Making a Personal Connection with Customers Off and Online

by Featured Guest Blogger and 2012 Annual Meeting Keynote Speaker: Terry Jones, Founder & Former CEO of and Chairman of

In the 21st century, business is more about connections than ever. In years gone by all retailers knew their customers, but the era of the big box mega store made it impossible for retailers to connect to customers on a personal level.

Today a combination of the online world and new technologies are making knowing the individual a reality and a necessity again. The combination of big data, astute customer observation and inspired individual marketing can allow businesses to connect with customers at levels even the best salesman of yore could not imagine.

Recently, Zappos contacted me to relay the disappointing news that Tsubo would no longer manufacture the shoe that I’d been buying for years. But they saved the day by adding that they had three left in my size and I could buy them with a click! That never would have happened in the physical world.

At Travelocity, we stored not only everything a customer ever bought from us, but every search they ever made, which when combined with detailed demographic information allowed us to give them just the right offer at the moment the airfare to their intended destination dropped.

Many brands are finding that it is well worth the expense to have direct customer conversations on Twitter as they not only solve customer problems but get terrific product feedback at the same time. Facebook friends want to be treated like friends and surveys show that their desire is to be first to hear about deals and new products. The benefit to business, they will tell their friends. They look smart and retailers get more customers.

The intersection of these types of customer systems with mobile technologies is beginning to allow brick and mortar sellers to connect with in-store customers in much the same way. SQUARE allows retailers to know when the customer is in the store and pops up a photo of the customer on the register who can then buy with a click. Similarly, Shopkick offers in-store deals and directs smartphone customer to appropriate product in the store. Businesses are equipping clerks with smartphone registers and iPads not only to offer quick and easy checkout, but also to show the customer alternate products, better color combinations and give customized deals.

Technology is quickly allowing us to customize interactions with even the busiest customer. But will it totally obviate the need for person-to-person interaction? Yesterday’s pundits thought radio would kill in person concerts. Television was widely predicted to wipe out movie theatres. Yet the yen to get together is perhaps as strong as ever.

I’ll be talking a lot about how technology is changing the business of innovation at the upcoming Annual Meeting. And I know that during my talk many of you will be using technology to tweet about it, take notes about it or perhaps even take a photo of it. Technology is an important part of meetings today, but the key to any meeting is still the person-to-person connections you’ll make while there. With more than 50 educational committee meetings and lots of main tent sessions I suspect that the connections you make will be as important as the new learnings you receive.

I look forward to interacting with you at the CSPA 2012 Annual Meeting, “Connecting People, Building Business.

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