The use of customer data can personalize the customer experience and strengthen the relationship that a brand has with their customers. Many companies are taking advantage of the large amounts of customer data they have and using it to improve products and the customer experience. However, in certain industries, like healthcare where data can be sensitive, organizations must make sure they are transparent with customers and using data in a way that makes the them feel secure. The article below outlines some things to keep in mind as organizations ramp up their use of customer tracking technology.
Smart tracking devices are proliferating rapidly. They are already in our theme parks, our homes, and our cars. And they are coming soon to more sophisticated domains, such as health care.
Much of the discussion about the Internet of Things has focused on the technology that makes it possible, but the technology is the easiest part. The real work is on the human side of the equation: which parts of the customer experience to change, and which to leave untouched. Organizations need to ask themselves if the ways they use the Internet of Things will strengthen their relationship with their customers or undermine it — and they need to be honest about their answers.
In a New York Times article on the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Natasha Singer paints a picture of an organization that totally understands this question. Sloan Kettering saw an opportunity to replicate the success Disney has enjoyed with its billion-dollar investment in the wearable MagicBand (an initiative in which I was involved). The potential for Sloan Kettering is to have the same success as Disney in delighting customers and streamlining operations by collecting real-time location data about them.
Disney uses data provided by signal-emitting wristbands that its customers (aka “guests”) wear to make everything — from entering theme parks to standing in line at an attraction to going to their resort room or a restaurant — even more magical than before. And Disney was very careful not to use the information in ways that could be considered creepy. (Imagine the seven-foot-tall blue character from Monsters, Inc. saying “Hi, Billy” to your little boy as it walks by.)
For any organization on this “smart CRM” path, these four steps will greatly increase the odds of success.
When possible, let customers opt in or out. For most location-tracking services in consumer businesses such as retail or entertainment, customers need to understand what’s in it for them, and they should be allowed to decide whether to participate. While trying to learn about customer behavior using software from Euclid, Nordstrom skipped the opt-in step but has realized that it was a mistake. It will be interesting to see what it does next.
Given how expectations regarding privacy often differ wildly by generations, my guess is that customers will not always accept a one-size-fits-all location-tracking device — especially if how it will help them isn’t clear. I describe how to achieve this acceptance-expectation balance in more detail in this article.
In cases where safety is a major consideration (e.g., in health care or a Disney cruise), consumers or employees cannot be given a choice. In businesses where some activities involve crucial issues such as safety, organizations may have tiers of tracking where some are mandatory and some are not.
As long as the choices and benefits are clear to customers, they tend to opt in. Organizations typically can require employees to opt in (although union agreement can affect this). But since tracking can change the way employees feel about their workplace, their concerns should be addressed and defused up front, something that Mayo Clinic did in a pilot program involving a tracking system using RFID technology.
Test a lot. Any organization trying to track customers or employees needs to conduct extensive tests to see what the data will and won’t tell them. Doing so lets companies be more predictive of the value of the data, and it helps them better explain what customers should expect. This level of testing will almost always disprove even the most expert assumptions. One of the things people on this path should consider is breaking down the customer and employee journeys, partly to help conduct more extensive tests, but also to help determine whether there are clear groups of patients and caregivers that will have a better experience as a result of the chosen innovations.
Map patient and caregiver journeys. The steps people take along the way from beginning to end of every experience may seem easy and simplistic, but in the past five years journey mapping has become significantly more popular because it is hard to do well. Specify both the parts of the journey that have the greatest impact on experience and the aspects of the experience that are easiest and hardest to change. While finding a place to park for an appointment may be a big deal for people in urban areas, it may be inconsequential for people who live in suburban or rural areas. Things like this need to be taken into account when setting priorities.
Be true to your brand (or shape it). This gets back to core brand attributes: the things that differentiate organizations from one another in the eyes of both customers and employees. Nordstrom is off the retail charts when it comes to customer service. In entertainment, Disney has always been about magic. While health care has some famous national names, such as Mayo Clinic and the Johns Hopkins Hospital, most care providers haven’t spent much time talking about how they differentiate themselves — i.e., whether their brand is more about best price, personalized service, speed of service, or best-in-class.
The Internet of Things can allow organizations to change or expand their brand attributes, which is good news. But the explanation of why a company is tracking customers or employees should be shaped accordingly. In other words, it needs to be true to the brand, and companies need to think about how it is delivered. And yes, this does need to become closely interwoven with the experience journey maps.
In health care, for instance, some of this will come back to good old-fashioned bedside manners, where the caregiver will have to explain to the patient (before he or she opts in or out) why the hospital is tracking everyone and why that’s a good thing. Doctors often know everything about a patient condition, deciding how much the patient needs to know without scaring them. Explaining patient tracking will require a similar judgement call.
Health care is an extreme but good example of the customer-relationship work that’s needed to make the most of the Internet of Things. Having so much more information about everyone involved can make for better experiences and more efficient operations. But organizations shouldn’t just roll out smart tracking systems and hope for the best. As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up someplace else.”