Privacy: Hassle or Customer-Centric Opportunity?

futurelab default header

When it comes to managing the digital customer experience, there’s an interesting duality all of us need to deal with:

·         On the one hand governments are getting ever stricter on the corporate use of their citizens’ data. Also, these citizens – that’s us – are becoming less prone to share their information with the big bad corporate world.

·         On the other hand companies are trying to find a balance between being legally compliant and feeding their big-data-collection machinery. A machine – to be fair – they need to give us the personalised services we want.

The result seems to be a tug of war in which legal departments baton down the liability hatches, marketing teams scramble for every piece of data they can get their hands on, consumer groups/governments come up with new regulations and consumers get ever more wary of sharing their data.

I don’t think it needs to be this way. I’m not a data or privacy specialist, but I believe that by taking a customer-centric view to data-collection and management, we can encourage customers to voluntarily share all the data which we need to service them well while keeping everyone happy (including the legislator). But it does require a few mind shifts.

#1 Get rid of the form mentality

When collecting data, too many companies still apply a fill-out-the-form mindset. They try to capture all the data they may ever need in one customer interaction and store their systems for posterity.

While this approach made perfect sense in the days of the typewriter and the filing cabinet, today it is anything but optimal and it makes customers wonder about the questions asked (I mean, why do companies always wants to know our birthday?).

It is much smarter to look at data collection as a journey, in which your company only asks customers for the data that is needed to complete the process at hand. This will make any forms shorter to fill out, any data easier to maintain AND will be much more motivational to the customer. After all, if you ask me for my mobile number to SMS-confirm a delivery I expect, I’ll be much more inclined to give it to you than if you make it part of a 20-field form on our first interaction.

#2 Align different departments around a customer dialogue

Different departments have different needs and objectives when it comes to data management. Legal will want to minimise exposure. Marketing will want to mix and match data, so it can make tailored offers. IT wants a clear roadmap and priorities to keep the machinery running.

With the best of intentions, all of these stakeholders will get in each other’s way. At best, the result is internal inefficiency. At worst, customers get irritated as they can get rather touchy about a topic like privacy.

A way around this is to align all departments around one customer dialogue map. This enhancement to the customer journey clearly describes the human and digital dialogues that take place at every touchpoint, regardless of the path the customer desires to walk. Based on this map you can clearly define the data requirements at every step of the customer journey and cascade them throughout each level of the organisation (think lean data). You can also organically build a permission dialogue in which people are asked for additional information only when you need it (and they see the benefit :-).

As a result, legal gets a privacy policy which directly links to what you want to do with the data, IT gets a communication architecture upon which it can build its systems, marketing and sales can maximise every opportunity and – most importantly – the customer gets a data experience which is relevant at ever journey step of her journey.

#3 Only pursue the data you can actually manage

With all the innovations around, it’s easy to get excited about data, analytics and fancy software solutions. They allow you to do all sorts of cool stuff and digitally empower consumers at every touchpoint. If only you get more data, you will make more money, be more efficient, be faster on the trigger and remain up to date on the status of your business (oh yes, did I mention the ability to make shiny colourful graphs?).

But the problem is that many companies can’t really handle more data. In fact, there is only so much customer information that the people in the organisation can actually deal with, and the more you pile upon them, the more this data turns into internal noise. This isn’t just distracting, but every piece of data that you create, needs to be maintained, which costs money. Not to mention that after having received five customer surveys within 2 weeks, even the most positive customer will get annoyed if you don’t really do something with her feedback.

So the final mindset shift is to resist the urge of biting off more data and systems than you can chew. Even if an army of consultants tell you that you should be getting in touch with all your customers at every touchpoint and analyse their every move, ask yourself whether your organisation is set up to do it.

If you aren’t 100% sure you and your customers will benefit, don’t burden your people with yet another report and don’t ask your customers for more information. They’ll be grateful for being left alone and will be more willing to give you information next time round.

Random thought: I just realised that the only privacy related communications I’ve ever received from companies is asking me for “more” information. I’ve actually never received a mail from a company giving back some data … i.e. “Alain, as we are not using your birthday for anything sensible, we’re giving back the permission you gave us to work with it.” Would that be a pleasant surprise, or am I just being naive?

Image via flickr

Original Post: