Merry #Privmas Everyone

It's Privmas time, and people's thoughts have naturally turned to their personally identifiable information (PII). If the term Privmas is new to you, it marks the day that the European Union's General Data Privacy Regulations (GDPR) went into effect. For most people on Earth, it is marked by a flurry of emails seeking to gain repermission or informed consent to make use of private information for designated purposes (like addressing email).

For the community of customer care and customer experience professionals, the implications are more profound and will be long-lasting. Personal information has long been the basic fuel for customer relationship management engines. Companies have built customer records that include names, addresses, preferred forms of payment, transaction histories, and even social security numbers, all volunteered by individuals in the course of carrying out business over the phone, through websites, or by employing mobile apps.

How an Asset Becomes Toxic

Companies have augmented that data with data or metadata that is purchased from third parties, often credit bureaus like TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax, to gauge an individual's credit-worthiness or likelihood to default on a payment. In this way, companies have come to regard their rendition of each individual's personal data as an important asset. The more recent and accurate it is, the logic goes, the better a company can understand and even predict the outcome of each contact with a customer or prospect. Data drives all digital commerce, and personal data is an important asset for companies to provide high-quality customer service.

Enter 2018. Hackers have gained access to hundreds of millions of people's personal records stored by Yahoo!, Equifax, and Fill-in-the-blank. Facebook's debacle with Cambridge Analytica exposed how fast-and-loose some companies have played with providing personal information to unaccountable third parties. Capturing and storing data about people, whether they are patient records for a healthcare provider or transaction histories for a retailer, doesn't look like such a great idea anymore. It opens up a threat vector for bad actors to commit fraud, identity theft, and worse—non-compliance with privacy strictures.

As a result, companies must think twice before they hoover up voluminous amounts of data about their customers or prospects. There can be great expense associated with capturing data about individuals unless it is for a specific purpose. This is about to have a ripple effect across the entire CRM community, starting with the aforementioned emails, but spreading to dictate a re-architecting of customer care resources to become more dependent on information that people provide directly ("My Data," as depicted in the picture below) and less on data from third parties that is aggregated and processed according to proprietary algorithms that are not totally understood (depicted as "Their Data" in the picture below).

Source: Iain Henderson of JLinc


Personal Data Makes for Better Conversations

The chart comes from this article by Iain Henderson of JLINC Labs. In addition to providing a framework for parsing all the data and metadata exhaust that we create in our digital lives, Henderson explains why we should anticipate the advent of tools that will enable individuals to manage "My Data" at scale. GDPR, with its "Right to Access" (the ability to see the info that a company has gathered about you) and "Right to Be Forgotten" (the ability to have personal information permanently deleted) from enterprise databases, represents the beginnings of user control of personal data. They are rudimentary, and much more will follow.

JLINC Labs, it should be noted, is the first company with an app in's AppExchange that lets customers control the info that goes into the customer record in companies' CRM systems. That's a powerful first step. Even though the average person has shown little inclination to take direct control of his personal information in the past, with the availability of such tools and heightened awareness of the ability to get better and more personalized service by providing relevant information directly through conversational interfaces, this is the start of something big.

Dan Miller is founder and lead analyst at Opus Research.