We used to want convenience. Now, as consumers, we want more. We expect companies to not only meet but also anticipate our needs — a text that alerts us to a delivery delay before we realize our package hasn’t arrived, a 10 percent off discount on the jumpsuit we’ve been eyeing up, with free shipping to sweeten the pot.
But here’s the thing—we also want our privacy. No mystery why. In 2017, there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud, up from 15.4 million the year before, according to 2018 Identity Fraud: Fraud Enters a New Era of Complexity from Javelin Strategy & Research. Also, how many times have you had a conversation about a musician or a problem and a few hours later, get an eerily on-point targeted ad on social media?
“I get followed around by a sleeping bag,” says Richard Noack, product analyst, Benchmark, at Zendesk. He viewed the product once and has seemingly won a lifetime of suggested sleeping-bag purchases. Except, it’s the same one, again and again... and he needs only one sleeping bag.
“Proactive engagement is great if you can predict the right problems.”
There are bumps like these in the road as customer service evolves into something increasingly proactive and tailored to each consumer. The ongoing refinement and sophistication of this trend is inextricably linked to our data. People are conflicted about that.
Younger customers are more likely to want support teams to offer personalized recommendations and keep track of the credit card from their last purchase, found the 2019 Zendesk Customer Experience Trends, a study based on our data index of 45,000 companies using Zendesk. And at the same time, Gen Z and millennials are also most wary of data misuse—nearly a third of each group wants companies to keep as little information on hand as possible. The study also found that older generations are likely to care more about companies keeping track of their order history, order status, and personal details.
There’s a clash here in terms of what consumers want in terms of service and how much personal data they want to give away, how much risk they are willing to take. “It's all great until it goes wrong. We all loved social media until the scandals, we all loved these personalized ads but they can go too far,” says Noack, one of the study authors.
Going forward, the most successful companies will have to master proactive engagement and also demonstrate to consumers that they take their privacy seriously and guard their data with the utmost integrity. “Proactive engagement is great if you can predict the right problems,” says Noack. If service goes down, for example, and you know it will affect your customers. “But there’s a shot-in-the-dark style, too, which can come across as spammy. The key is to make it relevant and useful—err on the side of caution, especially if you’re using sensitive data.”