In the past, when businesses could still dictate their brand image to the market through “traditional” one-way marketing, collecting our digital identities, such as phone numbers or email addresses, were attempts to capture ways to broadcast branding and advertisement to us. As things got out of hand, Do-Not-Call lists and advanced spam filters came about. Today, with social media and quick and easy access to opinions from peers, trusted review sites or power users, brands are losing control and customers are, for the first time ever, truly in charge.
We are now seeing a growing awareness that the customer experience becomes the new way to shine. With the emancipated customer of today, however, brands will need to make an effort to either win or keep our trust. They need to give us their attention, not win our attention. Collecting numerous digital identities without explaining to us what they will use or need them doesn’t do it anymore. We are tired of spam and over-communication. So why should we share our email address, Twitter handle, or Facebook identity with a business?
The answer lies in customer service. If a business wants to succeed, they need to explain how they are going to use the knowledge of my identities in a way that improves my experience with them over time. How will they use knowledge of my cell phone number to grant me quicker access to certain account information without complex authentication processes while keeping more sensitive data behind an authentication wall, for my own protection?
It’s not hard: on the sign-up page, add a link “Why would we like to know all this?” that points to a video that lays out in a few minutes how the awareness of my online identities will help the business serve me better. In a nutshell: show me what you will do with my data. And don’t tell me you’ll advertise to me, unless I tell you it’s okay to do so.
Even better: give me a full-fledged preference page where I can tell you what my preferences are, or even more: what my own terms and conditions are in doing business with you. Why is it that I have to sign a vendor’s T&Cs, but the vendor never has to sign mine? I tell you that I don’t want to be emailed at all, and never called during weekends, and if I further tell you that I prefer short proactive messages for relevant information via Twitter DM, and time-critical information via SMS – then I not only get annoyed less frequently, I also see that you respect and value my time and preferences, which ultimately adds to my loyalty with you. And if I see you break my T&Cs, well – then I will cancel our relationship and switch to a more truthful vendor.
Why don’t you give me a consumer version of your CRM? Let’s call it VRM, Vendor Relationship Management – which is a mix of data that youcollect about me (data stored already in your CRM systems), and data that I collect about you (when and how we have interacted). Wouldn’t that be nice?
Knowing about my digital identities can also help prevent fraud. Let’s say I get a call from you – or someone who claims they are you. If you embraced the ideas behind Experience Continuity as well as VRM, you could give me a short security code and tell me “without hanging up, please log in on our mobile app or website now and you will immediately get a pop-up telling you this same code,” thereby proving that you are indeed you. Or, if it’s not about me not trusting you, but you not trusting me, you could ask me to tweet or text you some code, thereby proving that I am indeed who I claim to be. It is harder for a fraudster to steal not just one, but several identities at the same time.
I am convinced that embracing new technologies and opening up to a “VRM way” as explained above will be appreciated by all age groups and backgrounds.