Customer data’s starring role in corporate ethos and innovation

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“With great power comes great responsibility.” This quote, made famous in the 2002 Spider-Man movie, is a prescient warning for organizations with regard to their corporate ethos and customer data strategies. 

 On one hand, the power of customer data is growing at a breakneck pace. According to Pew Researchroughly six-in-ten U.S. adults say they do not think it is possible to go through daily life without having data collected about them by companies or the government. 

As organizations process this mountain of data, they can gain the deep insights necessary to innovate at a scale few could have predicted just a few years ago. 

On the other hand, the responsibility to collect and process this data in ways that adhere to government regulations and strengthen consumer trust has never been heavier. 

Like the Greek Myth of Pandora, there’s no way to put the trouble back into the jar once the lid has opened. And thanks to data breaches and the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018, awareness of privacy threats has led consumers to ask one key question before making their buying decisions: “What do you do with my data?” 

Power vs responsibility: A corporate ethos primer 

Let’s look at three instances of this “power vs responsibility” paradigm as it crosses the boundaries of politics, business, and medical science. 

  1. CustomerData’s Major Role in Principle-or-Profit Decisions 

In late October of 2019, Twitter made the decision to stop running political ads just days after Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook defended the practice in testimony to the U.S. Congress. Just a few weeks prior, the National Basketball Association became embroiled in controversy because it appeared to appease the Chinese government after the Houston Rockets’ general manager spoke out in support of the Hong Kong protests. These explosive issues foreshadow even more upheaval to come. 

Between Brexit and the U.S. presidential election, 2020 will no doubt be tumultuous, and consumers are paying close attention to the reputation of the brands they frequent. These events pose major questions to businesses about their brand values. And increasingly, businesses are being asked to respond by investors, media, and customers.  

Responses will be decided at the C-Suite level, yet customer data will play an integral role in helping businesses gauge the success of those responses. Through the ability to centralize customer data spread across organizational silos into unified profiles, a business can gain deep insights into their customer’s sentiments well before any impact shows on their balance sheets.  

For example, linking a customer’s social media account to her profile will help indicate how that customer reacts if/when the company takes a controversial stance. At the same time, connecting data from call centers – often the front lines of response when a company makes news – into unified profiles will help make customer sentiment more apparent. 

There’s little doubt that the consumer’s voice will grow loud in 2020. Through customer data management, businesses can listen carefully and act accordingly. 

Looking in by looking out

  1. Insight-Driven Decision-Making and “Know Your Customer” Strategies  

Deriving actionable customer insights remains a major challenge for many businesses around the globe, so it’s no wonder that their corporate ethos around data isn’t quite cemented. The challenge is so daunting that many business leaders still rely on gut feelings when making decisions as opposed to quantitative information and analysis.  

There are three innovative solutions that are gaining traction to address this customer insight challenge. More and more, businesses are teaming with consultants and system integrators to adopt one of the following: 

 1) “Know Your Customer” initiatives that seek to break down organizational data silos to accurately identify customers and deliver exceptional omnichannel experiences at scale.  

2) Artificial intelligence / machine learning solutions that deliver the necessary insights at scale.  

3) Customer data platform (CDP) solutions that create persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems. 

The need for massive amounts of customer data is the common element between these three solutions. Yet collecting and processing this data needs to be done with the consent of the customers who own it. The businesses who can figure out how to balance this “power vs responsibility challenge” will be better positioned to benefit from these technologies, compared to those that don’t. 

First, do no harm: Medical privacy matters

  1. Medical InnovationIs Sparking Massive Consent Data Management Debate 

Newsfeeds have recently filled with stories of medical innovation and corporate ethos around data collection. Here are two prime examples: 

  1. The UK Health Secretary laid out his hope to enable genome sequencing for all British children at birth. 
  2. U.S. researchers used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to fine-tune the DNA of people’s immune cells, in hopes of fighting cancer. 

Yet this is hardly a “golden age” for medical innovation. Such ambitious projects require vast amounts of patient data, and data privacy is a major concern.  

The issue has already reared its ugly head. Google recently had to shut down a joint project with the National Institutes of Health to publicly post more than 100,000 images of human chest X-rays. Some of the images contained details that could be used to identify the patients, a potential privacy and legal violation.  

And in Florida, a state judge has forced a public genealogy site, GEDmatch, to allow police to search its entire database of DNA profiles. Despite the 1.3 million people who have shared their DNA data with the site who haven’t agreed to such a search, the judge made the ruling so a detective could find distant relatives of a serial rapist in hopes that their family trees could help him find a suspect. 

The collisions between medical innovation and data privacy will intensify and shine a spotlight on the role of consent data management in the health industries. While some health organizations are working hard to modernize their records, many are still burdened by paper filing systems and hand-written records. 

As more medical innovations come to light, the questions surrounding consent and data privacy will only grow louder.  

What are the data privacy issues keeping execs awake at night?
We’ve got them – and the solutions – HERE.

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Ratul Shah

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