• May, 1 2018
  • By Leonard Klie, Senior News Editor, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmarCustomerService.com.

This Month, It’s All About the Data

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When the news media wasn’t fawning over Stormy Daniels, it seemed to have blanketed us throughout the month of March with coverage of the ongoing customer data crisis. Saks, Lord & Taylor, Panera Bread, Under Armour, and Orbitz were just some of the companies whose data gaffes were a mainstay of the media maelstrom. And they weren’t even the biggest news stories.

First there was the ever-expanding Equifax data breach. Still reeling from the initial crisis that came to light in September, the credit reporting company said that 2.4 million more consumers than previously reported were likely affected by the breach, bringing the total to 147.9 million. 

Then came revelations that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested personal data from about 50 million Facebook users that it could use to target them with tailored ads. Facebook’s questionable handling of its members’ information not only triggered a few U.S. government investigations but set off a public relations and stock market nightmare that is sure to plague the social media giant for some time.

Then there was the mad scramble for companies to realign their data strategies in advance of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect later this month (May 25). Companies that do business in Europe have been working overtime for months to get their data in order, secure the necessary permissions, and upgrade their data security protocols; vendors have been just as busy testing and remarketing their software in advance of the new rules.

Then as part of its ruling in ACA International v. the FCC (see the story “Court Strikes Down TCPA Expansions”), a Washington circuit court of appeals affirmed U.S. consumers’ ability to revoke consent to receive telemarketing phone calls (I, for one, can’t imagine why anyone would consent to those in the first place). 

The month ended with Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) introducing a bill in Congress to strengthen U.S. data protections. In introducing the bill, called the Data Accountability and Trust Act (appropriately abbreviated DATA), Rush said that “strong national data privacy and data protection rules are long overdue.” 

“We can no longer allow companies that hold our personal information to self-regulate when they have proven time and again that they are incapable of effectively doing so and continue to erode the trust of the American people,” the congressman’s statement continued.

With all that mainstream media coverage, it’s no surprise that the data issue is tightly woven throughout this edition of CRM magazine. In our cover story, “Now Is the Right Time for Silo Busting,” writer Mary Shacklett points out that companies have traditionally kept separate marketing, sales, and customer service data in department silos, which has ultimately been hurting business. The article advocates for sharing data across departments.

The data issue also surfaces in our second feature, “‘This Chat, Email, Text, or Social Media Post May Be Recorded for Training Purposes,’” which details how companies can harvest and gain insight from the data that customers share through their multichannel interactions. In the article, Associate Editor Sam Del Rowe suggests that making the most of such data requires the right mix of people and technologies, including analytics. 

Our third feature, “Machine Learning Reshapes the Marketing Landscape,” highlights how artificial intelligence can be applied to the oceans of customer data that companies now maintain as they seek to draw insight, make predictions, and better personalize their consumer outreach.

Throughout each of these three stories runs a common element: the need for companies to better safeguard the valuable information that consumers hand over to them, whether willingly or not. 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this coverage, it’s that companies can no longer afford to be so cavalier with valuable customer data. There’s just too much on the line. After all, companies’ privacy policies are now an important part of the business landscape, determining whether consumers continue to do business with them or turn their backs on them with a bitter sense of betrayal. It’s a development that is long overdue.


Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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