This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle five: developing an empathic organizational culture that understands, internalizes and practices customer-sensitive behaviors.


Hand in hand with getting your own house in order to secure customer data is developing an empathic organizational culture that understands, internalizes and practices customer-sensitive behaviors. This can be reflected in the marketing practices you adopt, the way customer data is collected and handled, and the attitude and values that are expressed and embodied from leadership through the ranks.

Several respondents in our qualitative feedback study emphasized that organizations’ observing privacy policies internally was very important to them. While most every organization has an external privacy notice (understandable or not), many companies lack a robust internal privacy policy, data management policies, or even clarity of their privacy mission and position. It is important to thoughtfully define these, then train your people, in a resonant and memorable way about these corporate values and an employee’s role in them. Reinforce the training with an ongoing internal awareness campaign. Help your team remember that behind every purchase, tweet, post, click and share is a human being and all that entails. Anyone who has something or someone to protect can understand that.

This is a foundational aspect of your organization’s personality and reputation – how do you want to be seen and regarded? Are you the respectful company? The service-oriented company? One who customers see as sneaky or arrogant? One who is so consumed with innovation and speed that they forget there are real people who will be served or potentially harmed by your invention?

Consider incenting or requiring those who work with other’s personally identifiable information, whether it belongs to customers, employees, partners, students or anyone else, to get certifications. This can help them more deeply understand the implications of what they’re working with. A colleague of mine likened this to how massage therapists are trained to respect the bodies of their customers, with their reputation and careers dependent upon following those protocols.

A best practice is to conduct what’s called a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) to evaluate risk in both existing and intended practices and services. There are online resources to offer you guidance (shameless commerce warning: Dialog can help with these); you will need some understanding of the legal and regulatory environment in which you operate. Then, when you objectively understand the level of risk, you can consider adjustments to your practices or plans if necessary. Those who may decline to participate should be made fully accountable for any consequences – financial or otherwise.

Acculturating a sense of responsibility and empathy, with policies to back that up, will go a long way toward solidifying your organization’s reputation as a trusted vendor. And that translates to the bottom line.
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data: 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 2: Be Clear and Accountable
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 3: Do Everything You Can to Protect Customer Data
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 4: Mind Your Partners!

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This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle four: protecting data when it is passed on to others in your value chain.


Here is the Fourth of 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships, based on Dialog’s recent research.

While the last post discussed getting your own house in order around protecting customer data, equally important is protection of that data when it is passed on to others in your value chain.

Consumers regularly agree to share data with a particular organization for immediately known purposes – a purchase transaction, registering for a site or service, downloading an app. There is an abstract understanding that their data is shared. But the specifics of with whom, how and for what are vague to all but the most attentive, usually those who work in a marketing capacity. I recently heard a statistic that a data broker will have about 1500 pieces of information on an average individual! I didn’t know there could be 1500 things about me to be tracked. Who knew I was so interesting?

This vague concept of ‘they have all of my data’ is unsettling, leaving people feeling powerless and hoping that nothing harmful will befall as a result. It is perhaps the greatest area of concern for our study respondents. Legal requirements are normally that the data owner has bottom line responsibility (read that the one who could be sued in a breach), so it behooves you as a data collector to integrate strict data management terms into your third party contracts.

But beyond that, it’s how the data is used and monetized – and we all know this is the holy grail of marketing – that respondents find troubling. One respondent noted that “3rd party access to my search history is completely inappropriate.” Another noted that “if you got my data from somewhere else, tell me where you got it from.” Some of the other concerns expressed included not allowing an individual’s identity or data given for one perceived purpose to be used by entities that have control over other parts of their lives – insurance, credit, employers, housing, civil litigation, healthcare providers, surveillance or profiling, divorce court, political parties, or the news media, except as allowed by law. Data collectors should therefore carefully consider legal requests vs. legal requirements.

One suggestion was to have and observe universal standards on collection and distribution of sensitive and potentially harmful medical and financial information. There are already laws about these domains, but data analytics can get pretty accurate at some of these situations using other non-regulated data.

But some respondents also took a Buyer Beware stance, saying that data voluntarily given and captured through public means is there for the taker, and consumers can always choose not to participate in a transaction. Better to educate people about what is being harvested about them and how it is used. Perhaps improving privacy policies would be a good start. But it can be challenging to get that message across when data is handed off to anonymous 3rd parties whose very existence or purposes are unknown to average people.

