By Mohamed AlJunaibi (@maljunaibi )
It was a long day, and an even longer week. A typical lazy burnt out Thursday at home, from a long week of work. I thought that I would give myself a break, and put on a movie whilst giving one of my favorite pizza spots a call to order for some good weekend junk. After passing a series of phone-automated selections, I finally got to hear the restaurant staff answer the phone. I was not in the most attentive state of mind, all I was thinking was getting my Hawaiian pizza (yes I like Pineapples in my Pizza!) and have my TV channels on the ready.
What started as a simple order for one type of pizza, turned out to be a thoroughly detailed investigation on my previous orders, my likes and dislikes and whether I was willing to try out some of their new items on offer. Now, within the context of the food and hospitality industry, we can probably accept some aspects of it. Generally, companies using this approach would most probably be also using dedicated systems commonly referred as a CRM or a Customer Relationship Management system.
Basically, you are providing a company additional (value added) information about yourself with links to the various transaction information for them to be able to use your information to better forecast (or guess) what you (the customer) would like to have.
Adding other demographical information (age, gender, emirate you live in, and others) to the CRM provides companies with the ability to specifically pinpoint segments of consumers with potential marketing focuses. This is where much of the emails you do not read (i.e.: Spam) and phone text messages come into play.
But how much of your information would you allow for companies to have? And even more important, how is this information being managed?
Is this properly regulated?
These questions later crossed my mind, when I began to realize how much consumer information was in circulation within the various commercial sectors of the country.
A concept that is seldom heard within the consumer-sphere, but well known within many leading organizations is data mining. It is also properly termed as “knowledge discovery”. This is when you have large repositories of data and information that is later run through various “data mining” tools that dig into the data stores, and gather information based on possibilities. Going back to the Pizza Place, it could be a slightly more complex question like:
“Who is more likely to come and order in Pizza Place the more recent menu items of the month? While also keeping the side of coleslaw and soda that they always like to have.”
With data mining, companies would be able to get a list of individuals and percentages of likelihood next to their names.
But as a consumer, would you be ok with organizations being able to have your information analyzed?
How would you like it if they link up your information to your friends and family?
Large companies utilize a marketing directory exchange system, where certain organizations send your information to other companies selling other products (maybe you liked the Pizza, but you should also try their new sister chain of ice-cream products too!). And in reality, after few years, consumer and demographical information is sold and re-sold to smaller and more desperate companies trying to tap into the market.
Now how about that? You think removing your name from certain email lists, or phone directories would do any good, by that time your information would have been already circulating in other unknown parts of the marketing information directory.
I would like to start to see UAE consumer rights advocates (who are doing a good job) to specifically look at the customer information management models of various industries. Maybe through proper steps, we can setup a set of information guidelines for organizations taking in such information from customers (such a structure already exists within the telecom sector in the UAE).
Maybe a similar (yet smaller in scale) approach can be adopted for other commercial entities, if not already. And to have a way for various commerce offices within the emirates to actually ensure that there are no malpractices or illegal distribution of customer information to 3rd parties.
Do not you just hate getting phone calls from some central or sub Saharan African country claiming to have the power to get rid of some magic spell that was casted, while also having your name on some land and money inheritance list of a dead general?!
(Ok that was a strange example, but you get the picture.) Chances were that your phone number was part of a marketing directory that was resold to a 3rd party.
By being better-informed consumers, we can make the right choices in how we provide our information to commercial entities. Do not be afraid to opt out of mailing and calling lists.
It is ok to be on the mailing list of some of your favorite brands, but before signing up, have a good look and read up their privacy policies, and do not ever be afraid to ask what they are doing with your personal information. After all, it is your right.
Mohamed enjoys reading literature and political commentary, with a love for Sci-Fi reading and writing. He’s also a big Formula 1 fan, and also heads the Mercedes GP UAE Fan Club based in Abu Dhabi.
Latest posts by Mohamed Al Jneibi (@maljunaibi) (see all)
- The Polarising Effect of the Internet, Cyberspace Discussions - March 1, 2012
- Laws of the Internet: What are SOPA and PIPA? - February 1, 2012
- The UAE: My 7 Wonders Of The World - December 2, 2011