Some of you may have seen I tweeted last week that I deactivated my Facebook account after learning that Facebook had uploaded all of my contact information from my iPhone. Not only does my iPhone contain my personal contacts, but my business contacts as well, over 1,500 entries. I am incredulous that Facebook would so blatantly violate privacy; and for me this was the step too far.
Data as a corporate asset is important, but individual data holds the key to much more insight than you would think. Imagine linking all your contacts with their personal financial information to create new demographic communities for sellers- this could dramatically reduce sales cost and marketing effectiveness. While I applaud the efforts to improve business efficiency, companies can achieve the same effect by creating a trusted relationship with their customers.
To do so, companies have to be diligent in protecting the quality of their information. This data changes; people move, age, change jobs, get promoted, retire, die. In a trusted relationship, customers will tell you this. When they do, you can remain current with them and follow them throughout the cycle of buying that coincides with your products. Here’s another interesting thing- they will tell everyone like them what they think about your products and services.
Case in point: I have been a customer of a particular online retailer for many years. About three years ago, I noticed a shift in their approach. They started asking me distinct questions, first about what I thought of their service. This established I was willing to share information with them. Then questions about products I had purchased, finally questions about how they could help me. Not pushing products at me, asking me what I needed, if they could help me with gifts for others, etc. Finally, I received a call from a very sharp customer support representative thanking me for my business, letting me know how much I had spent with them and offering a discount on my next purchase. A phone call! Now, I’m a good customer but not spending all my money there- I would say I buy something from them 6-8 times a year. That’s impressive service for a fairly small relationship.
I know this company has a huge focus on customer satisfaction but that doesn’t come without solid data to drive the process. Having a business process that supports your customer satisfaction is critical, vs. buying lots of data and trying to “trick” your customers into buying your product. Tying your data and process together is critical to understanding the intricate details of the information you have, and using that to support your critical business processes.
So, sorry Facebook but you will no longer have me to mine for data. I have been going through withdrawal all week; I’ve switched to Google+ and like the interface. Don’t have an invitation? Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to send you one (while supplies last).