This week on NVTC’s blog, Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Research and Communications introduces the first in her 8 part series of principles for responsible data stewardship to help guide behavioral change that will preserve customer good will and trust.


Following up to the introduction of 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships, here’s the first principle.

I know right off the bat that espousing customer control of coveted data collected at great effort and expense is marketing heresy. But it’s what they want. Sensed loss of control (psychological or otherwise) was the predominant finding in Dialog’s recent research.

Control extends to multiple domains. Perhaps most contentious is who ‘owns’ someone’s data. People believe they own their own data; the businesses who collect it feel they do, and in reality, they do legally own what’s collected in the course of transacting business. Customer data is a critical asset. But what happens with that data beyond the original intent (a la “I know I bought a thing from you but not them”) is unclear and uncomfortable. Some respondents want access to their data to see what’s been collected. Some feel that they should be paid for the use of it. Most want the option to decide whether or not their data gets shared, with whom, for what purpose and in what circumstance. This is far from today’s practices.

The letter of the law may permit sharing or selling of data to 3rd parties. Long, complex privacy policies in 3 point font may direct customers to some limited opt-out actions. Those policies are seldom read and even less seldom understood. But perception is what really matters. When customers feel loss of control over how their data is used and abused, offending brands will pay the price. One respondent told me she could tell exactly which nonprofit entity had been repeatedly selling her data by the volumes of spam received; she stopped supporting that nonprofit all together.

Control over the digital experience is another concern. If the internet is about freedom, then people should be free to direct their online experience, and not have a search engine or a business decide what they see. People passionately hate pop-ups, and don’t form favorable opinions of the unwanted brands that pop up. Turning them off imposes a burden on the user, and blocking all pop-ups may interfere with desired experiences on other sites. Much preferable would be inviting users to allow some dynamic messaging when they are open to receiving it.

In that same vein, customers want to choose the frequency of interaction. A positive purchase experience can easily sour by excessive promotional emailing. One respondent told me she regularly unsubscribes from chosen brands who spam her, and those brands fall off her consideration list. I myself have done this. Another respondent expressed anger over being “tricked” by a brand who slipped in a subtle clause on an e-commerce site that then obligated her to buy something she didn’t realize and didn’t want. In her words, this should have been opt-in, not opt-out. But she also told me she really appreciated that when receiving promotional material from a company she had not previously bought from, it clearly stated that she was receiving it because she had purchased from XYZ. That transparency was enough to make her feel positive about the old and the new brands.

The marketing practices mentioned here are common. Industries are built on them. But as more data is collected from more connected ‘stuff’, these issues stand to exponentially multiply. It’s not about what’s legally allowed; it’s about customer perception and experience. The more an organization empowers a customer to truly have choice and control in the data relationship, stronger loyalty and brand reputation will be the reward.

Please share your thoughts and perspectives!

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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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