[CUSTOMER SERVICE] Personalization based on geography doesn’t always work

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

The Rhein River in Düsseldorf.

My February 2016 trip to Germany was the first time back in Düsseldorf since smartphones, apps and other related technological advances had entered my life.

So I was using mobile websites to check flights, apps from United States-based companies to check rentals and other related things.

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Most sites and even most apps tried to personalize the experience for me. What that typically meant was that they were serving me content in German. Some sites – like British Airways – made it super easy and obvious to change languages. Others not so much.

One site made you click “Sprachen” which is “Languages” in German. That’s only helpful if you speak German. Now, I do speak German myself, but how did they all know that? I asked one company via Twitter how they knew and they couldn’t answer that. It appeared that the personalization was geographically triggered.

Google Flights – where I usually book my travel – was also showing me flight prices (for routes within the United States) in Euros. They probably could know that I typically pay in dollars. Dollars were shown toward the end when I picked flights, though.

It wasn’t a big deal for me, of course, but it’s still worth remembering that some personalization triggers might not work for all.

Offline, like at the airport check-in counters, people started conversations in Germany and even though I responded in German, they quickly transitioned to English when they saw my American passport. That’s actually a good example of how it should work online as well. You have to start somewhere and then based on user-behavior your reactions/communications/etc. changes. I wish we were there technology-wise across the board.

I always appreciate personalized content and experiences. They are best when we don’t notice them.

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