An interview with Tarrill Baker, Director of Data Empowerment Ltd, and Michael Fisher, CEO, 3radical
Customer expectations are constantly evolving, as are data privacy laws. But how is a company’s martech platform expected to keep up? Many brands have not only had to make technical changes, but cultural changes as well, just to stay ahead of the curve. So, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to speak about this, and the joint launch of the paper, “People Are Not Static: Data Collection Practices Need to Reflect That”, with data empowerment expert, Tarrill Baker, and Michael Fisher, 3radial’s CEO.
Why did you write this paper?
I wrote the paper because customers’ demands are changing. Particularly around what they expect from products and services. What we’re seeing now is there’s far more onus for the customer to be treated like the data is their data. Businesses and services need to start showing that they’ve earned their customers’ data, rather than traditionally where the business has felt they own all the data.
Companies have to make these evolutions. Michael, this is obviously something you’re very passionate about, specific when it comes to earned data. How do you help companies stay ahead of the curve?
To Tarrill’s point, and to the point of the paper, consumers are really aware of the data that they offer and the value it provides. They’re willing to share, if you show that there’s a value exchange that’s meaningful to them, and that you’re going to serve them more effectively, they’ll share a lot more with you to make their life easier. But if you’re going to target them and put in place surveillance strategies that follow consumers around on the web for anything and everything, and you become an intrusive bother rather than an embracing service-oriented business, you’re going to find that consumers are going to walk; they’re going to leave you.
When you realize that consumers are willing to share their data, don’t buy it. Make sure you ask for it and “pay” for it when they give it to you with some form of value exchange. It doesn’t have to be monetary; lots of value is zero risk. It can be early access to content. Or it can be things that elicit feedback where the consumer feels comfortable giving it. When you do that, you protect your business in so many different ways.
And, Tarrill, in the paper, you talk about making cultural changes, and then the technological changes, which seem fairly obvious. Is it difficult for companies, in your experience, to make those cultural changes?
Very much. I think the cultural change is often harder for the organization than the technical change. And I think there’s two reasons for that. The first one, with regards to cultural change, is organizations are still driven by the bottom dollar and the profit. That tends to be driven by a product or by services offered to the customer, rather than looking at the customer holistically. So, while some companies will put that as a secondary layer of customer segmentation overlap, they still always put the brand or the product first, and they really need to start culturally thinking about putting the customer first.
The second point is that often data is viewed as someone else’s problem or responsibility within the organization. So, they’ll look at the interaction with the customer instead of the relationship or service with the customer, but won’t think about the attributes that support that. It’s very important that those people within the organization have that connection and relationship with the customer, also think about the data attributes that go with that.
Michael, have you found that that’s the case as well? 3radical’s gamification platform is a philosophical shift for a lot of people. What has been your experience with companies willing to make some of these cultural changes?
I think companies, to Tarrill’s point, still struggle. The reality is the bank really cares about the checking product, the savings product, the credit product, the debit product, the heloc product, the lending product, and the commercial side of the product. And each of those silos approaches a consumer independently. As the consumer, I don’t care about that. I don’t want to know about all of your silos; I want you to serve me in a way that’s meaningful to me. If I decide that I want the checking account because I want auto bill pay and advanced deposit strategies from that checking account, and I also want to have a debit card that’s linked to it, and then an account that’s set up for my small business, I want you to treat me as me, not the five products I just discussed with you. So that’s the hard thing organizationally; companies understand they have to do segmentation and they need to treat different customers differently. Culturally, companies also have to now understand, more than ever, if you can’t align around what the consumers expectations are, they will help you understand exactly how they feel about that when they walk out the door.
One of the things that we’ve seen in the research is that people are interacting across multiple digital platforms, yet they still want that seamless customer experience. So how does a brand or a company navigate that and integrate those silos because a lot of companies have failed at this and have lost customers as a result of this?
Definitely. I think one of the reasons why many companies do fail at it is that it is very, very difficult. I wouldn’t underestimate the technical aspect to that as well. If you’re looking across your multiple channels, if you’re thinking about your interaction with a customer from an app or the web, you would be looking for real time data. If a customer has more of a bricks and mortar sort of interface, that might be a batch in day data. So, systems or companies really have to invest a large amount of money in being able to integrate that data accurately and timely so, for the customer, the experience is seamless.
Often, the integration in where companies do spend a lot of their money is from a tech perspective or, again, from the product perspective. When actually it should be around what their customer is telling them their preferences are. If a customer tells a company their preference is to be contacted via email but then another customer has a preference to be contacted by phone, organizations need to be defaulting to those preference, respectively. You have to do this in two different ways – either ask what their preferences are and make sure you change the channel of communication to support this, or look at how the customer is interacting with you and look for what their preferred method of contact is. Then, going back to Michael’s point about earned data, checking with them what their preference is, understand if there are any other channels they could use, and have you explored these channels with them yet?
One of the things that we’ve learned is that when experiences are disconnected, attrition goes up. We are working with a bank that has done a really good job from a digital connectivity and transformation perspective. When they first started rolling out web and mobile banking, as you might imagine, their thoughts were, “We’ve got all these new products and this fabulous new app, and we will be able to turn the customer’s life in a positive direction because of all these digital capabilities.” However, the branch personnel didn’t know anything about the new products or app. So, when the consumer walked into the bank, they couldn’t get any help understanding the new offerings. This, translated into increased attrition rates.
So, they asked themselves, “how do we incorporate our brand ambassadors, the people at the platform, the people at the teller line, and the people in the call center?” They went through a whole planning strategy around how to indoctrinate the branches and brand ambassadors into the center of the digital transformation. They saw overall platform activity drop double digits in terms of retention percentage, and they saw mobile and web adoption go up by over 40%. That included account openings, digital bill payments, direct deposits, auto-bill, all the things that the bank makes money on when nobody touches it. So, we see, quite honestly, that disconnected experiences create a challenge, but when you do connect across products and show the consumer, that you’re there to make their lives easier, independent of product and channel, they love it.
One of the questions you pose in the paper, Tarrill, is who owns the data? I’ll guess the short answer is the consumer owns the data. Probably a loaded questions, but if the consumer does own the data, how do you incentivize them to give it to you?
Actually, to play devil’s advocate it depends on what the data is. So as far as who owns the data – elements like name, date of birth, passport – the consumer owns that data. When it starts coming to the interactions between a business and customer, then you could actually argue there is a joint ownership between the company and the customer, as to where the product or services transaction sits. So how do you incentivize? There’s a legacy of companies rewarding customers for being their customer, but I actually think companies should start flipping it around and thinking about the customer providing that data as a reward to the company.
This is where the earned data aspect comes into it because it needs to be a two-way interaction, that is respectful. So, when a customer is providing data to you voluntarily, they are effectively rewarding you for the interaction. You should respect that data; you should acknowledge that data; you should be responding to data. I think about it as a reward from both sides: when you reward the customer for providing their data, it doesn’t need to be in the form of a gift; it could be providing them with a better or more nuanced service. You need to be responding to the customer as an individual, rather than aggregating third party data and then sending your customer what you think they may want to receive.
The name of the paper, again, is called, “People Are Not Static: Data Collection Practices Need to Reflect That”, written by Tarrill Baker, the Director of Data Empowerment Limited.