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Ensure Your Customer Experience Is Awesome, Not Off-Putting

A proliferation of customer interaction channels and applications has brought new opportunities for the systematic collection and analysis of customer data. Many organizations are turning to artificial intelligence and machine learning to rapidly parse meaningful insights from voluminous customer data sets. Vendors are more than happy to oblige – from Salesforce’s Einstein to Adobe’s Sensei, customer experience vendors are baking powerful capabilities for customer intelligence into their platforms.

Big data and powerful analytics engines are quickly allowing the dream of “micro-segmentation” to be realized; this approach allows for ever-more granular segmentation, targeting, and positioning of product offerings to individual consumers. In a world where dynamic personalization and mass customization reigns supreme, the ability to target highly relevant offers to customers based on unique attributes offers a new frontier in value delivery.

However, micro-segmentation and customer analytics has a dark side: if not done properly, customers will perceive hyper-targeted offers as creepy rather than considerate. Consumer-centric organizations need to use customer data to drive effective decision making, but also need to be mindful of treading a fine line that ensures marketing campaigns seem genuine…and not akin to a data-driven stalker. For example, a campaign that targets customers using social media data collected from a Twitter handle can quickly have a chilling effect if the prospect was unaware their feed was not private. Alternatively, image analysis algorithms can be used to parse the age, gender and ethnicity of a customer posting on Instagram – but this too can make prospects raise eyebrows when the data is used to then target marketing messages towards them.

To use customer data effectively but avoid being perceived as intrusive, Info-Tech recommends reviewing the following considerations:

  • Is the data being used to target customers in a manner that’s compliant with industry regulations? Certain industries (such as finance and healthcare) have stringent restrictions on the collection, use, and disposition of customer data. While firms in these industries may use aggregate data sets for trend analysis and forecasting, using data to target individual customers is often curtailed. If you’re in an industry with significant red tape, review the applicable legislation (such as HIPAA) to understand how you can – and can’t – use customer data.
  • Do unto others as you would have done unto you. A simple but effective rule of thumb: ask yourself – if you (or a loved one) had marketing messages targeted at you based on the proposed segmentation approach, would you be comfortable with it? If the answer is anything less than “yes, absolutely,” you should re-consider the optics of the targeting approach.
  • Use data to create differentiated service experiences, but judiciously apply it to outbound marketing. Product and service customization is a proven approach to generating repeat customers: rather than targeting potentially intrusive marketing messages using detailed customer data, use it for service delivery customization (for example, use it to tailor the experience that a customer has when signed into a portal). Customers are less likely to perceive a “creepiness” factor when micro-segmentation is used by companies they already have a pre-existing relationship with.
  • If in doubt…ask. Many organizations fail to establish a voice of the customer (VoC) program. A VoC program involves having a customer advisory panel that can provide feedback on marketing, sales, and customer service initiatives. When considering new ways of using captured data to target your customers, vet your approach with a VoC panel – if they have reservations about how you intend to use customer data, they will surface concerns before you roll the program out more broadly.

By keeping these considerations in mind, you will help ensure that customer segmentation and targeting uses data in a helpful way that won’t hinder the company’s reputation.


  • If you’re leveraging customer data to enhance market segmentation and targeting, establish a control point to review if it’s being used in a way that will not be perceived as intrusive by your customers.
  • Review and parse regulatory guidelines for potential constraints on how you can target customers using captured data.
  • Ask yourself “would I feel uncomfortable if customers reached out me using the types of data analysis that we plan to use?”
  • Differentiate service experiences based on data first and foremost, rather than driving hyper-targeting for marketing campaigns.
  • Establish a voice of the customer program to solicit feedback on proposed segmentation and targeting approaches.

Bottom Line

Using data should help – not hinder – your customer segmentation and targeting programs. A common yet avoidable pitfall results when customer data is used in a way that’s considered inappropriate or “creepy” by your prospects and existing customers. Ensure you’re checking yourselves against a set of established criteria to prevent targeting efforts from being viewed pejoratively by your customer base.

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