Using Customer Data is Effective, But Respect Privacy
A few weeks ago, I read an interesting piece on ‘crossing the creepy line’ published back in 2013 on PACE’s blog (‘Using Context to Avoid Creepy’). The article got me thinking about the fine line between ‘creepy’ and ‘customer service excellence.’ When I hear amazing customer service stories like the Morton’s Steakhouse flight dinner delivery, it’s clear that there are avenues for a personalized customer experience without the unsettling ‘big brother-style’ intrusion.
In the PACE article, author Derek Martin made clear that the rise of big data has implications for the customer experience, and that companies must take care to avoid crossing the line. Since the article was published, the implications have only grown.
We find ourselves entering the age of the ‘Internet of Things,’ and it can be difficult to remember that – behind it all – are still people. Consumers like convenience, but not intrusiveness. They like the personal touch, but they don’t want businesses to get too personal. Privacy is definitely still valued.
Big Data = Big Deal
Knowing how to use customer data to create a relationship that works from the customer’s perspective is becoming mission critical. False steps can lead to companies being branded as overly-intrusive. The key is balance, and knowing what would be considered going too far.
In the article mentioned above, Martin talks about the Target maternity example. Target had identified soon-to-be-mothers based on their purchases. They then sent out maternity-related materials and promotions. And that’s how a teenage girl’s father found out she was pregnant. Definitely an instance which really highlights the potential risks involved with using big data.
The Privacy Line in the Sand
One of the bigger challenges is that the “un-crossable line” shifts from customer to customer. Millennials as a demographic tend to be much freer with information publicly than baby boomers, for example – but that doesn’t speak to individuals within each demographic. The rise of marketing data is making such determinations easier, no doubt. But it (always) comes back to customer service reps being able to successfully ‘read’ the customer to try to gauge receptiveness.
Training for the Customer Experience
The bottom line: it comes down to training & coaching…as well as periodic retraining and ongoing coaching. The growing amounts of available customer data are shifting how customer interactions occur right now. We live in a new era of personalized marketing, and the field will continue to evolve rapidly until it matures and finds its natural place in our lives.
In the meantime, companies will take steps and – as is often the case – sometimes make missteps. To me, not only does this highlight the need for training, but the training sessions themselves need to be evaluated and modified to keep up with the evolving use of data we are experiencing.