When Using Customer Data, Don’t Be Creepy!

When it comes to providing the ultimate customer experience, can technology go too far and instead, backfire by creeping out the customer?


Consider this example, which disturbs many people – Facebook’s unnatural ability to read your mind. While Facebook has denied any eavesdropping, there are plenty of articles reporting stories of Facebook users engaging with a friend, spouse or family member IN REAL LIFE, concerning a service or product, then bam! -- all of a sudden Facebook serves up ads on the EXACT subject of those conversations. Some place the blame on Facebook’s Messenger app, causing several users to delete it.


Or, consider home assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. By necessity, these devices, constantly listen to everything happening in the home. They must so they can function and respond when appropriate commands are given. Although Amazon denies any passive eavesdropping; and that conversations are recorded; consumers have been served up ads and messages, as with Facebook.


Bringing it a little closer to home, in the automotive industry technology allows dealers to monitor an individual on their website, tracking every activity in real-time. In addition, some chat services allow dealers to initiate a chat session with a website visitor, without being asked.


This certainly isn’t a new practice – businesses have been using data to stay ahead of consumers for years. In 2012, Target was able to identify when a teenage girl was pregnant before she even told anyone and started sending her coupons and advertisements for maternity and baby items. How creepy is that? This of course, was news to her father and certainly caused some familial conversations – probably rather awkward ones at that!


Let me be clear here. I certainly believe data is king and SHOULD be used to tailor the right message to the right consumer at the right time – which produces KILLER results. However, a hard line exists between where technology improves the customer experience; or just turns the consumer off as it is too intrusive, abusing their right to privacy.


While you should certainly strive to provide a better customer experience by having good data about the customer in front of you – which improve communications, deliver more relevant marketing messages and make transactions more efficient -- consumer’s still want privacy and, in some cases, anonymity.


I’m not in any way suggesting that you shouldn’t take advantage of the data… just be cautious how that data is used and be smart about how you personalize those messages for each customer. It’s easy to get so caught up in the data and the opportunities it identifies that you forget there’s an actual a human being you are communicating with at the other end – and they may not be so welcoming if your message crosses that line.

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