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Privacy vs. Personalization: What Every Contact Center Manager Needs to Know

In today’s customer experience economy, personalized interactions are a leading differentiator in creating meaningful touchpoints between you and your customers. Purchase history, channel preferences, communication style – the more you can demonstrate you know each customer and tailor the conversation accordingly, the more likely you are to create a lifelong brand advocate. But as businesses continue to prioritize personalization strategies, it is critical to strike the right tone to avoid appearing invasive. Organizations must walk the logistical tightwire – customers simultaneously want their data privacy respected, but also want highly customized and personal experiences that require smart use of that very same data.

Given these seemingly contradictory factors, how can contact center leaders find the right middle ground that will propel them towards CX success? Here are a few things to consider.

Personalized Customer Experience

Conversations Around Data Privacy Are Changing

2018 was a big step forward in the broader education of the role data plays in how businesses engage with customers. On May 25, GDPR came into effect. This EU mandate requires any business who interacts with European residents to be fully transparent in how they use customer data and allow customers to opt out if they choose. Importantly, that doesn’t just apply to businesses based in the EU – if your customers are there, you need to be compliant. This type of regulation has been embraced by some in the United States, as similar legislation passed in California in June. Furthermore, consumers also saw the negative side of misused data, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress to discuss the possible misuse of data belonging to millions of Facebook users.  Disclaimer: please consult with a legal expert for advice on your compliance requirements.

These major milestones are creating a more informed customer. It isn’t enough to avoid appearing “creepy” by having too much information about customers – customers are gaining a vested interest in understanding how their data is being shared and used. From a customer experience perspective, this is an exciting opportunity to build trust. NICE inContact’s second annual Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark study found that digital channels are rapidly growing – a significant source of the data on which personalized experience relies.

As the amount of data collected by businesses explodes, whether it is through phone call recordings, email, website visits or chats, transparency and the handling of personal data becomes all the more important. General rules, tools, and policies around consent and retention of personal data vs. voice recordings are typically less formalized and less centralized in the contact center.  But now it needs to be taken care of. While many organizations don’t see themselves as serving EU residents, customers can come from anywhere in the world. Adhering to the highest standards and embracing that level of transparency can delight customers while preparing companies for a changing regulatory environment.

Agents Have an Important Role to Play

One of the major findings of the CX Benchmark study was that, overwhelmingly, chatbots and other AI-driven customer service channels haven’t matured enough to power positive experiences. In fact, the study found that 79 percent of respondents said chatbots and virtual assistants need to get smarter before they are willing to use them regularly. In the context of balancing personalization and privacy, this is a very good thing.

Consider the Turing Test, an examination of a machine’s ability to demonstrate behavior indistinguishable from a human. Let’s say in the not-so-distant future, chatbots have advanced to the point where they pass the test, and customers on the other end cannot actually tell the difference between a robot and a live agent. Imagine their surprise to learn, should they transition to a phone call, that they had been sharing personal information and context with a robot when they thought it was a person. While I have often discussed the importance of seamless transitions between channels, this is the one situation where it can backfire. Keeping the customer informed of exactly who they are talking to, whether that is human or machine, takes all precedence. Alternatively, imagine a scenario in which during a live phone call, the agent reveals specific tidbits of information about the customer gleaned from previous interactions, which might appear that they know a little too much personal information.

It’s an incredibly complicated issue, one that requires consistent coaching for agents to strike the right balance. An intelligent cloud technology platform for your contact center can provide agents with the context, recommendations, and coaching they need. When used in concert with training and quality programs from your supervisors, agents can receive real-time recommendations for how to solve an issue, and also what types of personal information are acceptable to share, and when.

When Is It Time to be Proactive?

Have you ever been in a conversation about a brand, then coincidentally received a promotional email from them the very next day? Or perhaps you were talking about a bad day you had in front of your in-home smart device, and it organically responded to wish you well. In the consumer realm, passive listening tools are one of the most common examples of potentially invasive proactive outreach. It elicits the question: when does a brand reaching out feel organic, and when does it feel like they’re taking advantage?

There are a lot of indicators as to when proactive outreach makes sense. Maybe a customer was browsing certain product pages, or a CRM system flagged that they’re due for an upgrade/repurchase. The key here is not necessarily the timing, but the message itself. Being respectful of customer privacy while also demonstrating you understand their needs.

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