Time for Payback

By: Richard Berger

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytics fiasco has us all thinking about data. No doubt, unless you live in a cave, your personal information, preferences, habits, dislikes and opinions are out there, in the cloud, easily manipulated and used by everyone from Facebook to fake news outlets to florists.

Certainly, consumers need more protection. The European Union is leading the charge with its new privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which protects individuals in the EU’s 28 member countries (and will most likely apply to everyone from the Fortune 500, to banks, advertisers and apps, because it’s driven by where data is collected, not processed). Red flags are flying as consumers start to realize just how much information is being collected about them, and how enterprises are benefitting from it. It’s not just about pop-ups on those shoes you searched for earlier. As more products and services “come alive” in the Internet-of-Things, the volume of data collected about us multiplies exponentially. And as artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms start analyzing that data, businesses stand to profit significantly– so why shouldn’t we benefit as well?

Given the changing sentiment about data collection and usage, I find myself wondering how much my data is worth. Last year, an article in The Economist suggested that data was the new oil. Whether you agree with that or not, certainly we as consumers deserve to have our data used in ways that serve us, not just the companies that mine it.

Lots of us are willing to share basic information about ourselves in the hopes of getting a better deal, improved service, loyalty perks and more. As someone who travels almost 90 days a year, I often wonder why my customer experience hasn’t improved despite my sharing so much personal data with travel providers. You know what I’m talking about. Simple things like acknowledging my lifetime platinum status at check-in and giving me an actual person to speak to should problems arise or giving my family complimentary access to an airport club lounge when they travel with me. It’s time for my customer service experience to be commensurate with my level of usage, lifetime value or loyalty.

I don’t relish the idea of sharing so much, but I do it with the hope that all these companies will use my search and usage data to improve their products and services. I, like you, have plenty of suggestions on what companies should do with all that data. For starters, let’s rehumanize the customer experience, and let loyal customers speak to an actual person, not an automated message. Collecting all that data certainly covers the “listening” part of customer service. Now it’s time for businesses to react accordingly and deliver customer experiences that foster loyalty and appreciation.

Here at HighPoint, we too need to remind ourselves that we should do more than just collect “data” about our clients’ businesses. Really listening to our clients means taking their input and delivering something back that’s thoughtful, strategic and truly customer-focused.