Mitch Klaassen, CTO, Matrixx Software APAC
The topic of how one’s online and offline behavior is seen and used is a hot one and can often have a fear factor associated with it.
Ultimately we are all individuals. We behave differently, react differently and have different requirements. Whether it is online or offline, our behavior stays basically the same. Some of us are pro-active online users, seeking out new apps and new ways of doing things or keeping everything tidy. Some are reactive and use only what they absolutely need. Some are happy to have offers and discounts pushed to them. Others hate it.
It is this fundamental conflict that is standing between service providers and capturing the trust of their customers. It is a delicate balance. Too many pro-active offerings and you alienate the reactive crowd, too little and the adventurous users head elsewhere. Somehow service providers must automate ‘intuitive’ and ‘timely’ to create a subtle, compelling service that can be adopted as quickly or as slowly as customers wish. At all costs they must avoid being pushy or making customers remember that someone, somewhere is watching their every move.
It is difficult, but by no means impossible.
Ultimately, intelligence gathered or learned which isn’t used in real-time has lost its value. With the help of real-time monitoring and control, that intuitive offer can look as if the service provider is watching out for you, not watching you or worse, selling your information to advertisers.
Take a simple example. You are close to the end of the month, the data monitor on your phone or tablet has told you that you are in the ‘orange zone’ for your month’s data usage and yet you want to know if that Amazon deal is still there and, better, still discounted.
Imagine if your service provider knows that you tend to go shopping with Amazon towards the end of the month. They also know that you have ‘aborted the mission’ twice, fearing your data will run out. They could easily send a real-time message to Amazon, asking them to buy, say, 50 MB of data on your behalf. If you then see a message from Amazon which says you have unlimited browsing for the rest of the day/week on amazon.com then your reaction would, generally speaking, be positive – not suspicious.
A pro-active user would welcome such a move, a reactive one might stop for a minute and wonder how Amazon knew, but free browsing is free browsing, after all. And that deal might still be there. This is an example of how to do subsidized or toll free data the right way.
If you then tie-in the ability for customers to easily manage their privacy rules in real-time then you can really start to see how the framework can work to everyone’s benefit.
Caught in the middle
Operators are caught in the middle of this dilemma right now. Some have tried to be up-front with their customers and offered to pay for their data in exchange for their personal information. This failed. Others have bombarded customers with location-based offers – packaged as personalized offers, which they clearly are not. This failed too.
The approach must be cautious and progressive, not aggressive. Prove you are there to provide transparent, personal and timely value at every step and customers will give you more and more information. They will more often than not say “yes” to having their location enabled. They will be pleased that they can shop when the month’s data is nearly used. Eventually, they will be on your side, as a service provider. The cycle will become virtuous, not vicious.
As already mentioned it is not easy. Finding a balance and a path between local regulations, privacy issues, Government agencies’ information needs, aggressive advertisers offering great commission and the real needs of individual customers is difficult.
But service providers who can pull this off will be the winners. They will have the trust of their customers, the most valuable currency in the online world. And those winners will understand that real-time management of data, customers and services will be the tools they need to deliver the goods. Literally.