Never before have we had access to personal data as we do today. Finding the fine line between considerate and intrusive customization is hard to establish, but not impossible. Finding the right balance will ensure an optimal customer experience.
Being single can be lonely; at least it is for many people. Seeing your friends happy with their partners, living full lives together, consistently highlights the mundane monotony of going home, solo, to a Netflix binge.
At least Netflix would never break your heart!
Considering this, for many, in moments of despair at romantic prospects, matters are made worse with the constant and intrusive stream of sponsored ads that would pop-up on the laptop. Pop-ups suggesting you try eHarmony and other such sites. Not having a partner, and being reminded online of that fact, is a potentially unpleasant and embarrassing scenario for many people.
Such anxiety or frustration at the use of personal data, to create customization still pales, however, in comparison to horror stories about personal, private details of peoples’ lives being exposed to all and sundry as a result of targeted engagement. Finding out your teenage daughter is pregnant because of suggested products, or discovering a spouse’s infidelity through an annoying Ashley Madison side-banner is not optimal.
Now more than ever, there are opportunities for personalization in customer service with email marketing, on-site optimization and other promotional mechanisms. Businesses have the capacity to know an enormous amount about its customers before they walk in, or back in, the door.
However, this also means greater opportunity to upset and isolate the customer base. Caution is paramount in avoiding any semblance of overstepping the mark; customers want to feel appreciated without overt examination or exposure of their innermost traits or thoughts.
Not only this, but businesses have a moral and ethical responsibility to treat data pertaining to customers, and the customers themselves, with dignity and respect.
Knowing where the line is, and not overstepping it, is crucial.
With that in mind, there are a number of considerations businesses can take into account when dealing with personal information:
- Show respect and transparency. If opportunities arise to use customer data, take the time to explain how and why you wish to utilize it. If it is being used in a way that will subsequently offer more value to those customers, make that clear.
- Each customer is unique. Specific targeted engagement may be exciting and necessary to one person but come across as creepy to another. Be prudent with personalization.
- Offer choice. Allowing customers the ability to opt in or out of customized features and services, and change their level of engagement with your business, helps instill trust and loyalty. Being a pushy salesman – in-store or online – is a surefire way to getting someone to walk out the door.
- Be human. Technology should not get in the way of genuine human interaction. Customers can tell the difference between someone genuinely remembering their name versus engaging with a bot armed with programmed personal information, utilizing virtual chat and automated responses. Retaining strong social interaction that is and sounds human, rather than rigid, will likely endear customers to the business and thereby allow for greater optimization and targeting.
Striking the right balance between using customer data in fruitful, productive ways that will deliver needed, gratifying individual experiences versus using data to engender digital intrusiveness is fundamentally important for businesses to retain the trust and confidence of its customer base.
The online sphere is moving at a pace not necessarily in keeping with individuals’ expectations and understanding, and thus it is the responsibility of those handling personal data to use it in a fashion compatible with idiosyncratic needs and ethical parameters, together with honesty and options for that engagement.