Big Data, Big Brother and the End of Privacy: Three New Rules for Customer Engagement

Big Data, Big Brother and the End of Privacy: Three New Rules for Customer Engagement

Steven Dunston
Steven Dunston

Ninety percent of recorded data in human history has been recorded in the last two years, and the pace is accelerating. Consumers have adopted smartphones, smart light bulbs and thermostats, activity trackers, and even assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant, which spy on us as a core feature. Facebook admitted to secretly listening to us, and people shrugged. Most of us have dealt with data breaches, exposing credit cards, social security numbers, or passwords.

The public isn’t just a victim: we’re participating. Digital Guardian says 70% of digital data is created by consumers. But 80% of data is stored by enterprises, hoping to use the data to improve products and services. And the data doesn’t come for free. In addition to the tremendous costs of data aggregation and storage, there are increased expectations on the part of the customer.

Customers have accepted the end of privacy, knowing that companies are tracking their every move. And they expect companies to use that data to make their lives better; to create meaningful brand experiences. Break this agreement, and customers will leave, maybe forever.

It’s not good enough to be middle of the pack in customer experience. (Forrester/Accenture PDF, June 2016). Brands need to excel to win. Three new rules sum up this new era, and they are critical for companies who want to survive and thrive:

  1. The customer is in control
  2. Have manners (and don’t be creepy)
  3. Create continuity across devices and touchpoints

1. The customer is in control

You have more options than ever for communicating with your customer, but how do you know which ones to use? Let your customer decide. Text versus email, in-store versus mobile app — if your customer has a preference, let them tell you.

There are several ways companies screw this up:

  • Options only available from a single channel or device. If a customer prefers your mobile app, they should be able to do everything from the mobile app. Don’t force them to visit your website from a computer browser for certain actions. And if a customer prefers your website to an app, don’t make them click through an app ad every time they visit your website.
  • Not honoring communication method preferences. If a customer prefers email, don’t call them if you can help it. And if you must call, pay attention to home time zone, and whether they are likely to be at work or at home (or asleep).
  • Sharing irrelevant content. Most marketing automation systems will help you create a smart preferences page, where a user can decide what kind of content they want to receive. This is golden information! Use it to create a better customer relationship.

Marketing content can be embraced by consumers. There is a moment of delight when Netflix recommends the perfect movie, or when Amazon lets us know a product is back in stock. An email newsletter can be as comforting as a newspaper or a cup of coffee at breakfast. It’s all about giving customers options, and letting them be in control.

2. Have manners (and don’t be creepy)

Anyone who has ever clicked on an ad in Facebook has experienced the magic of retargeting. For the next 30 days, that product follows you around the web, begging for another click. This is an effective marketing technique, if done correctly. But it’s easy to overdo it, which is especially jarring if someone has accidentally ended up on a list by tapping the wrong pixel on the screen.

Retargeting is nothing compared to the level of personalization now available. With the combination of behavior tracking, data modeling, and next-best-action systems, companies can make astonishingly accurate guesses about the state of mind of a customer.

As most of us learned by kindergarten, just because you can accurately guess something about someone, that doesn’t mean you should act on it. Humans have a set of algorithms to govern where, whether, or how to communicate what we know about other humans’ demographics, mood, or intent. We call this “manners.”

This is tricky for data-driven marketers, because constantly communicating, or acting on subtle signals can produce short term gains in engagement or conversion. But if you cross the line from communication to creepy, you may permanently lose that customer.

A related issue is over-personalization. A coworker and I recently confused the heck out of each other due to miscommunication after viewing the same product web page from a vendor that was hyper-personalized. It was impossible for us to share information by sharing a link, because the personalization algorithm was serving us completely different content.

Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks have faced backlash recently for adjusting their algorithms for which content shows up to users. And Amazon has received criticism for dynamically adjusting prices based on the price sensitivity of individual buyers. Ultimately, people don’t want to be manipulated. We know that companies experiment and optimize, but we don’t want to feel like test subjects. We want to feel like VIPs.

3. Create continuity across devices and touchpoints

A recent McKinsey Labs study showed that it’s not enough for companies to create individual moments of satisfaction. If consumers don’t feel that those touchpoints are connected, their overall satisfaction suffers.

Individual touchpoints don't lead to overall satisfaction

This makes sense. When interacting with your bank teller, for example, you would like to see the results reflected in the mobile app. When you call a support agent, you would like them to have access to information about your account and situation.

Companies struggle to get this right, even though they have the right data. Why is this?

The solution isn’t purely technological. It’s about the people and culture inside your company. Data systems and budgets reflect org charts and political alliances. Marketing, sales, and customer support may have different views of the customer, different key metrics, and different corporate goals. This leads to fragmented experiences for the customer.

And this is a bit of a chicken and egg problem. Because if you don’t have technology available to help with the problem, it’s hard to create momentum to fix the culture and org chart issues.

Until recently, there haven’t been off-the-shelf solutions. Companies like Segment help you collect your customer data, and companies like Tableau and Domo help you analyze the data. You can then hypothesize about how to improve your customer experience, and those conversations can begin to break down the walls between departments.

But how do you unify your customer engagements? Those actions are often hidden inside product code, point-to-point integrations, or single-system workflow tools.

Every company struggles with this, and Usermind can help. We’re working with companies of many different sizes, at different stages of maturity when it comes to customer experience.

Whether you’re ready to orchestrate a customer journey, just beginning to look at the data, or you don’t know where to begin, Usermind can help you sort your way through the new rules for customer engagement, and make a plan for using your data in ways that create happier, more loyal customers.

Steven Dunston
Steven Dunston
Sr. Director of Marketing at Usermind

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