Creepy vs. Caring

blackcatSusan’s keynote address at the recent EMACS conference capped off the two previous keynotes from Duke Power and Hyatt Hotels with examples of how to improve customer satisfaction, net promoter score, and of course increasingly engage customers in a productive relationship. Susan focused on Amazon and Kroger as she demonstrated their proven methods of appealing to and influencing customers about what they buy.

Her funny story about buying a book for close friend who was experiencing a nasty divorce and then having some of her staff viewing her screen as Amazon suggested other books about infidelity is funny on one level since everyone knows we are happily married, but shows the “creepy” side of this new and widespread digital tracking of our interests. She also talked about it being a bit creepy that Kroger sent her coupons for things she buys there all the time … and they know her buying preferences because we also participate in the Kroger Rewards program where we get discounts on many things plus cash back on our gasoline purchases.

This got me thinking. We have certainly heard customers express fears about “big brother” with smart meters. It is a bit creepy that our bill analysis can detect when you have been on vacation or when you have had added visitors staying in your home. How comfortable are we about our digital footprints we are leaving everywhere? Perhaps we have not done a good job of explaining the benefit of all this digital tracking to help customers understand and manage their lives?

As the proliferation of helpful electronics continues (iFit, the new Apple watch, etc.) we may see a backlash if we don’t clearly keep the benefits to the consumer in focus. Yes, there will always be nefarious individuals who can use this same information for devious and negative purposes. But, our lives are being made better, so onward we go.

Perhaps the key question here is who is the custodian of all this information? Perhaps we should be a bit more careful about letting others who might sell or use this information get between the utility and the customer. Google has made it clear that they have no loyalty to the utilities. Apple seems to be saying they will let nothing bad happen with all the data they are getting.

Do we have the same confidence in companies like Amazon? Read the book on Bezos called The Everything Store and judge for yourself. It is pretty scary. It is very creepy.

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