With the Internet of Things, this situation will grow exponentially, creating further issues of securing data at the points of collection, transfer and curation x 1000 – and the implications for Big Data crunching that will come from it. Bottom line – mind your partners. Privacy protections need to be contractually obligated with third parties, but prudence dictates you avoid sharing with those who perpetrate the creep factor, especially when contributions can be traced back to you.

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Information Stewardship: Our Role in the 21st Century

February 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)
Today on NVTC’s blog, guest blogger Sean Tibbetts of member company Cyber Timez Inc. discusses our roles as information stewards of the 21st century and our responsibility to ensure that data is used efficiently, accurately, positively and safely.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Sean Tibbett

Sean Tibbetts

Information Technology has become a pervasive force at all levels of organizations whether their focus is government, business, recreation, education or a combination of them all. Device convergence has resulted in the technology utopian goal of constantly connected devices in the hands of data consumers providing access to information that has never been easier. The phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” has never been more true than in our modern, connected culture. Information is power and the more information for which we are responsible the more power we directly or indirectly inherit. As the Information Stewards of the 21st century it is our primary responsibility to ensure this data is used efficiently and accurately for the betterment of those who both give and receive the information we provide while avoiding causing harm to those that provide that data to us.

Data Driven Decision Making

Data driven decision making is key to the success or failure of any technology connected effort. The Internet may be the greatest tool ever released on mankind for “leveling the playing field” when it comes to access to pertinent data for decision making processes. Organizations from a one man jack-of-all-trades to companies employing tens of thousands of people all require access to data to determine which efforts are working well versus areas needing further scrutiny. As we review the type and content of the data they need it becomes clear that the requirements of any organization regardless of size tend to be the same: accurate data resulting in actionable information. Most organizations recognize that they need access to information about the client base they serve. This information can be categorized into three repeatable, programmable and usable data silos resulting in tools better enabling decision makers to reach organizationally positive conclusions.

Usage Data

The first and probably most obvious data silo is usage data. Whether tracking website views or app taps every organization needs to know how their information is accessed and used. Usage data may be as simple as how many times a page was loaded to a more complex model of how many times a page was loaded by operating system and browser sorted by time on site from specific referrers. Suddenly determining what should be “above the fold” on that simple web page isn’t so simple. Luckily for technology solutions of any size there are a myriad of tools available both free and for a fee that provide this type information in multiple forms from simple graphs to complex data slices represented with exportable pivot tables. Using this data to help guide our decision making process ensures users get the information they need.

Location Data

The second largest data silo used for decision making tends to be based on location data. Location data can vary from where a user is standing in a store aisle using Bluetooth beacons to an approximation of what country they are in based on IP address. Understanding where a user is physically combined with the how they use your tool provides greater insight into what type of data should be delivered to them at the appropriate place. If we know the country in which the user is in then our information needs to be translated to the appropriate language with useful local references. While using location data can be extremely valuable for technologies such as push notifications for sales at a nearby retail outlet, technologists also need to always keep in mind the privacy concerns and rights of their users. Using location and usage data together help guide our decision making process to ensure users get information they need in the place they need it most.

User Demographics

The third, and likely most valuable, data silo is user demographic information. Demographics can be as simple as knowing a user’s gender or as complex as gender based purchasing decisions sliced by median income in a given zip code. User demographics are a powerful decision making tool, but must be managed efficiently. While combining web search histories with current location data and gender information to push advertisements for certain products may be a good thing; it could also be very damaging if a child is using the device and suddenly gets an advertisement for lingerie because they walked past the ladies section of the store. Understanding the demographics of whom the current user is is critical and key to any information presentation model. Using demographic, location and usage data together help guide our decision making process to ensure the right users get the right information in the right place.

Conclusion

All of this data collection leads us to one conclusion: accurate data is absolutely necessary for decision making. We stand on the greatness built by the generations before us. They gave us the Internet, TCP/IP stack and the World Wide Web to gather and exchange information. As the Information Stewards of the 21st century it is our job to ensure that these tools are used to provide the best user experience possible by combining the most accurate data available in a manner that results in the ultimate goal of all data collection: actionable information. Technologists today should have their own Hippocratic Oath and take it to heart: I will collect and provide data for the good of my users according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.


About the Author
Sean Tibbetts is the CEO and co-founder of Cyber Timez Inc. His information technology career spans over 20 years beginning as an owner/operator of a classic dial-up bulletin board system and as a contributor to multiple open source projects in the early nineties. He has participated on and led teams to design, develop and implement case management systems, the world’s fastest OCR and data entry engines and health care data mining systems. His current focus is on mobile technologies with a strong focus on wearable devices and the Internet of Things.

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