Near where I live in Connecticut there are two local wine stores, in both the staff are friendly, they are as knowledgeable about wine as I need them to be and they both recognize me when I come in.

They sell pretty much the same selection of products that easily satisfy my wine preferences, there is no difference in price and very little in their proximity to my home.  However I am starting to choose one over the other. Why is that?

It’s the very little things that change and differentiate a customer experience in a crowded market and in the case of these little wine stores, with their similar products and their strip mall store fronts, the difference to me is their friendliness.

I did say they are both friendly, I guess your assumption will be that one is slightly more friendly than the other and that’s why I prefer them. But in this case you’d be wrong; sometimes I avoid one of them because they are too friendly.

There are times when all I need is a quiet nod of recognition, perhaps a “hello and lovely weather” or something similar as I go about the simple task of grabbing a bottle of wine to accompany dinner.

I don’t need the attentions of a smiling new friend who wants to know what I am having to eat, makes comments about my selection, what’s new in the store or that he has seen my wife in the store this week. You are lovely people, sometimes I stop by because I like that, or I want to find something new, but right now I just want to buy a bottle of wine.

I write about this in the context of engaging customers on the web through a digital customer experience. The first point being that, like me wanting to buy a bottle of wine often the visitor wants to complete a task and we should rate the experience we offer against that.

A great exponent of that thinking is Gerry McGovern who in his article Web Experience: Bridging the Content Management Chasm for CMSWire wrote:

 

Web content exists within the context of a task; something the customer wishes to do. By measuring the ability of the customer to quickly and easily complete the task, we measure the quality of the content. Because the better the content the faster and easier the task will be completed.

 

The visitor is there to do something, so get out of their way and let them do it.

The second point, the theme of the title is around relevancy and personalization – there is a risk that by being too familiar, too engaging, too focused on this individual customer that they’ll be turned off from you, your message, service or product.

Does knowing their name enhance the experience?

Does opening this digital conversation with a recommendation help them achieve their task?

It could do; imagine if my chatty wine merchant welcomed me at the door with the very bottle of wine I would have bought.

But you need to be very sure about getting intimate with your visitor.

In the meantime a polite nod of recognition will be fine and I’ll go about my business, thanks.

 

Image of wine store courtesy of Just Grapes.