Setting the Stage:
You are doing some research, getting ready to purchase a new life insurance policy. The research starts slowly, you go to a few websites, figure you will register, maybe even give up your email address. It could be there was some bit of value offered, access to the interesting looking calculator that will help you determine the amount you need. The calculations are based on a combination of your risk profile (entered), age, family situation and financial situation. It does not seem like a big deal, and you forget about for a few weeks, then your significant other reminds you (for the 5th time) to get it done. So, you go back to the website, it remembers you, but hey, that is convenient, and you fill-in the form, asking someone to call you. About an hour later, Bob calls, and asks if it is good time to talk.
Circa 1990 – This scenario barely existed, maybe one or two companies even considered this possibility, much less the user actually going to the website and inputting the data. If Bob calls, we are all impressed that the lead actually made it to his desk. It was probably put there via sticky note.
Circa 2000 – The scenario was in more common use. You might have received an email follow-up from the company. The details they know about you are specific and isolated to what information you have put on the web form. The majority of companies are using some form of CRM. The process is mostly there, but the data is lacking.
Circa 2010 and the Age of the Social Web
Bob makes the phone call, and he knows a whole about you, your family, your recent trip to Maui. The lead scoring system has a good idea how many times you have visited the website. Bob knows that you have played with the calculator, maybe even some of the data you dumped in there (that should be fodder for debate). By putting in your email address, Bob has access to whatever data you choose to share, or forget not to share (debate topic number 2).
- Linkedin – Your job history is available, maybe what some others think of you (references) and other social links you like to share.
- Blog – The Linkedin profile points to your blog, where you mention your trip to Maui (even though it is business focused blog)
- Twitter – even with the disclaimer “these tweets are my own blah blah,” it is open and public.
- Flickr – The blog references a few photos, but upon further inspection, getting to the other photos is pretty easy.
Fun photo 1 – the cool shot of the bungy jumping!!
Fun photo 2 – sitting by the pool, drinking something, but you have a cigar in your mouth (oops)
What is Creepful?
The example here is clearly a B2C (Business to Consumer) example. I do not think however that it is too far from reality- it is all completely possible, maybe it has happened to you. I would find it really creepy, yes creepy, if Bob talked to me and brought up the trip to Maui. The better part of discretion would say that Bob needs to be very cautious about the way in which he uses this information. If he is a good salesperson, then simply having the knowledge might be enough (see Martin’s first post).
What if Bob starts talking to much about the trip to Maui, and begins to “know a bit too much” – that is creepy. Now, should Bob tell you what he knows? How should Bob use, or ignore the information he has available? We will get to that important discussion in a moment. The answer to the question is simple, but hard to execute.
Creepful is the perception by the customer (past, present or future) that the company (you) either have access to too much information, or are using the information available in a way that goes against the spirit of social sharing.
It is just not that simple
Unfortunately, this problem is going to get worse, before it gets better; if it ever does get better. Oh, and for the definition above, I am not really going to get religious about it; it is a starting point. If someone wants to change the name, have at it. If you want to change the definition, please feel free, the concept is all that matters. What about this scenario, or the way the information is used (the cigar pictures or bungy jumping to deny you a policy)? is ‘Creepful’?Or, is this just good business practices by Bob for his firm?
As both Martin, and Clint noted in the earlier post, the key may not be the technology, rather how the technology is used. The good relationship builders will continue to understand how to create and maintain solid relationships based on mutual respect and mutual trust. Technology might make certain things easier, but it will make an equal number of things more complicated, as noted above. In a business to business setting, the additional components required will include value creation and co-creation. Again, technology is a facilitator, not a replacement. It is like waxing your skis, yes you can go down the hill faster, whether you ski in control is completely up to you (a ski metaphor seemed important, as I sit in Miami, Florida in 95 degrees and 90% humidity!!)
What do you think? Are you willing to share a story? too much too little…