Dan's Take

The Dangers of 'Getting Freaky With Data'

SPLICE Software makes its pitch for more personalized experiences.

Tara Kelly, CEO of SPLICE Software, dropped by to introduce her company, herself and her philosophy. She has strong views about the state of customer service and how little suppliers of products and services have done to make their interactions with their customers personal, helpful and pleasant.

Although SPLICE Dialog is a bit outside of my areas of research, I found myself really interested in learning about Dialog, SPLICE Software's product.

Here's how the company describes itself:

SPLICE Personalized Human Voice Solutions can deliver messages:

  • Through the phone to customers land line or cell
  • As audio links in an email or SMS text message; or
  • As video links with personalized voice-over in an email or on your website.

In short, SPLICE has developed technology allowing it to insert voice response into its customer's environment in a way that recognizes the customers' previous requests and language preferences. It does its best to help suppliers really communicate with its customers.

During our discussion, I offered my opinions of companies such as Time Warner Cable, Verizon Wireless and Ooma, my Voice over IP supplier. In each case, these companies clearly had a great deal of information concerning what I had purchased from them, my previous calls for support, and could take a very good reasonable guess about why I was calling now.

For example, Time Warner Cable should have been able to figure out that I was having trouble getting any of the content I purchased through its Roku App. (The app, by the way, is the worst Roku App I've used. It stutters, often loses access to movies and television channels and performs badly.)

Anticipating Customer Needs
Verizon Wireless should be able to tell where I'm calling from, who I am and what services I've subscribed to quickly without requiring me to joust with an awful voice response system. From that information, it should be obvious that I'm calling about the loss of data services in my area.

Ooma should know from my telephone number and my previous calls, live chats and Email messages that my Ooma Linx device is munging up faxes again.

Instead, they all force me to navigate a poorly thought out, badly implemented voice menu system before allowing me to speak with an agent and accomplish what I set out to do. In all cases, I found myself moving from being a customer with a question to a very angry customer who wanted to lash out at the first person I was finally able to speak with. Although my wife laughs about this, I find myself yelling at the voice response system.

Kelly would have described how these companies were doing business as "getting freaky with data."  In her view, many, perhaps most, suppliers are so busy mining customer data and learning obscure things about them that they have become "freaky with data." That is, they've gone way beyond what customers expect or want from their interaction with the company. In the end, the customer is unhappy and the supplier loses customer trust and often customer business.

Dan's Take: Sell and Gain Trust
Here's an example we discussed: A customer, for example, might provide an email address or telephone number to receive the answer to a question they have about the company's products or services. The company does a deep Internet search and discovers the customer's address, buying behavior and a great deal of personal information. Then they use that previously hidden data as part of their sales pitches and freak out the customer.

It's a bit like a first date: imagine that over dinner, your date demonstrates an in-depth understanding of your finances, where you live, where you work, what type of vehicle you drive and so on. This, Kelly said, is a clear example of getting freaky with data.

It doesn't have to be this way, Kelly pointed out. Suppliers have to simply remember that commerce is based both on knowledge of the customer's needs and gaining their trust. Getting freaky with data might serve the first part of commerce, but definitely gets in the way of the second part.

I was intrigued, and I think you will be too. If your company offers products or services in the areas of insurance, finance, or retail you should get to know SPLICE Software.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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