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The Importance of Personalization in Customer Service: Lessons from a Hotel Check-In

I believe that customer service plays a critical role in shaping the perception (and success) of a business. And nonprofits are businesses!

Fun Fact: My parents were both entrepreneurs. My mom owned and operated gift shops and instilled the importance of customer service into me. She taught me to greet customers promptly when they come into the store. Ask them if they are looking for anything in particular and if they had any questions. She also taught me to give them some space to browse the store so they didn't feel like they were being followed or not given the opportunity to shop at their leisure. 

Little did I know, my mom was actually shaping my expectations that I give and receive.

Whether it's a hotel, a retail store, or a nonprofit organization, providing personalized and attentive service is essential in establishing strong customer relationships. In this article, we'll explore a recent experience at a hotel check-in and discuss how assumptions about gender can impact customer satisfaction. We'll also draw parallels to the nonprofit sector and highlight the potential consequences of not knowing and acknowledging donors' preferences.

The Hotel Check-In Experience:

During a recent hotel check-in, I encountered a situation that shed light on the importance of personalized service. Upon arriving at the front desk, I greeted the receptionist with, "Hello, I'm checking in, and my name is Jarrett Ransom." However, to my surprise, she responded by asking if Mr. Jarrett Ransom would be joining me.

The Problem with Assumptions:

This encounter highlights a common issue in customer service: making assumptions based on gender. While it may seem like a harmless mistake, it can leave customers feeling invalidated and overlooked. In this case, assuming that I was male based solely on my name not only showcased poor customer service but also reinforced gender stereotypes. It's crucial for businesses, including hotels, to adopt a more inclusive and respectful approach.

Customer Service Lessons for Nonprofits:

The same principles apply to nonprofit organizations, especially when it comes to donor management. Just as hotels should strive to know their guests, nonprofits should make an effort to know their donors. By understanding and acknowledging individual preferences, nonprofits can build stronger relationships and enhance donor loyalty.

Individual Preferences:

Nonprofits must recognize that donors are unique individuals with their own preferences, including how they prefer to be addressed. Assuming a donor's gender or personal information without verification can lead to the same negative consequences as in the hotel scenario. By taking the time to ask for and remember a donor's preferences, nonprofits can make them feel valued and respected.


Inclusivity is not only about avoiding gender assumptions but also about accommodating donors' diverse backgrounds and identities. Nonprofits should aim to create an environment that is welcoming to all donors, regardless of their gender, race, age, or other factors. Recognizing and celebrating diversity within the donor base can foster a sense of belonging and strengthen donor relationships.

Communication Channels:

Another aspect of knowing donors involves understanding their preferred communication channels. Some donors may prefer phone calls, while others may prefer email, social media, or even in-person meetings. By tailoring communication methods to individual preferences, nonprofits can ensure a more personalized and effective donor experience.

The Consequences of Poor Donor Service:

Just as poor customer service can lead to dissatisfaction and loss of business for hotels, nonprofits can face similar consequences if they overlook their donors' preferences. Donors who feel disregarded or undervalued are more likely to reduce or cease their contributions. In contrast, nonprofits that prioritize personalized service are more likely to retain donors, attract new ones, and foster a stronger sense of loyalty and commitment.


The hotel check-in experience serves as a valuable reminder of the importance of personalized customer service. Businesses, including nonprofits, should strive to know their customers and donors, avoiding assumptions based on gender and other factors. By embracing inclusivity, understanding individual preferences, and utilizing effective communication channels, organizations can build lasting relationships with their customers or donors. In the nonprofit sector, knowing and respecting donors can lead to increased support and create a positive impact on the organization's mission.

Are you curious if your customer service is up to snuff? Schedule a Nonprofit Nerd Out session with me and let's dive deep into your personalized customer service strategies for your nonprofit.


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