the shoe store is a good thing. I’ve just not met that customer yet. What I hear from shoppers who’ve endured that awkward experience is, “I hate it when they…,” or “What’s up with her asking me…?”

My hunch is that this began with customer service director who forced the “personalization” trend into their (and by proxy my) world by mandating all employees to show interest in their customers by asking them personal questions. Not every trend fits every retail product or experience. They’re not one-trend- suits-all.

In a world where so many share so much via social media, this seems like a benign issue. It is not. It’s a Pain Point and Pain Points can turn to Breaking Points, which can turn into No Sale. The few minutes I’m trapped as a captive audience at the supermarket checkout is one of the only times I can tune out or tune into something I want to tune into (checking my email, reading magazine covers, etc.). It is not a time for you to get to know me. And I’m a friendly, chatty gal. I can talk about nothing to a complete stranger at a moment’s notice. But I don’t want to. And neither do many of your other customers.

How can I help retailers with this Pain Point? I know!

Dear Associate,

Like cops, we share information on a need-to-know-basis only. So don’t even ask. Please. It’s personal.

General Customer Population

Comment on this post (1 comment)

  • Lee Kay says...

    I totally agree with this. Just recently I was in a high-end leather goods store, where a 19-year old sales associate continued to ask me personal questions. Are you from here? No. Oh? Where was I from. Out of town. Had I gone to any good restaurants? Some. Which? Oh I don’t know. Here in the neighborhood? I don’t know. I felt like sending her to TripAdvisor.
    The total lack of empathy made me wonder about the advice she was giving me on the store products. Is she insincere? Is she in tune with my needs? I think not.

    December 19, 2018

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