Business as Usual: Data for Customers

On my morning flight, my seatmates and I encountered something new to us.

Our flight attendant rolled the beverage cart up to our aisle and greeted each of us by name as he asked what refreshments he could get for us. The lady next to me chuckled and commented, “That’s very welcoming. How did you know my name?” Of course, they know our names and where we are sitting, but that was the first time any of us had experienced an airline using our data on a flight with the intention to deliver customer service.

The attendant demurred that it would truly be customer service when he could bring us the drink we wanted without us even asking. Given the extent to which companies use our data, it is an easy future to imagine.

Adapting to Change: Customers for Data

Yes, we are all getting used to the idea that with every purchase, view, and click, we are giving our data to companies for their use. Until now, permission to hold, access, use, buy, and sell our data has been variable. Although many don’t see that part of having our data as being customer service-oriented, we have not had much choice about it. On May 25, 2018, a new law will take effect that will both change and challenge the way companies use data for marketing.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will require companies (that control and/or process the data of European Union citizens) to gain the explicit consent of EU customers to use their data. Furthermore, this law will supersede all past legislation. Read more: Are you prepared for the future of Data Privacy?

Opportunity: Companies for Customers

Companies heavily rely on data for marketing purposes. This method has become so effective that personal data is often traded as though it is a good or service. And getting people to surrender their information has been so easy that it’s nearly an automatic process. Interestingly, we’ve probably grown used to this because we’ve found that surrendering our data makes our lives easier. Did anyone ever sacrifice immediate access to entertainment to read all of iTunes’ updated terms and conditions?

Now, a terms and conditions document isn’t going to be enough for companies that wish to obtain consent to control and/or process the data of EU Citizens. Requests for consent must be presented, “in a manner which is clearly distinguishable from the other matters, in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language.” Furthermore, EU citizens will have the right to withdraw consent at any time, make subject access requests, and more.

Adapting to this change will create an opportunity for companies to keep elevating quality and customer service. Companies that maintain the transparency of data collection and usage will gain a competitive advantage as they will earn trust from customers.

With that being said, the GDPR may very well influence companies to create more genuine interactions and relationships with their customers. Equal partnership, transparency, and accountability are all positive things to acquire to create a new level of trust in the digital age.

Co-authored, edited and prepared with Ashlyn Vogelsang.

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