What “The Office,” And Birthday Parties, Can Teach Us About CX

Birthdays are universal. Even if you have never planned a birthday party for someone else, chances are you’ve had one thrown for you (if you haven’t, make plans to throw yourself one next time your day comes up). 

But there’s no one formula for throwing a birthday party. Imagine you’ve been tasked with throwing your best friend’s birthday party. What do you do first? How many people would they like to attend? What’s their favorite cake flavor? Or… does the cake need to be gluten-free? That one’s important! Maybe they hate cake and want a pie!

Why CX is Like Throwing a Party

You know your bestie. So you understand what party features are important to them and which ones won’t matter as much. There’s a huge difference between a surprise rager and a cozy movie night, but they can both be birthday celebrations depending on the friend. Context matters when planning a birthday party. For fans of the TV show The Office, this was a major theme when Dwight and Jim didn’t exactly give their colleague Kelly the office birthday party she had in mind, causing some unhappy tension. 

This type of personalized thinking and care is exactly how you should be thinking about your customers and their experiences with your business and products. If you were to throw a party for your customers, what do you know about them? 

There are a few common denominators, just like with a birthday party – loved ones, food, activity – but the context around those denominators can vary greatly. How you employ these strategies is critical, and must be driven by insights.

Understand Who You’re Throwing the Party For

When and how do your customers want to hear from you? Are they the blowout-birthday-bash type that want to feel special, or the low-key, be-there-when-I-need-you type? The challenge with CX is not just acquiring this information, but activating it at scale. It’s one thing to have three or four great friends who you know their wants and needs. But when you’re dealing with thousands of customers who both fall into different categories of behavior traits and still have their own specific needs within those groups, it’s a steep challenge. 

The key is to understand that you aren’t going to be able to do it all at once. It’s important to go slow in getting to know your customer and their journey. Know that the data you have is a finite point and it’s not the whole picture. 

Focus on Contextualization Over Personalization 

Once you gather all of this customer data, how you act on it is as important as the data itself. The same piece of information – whether it be location or style preferences – can be used in ways that are both helpful and creepy. 

I again go back to The Office – which has subtly taught us quite a bit about customer experiences – where Dwight gets a hold of Michael’s notes featuring his customer’s personal information. Michael used his notes to charm his customers and build trust. Dwight used this same data to weird them out with oddly specific facts about their personal lives (Does this sound familiar to a brand experience you’ve had?).

Never just use personalization for personalization’s sake. No one is impressed by you including their first name in an email anymore. Instead, make sure these personal touches are serving a purpose in ways that are relevant to the experience. For someone shopping online for their favorite clothes, product recommendations based on past views and purchases amplifies the experience more than a subject line with your name in it. 

How to Scale Your CX for the Future

If you want to dive deeper into this topic, I recently joined a webinar with our partner WordPress VIP to break down CX misconceptions and learn how to understand your customers to enhance your experiences. You can still catch the recording on demand – as well as our 2023 CX Trends Report – by registering here

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