Big Brother’s 2015 Customer Experience Strategy

By | Small Business

“The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it…. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time…. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard….”
—George Orwell, 1984

Samsung Is Listening
As you may have heard, Samsung recently committed a major CX faux pas when it helpfully informed owners of its Smart TVs that their home televisions were actively spying on them. A sentence in Samsung’s updated privacy policy read (our emphasis):

“Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of voice recognition.”

The Inevitable Outcry
A third party? Would that be…the NSA? The UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)? A Samsung data server as “secure” as Sony’s? In the wake of widely publicized cyber attacks and Edward Snowden’s revelations regarding the US and UK governments’ illegal bulk electronic surveillance of ordinary citizens, consumers and tech journalists alike were understandably a little unnerved by Samsung’s admission. “If I were the customer,” Corynne McSherry, the intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Daily Beast, “I might like to know who that third party was, and I’d definitely like to know whether my words were being transmitted in a secure form.”

Marc Rotenberg, the president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), put it even more sharply in an email to The New York Times: “Consumers will have no idea what the practical consequence will be of the activating voice recognition,” he wrote. “The key point is that Samsung is not just recording voice commands to operate the TV, as many would expect. The company is capturing all voice communications, including conversations between people in the room.” Rotenberg and EPIC filed a complaint against Samsung on February 24 with the FTC. Although Samsung quickly changed the wording of their privacy policy, it remains to be seen how Samsung will address customers’ concerns about the data their TVs are apparently still collecting.

Undoubtedly, Samsung intended to create a great experience for its customers using innovative, voice-activated technology. But as the technology facilitating anticipatory CX continues to become “smarter” conceivably at the exponentially accelerating pace of Moore’s law, potential buyers of “smart” technology are increasingly wary—as are some of its inventors. While few would decry the life-enhancing benefits of so many of today’s smart gadgets, nearly 80% of consumers are wondering just how smart may be too smart for comfort according to a study by Acquity Group.

Anticipate Privacy Concerns
In theory, the goal of products offering smart, anticipatory CX features is to conveniently help customers resolve their issues, whether stated or tacit. Nobody but the most habitual loser of the remote control may have asked for a voice-activated TV, but plenty of customers probably welcomed the added convenience once they had that feature. Anticipatory customer service extends this way of thinking to the contact center, proactively engaging with customers based on their history of purchases, their preferred communication channels, and where they are in their overall customer journey.

If Samsung had simply reworded their privacy policy from the beginning to highlight they were giving their customers the ability to turn the “listening” function of their Smart TVs on or off—i.e., giving customers clear control over their communication and device preferences—they could have raised far fewer red flags with consumer privacy advocates and saved themselves a lot of trouble. And if they had further explained from the start where their customers’ speech data was being sent and stored—and what that data would be used for—they might have allayed the majority of concerns completely.

No one wants to be known as the company that brought 1984’s fictional privacy-invading technologies to life. But no single player is responsible for the trajectory of tech evolution, and electronic products in general are only going to become more Orwellian over the next few years. Customer experience providers and developers of smart technologies alike will undoubtedly gain a competitive advantage if they can put their smarts to good use and learn to be considerate, not creepy.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Big Brother’s 2015 Customer Experience Strategy

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