Personalisation is one of the key drivers of customer experience strategy (and success).

The 2016 Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) analysis, which ranks the UK’s leading CX brands, indicated that Britain’s best companies were the ones that were able to connect with people in a more humanised manner. This relates to the pillar of Personalisation, which is one of the universal characteristics of all customer experiences as laid-out in The Six Pillars, (the other elements being Time and Effort, Expectations, Integrity, Resolution and Empathy.) Personalisation indicates how well an organisation is able to adapt the customer experience to the specific needs of the individual, listening to their needs, wants, personalities and emotions, and reacting accordingly.

first direct

The financial brand first direct achieved the highest possible result in the latest CEE, taking the top spot with a trail-blazing Customer Experience Excellence score of 8.27.

“Any time I have contacted first direct they have always been very helpful and polite and have always sorted out any questions I have had,” one customer noted. This is arguably one of the company’s strengths. Being a bank with no physical branches – making it fully telephone and web-based – it takes its commitment to the individual seriously, determined to give them its full attention when it comes into contact. Furthermore, its employees are highly-trained, meaning that they are sufficiently knowledgeable and empowered to tackle the majority of customer needs without having to pass the person through a maze of different departments. This also allows the more ‘human’ element of its CX to shine through. As one individual remarked, its “staff seem to understand and care,” whilst another customer described contacting first direct as “always easy with no automated menu system,” praising the fact “you get straight through to a human being.”

Moreover, this degree of Personalisation is also in evidence when things go awry. By way of apology, first direct has been known to carry out memorable acts such as sending out bottles of wine to its customers, and it’s a customer experience strategy that appears to have worked well.


The Travel brand Emirates is particularly strong in the area of Personalisation, achieving an impressive pillar score of 8.31. And it has attained this result by intentionally engineering memorable experiences with simple gestures; customers are often greeted with smiles and a choice of newspaper as they board the aircraft, along with hot towels and a light snack once the plane is airborne. In addition, First Class and Business Class travellers are offered a complimentary chauffeur service to take them to their required destinations, and some passengers have also been afforded special souvenir photographs with members of the cabin crew.

As one traveller noted: “[Emirates is] excellent in every single and possible way. [The staff make] you feel important even when you travel Economy Class. No plastic cutlery or dishes, there is a menu with choices and numerous channels you can watch on the seat screen, making a long-haul flight enjoyable, and the flight experience is memorable.”

And whilst Emirates may have improved its ranking as a result of its efforts, it has arguably benefitted in other areas. The 2016 CEE demonstrated that those brands who created memorable experiences for their customers were more likely to win their continued loyalty, meaning that, in turn, those individuals stood a better chance of ‘promoting’ the organisation amongst their peers.

For companies such as Emirates and first direct, the deployment of memorable moments has been successful because of the way in which people’s brains function. Generally speaking, human beings have short attention spans. According to the neuroscientist Daniel Kahneman, people are comprised of “two selves.” The “experiencing self” lives in the moment, processing information from the physical environment… Information that is retained, on average, for about three seconds. However, the “remembering self” is more sensitive to change – particularly when those gear-shifts are more distinctive – and it likes strong conclusions to events, the big finishes.

And whilst organisations may not have to be exceptional and memorable in every aspect of their operations, they should determine where they must be good enough (meeting the needs of the experiencing self) and where they should excel (activating the remembering self.)

For many firms, success will be a matter of prioritisation and focus, not necessarily wholesale change in their customer experience strategy.

Learn more about Personalisation and Making Memorable experience for your customers, download the 2016 UK CEE analysis.