Corporate IT: Challenging Colleagues is the Best Way to Help Them

Google recently announced an end to its practice of scanning Gmail users’ emails in order to personalize the ads they see, bringing its personal service in line with the rules it applies to its business accounts. Most commentators treat it as a sign that Google has recognized that this activity harms its reputation with, and ability to attract, business customers. But the truth is that most consumers don’t want this level of personalization either.

In fact, while 90% of marketers think personalized marketing communications made consumers feel positive, just 14% of consumers felt the same, according to CEB data. Instead, 46% of consumers said they didn’t like personalized ads (“angry,” “creeped out,” and “irritated” being sample quotes; see chart 1).

Chart 1: Marketer versus consumer perceptions of personalized marcomms  Percentage of respondents; n=92 marketers, 390 consumers  Source: CEB 2016 Marketing Personalization Survey; CEB 2016 IconoCommunities Personalization Poll

Note: Totals may not equal 100% due to rounding.

Help Line Managers Understand the Trade-Offs

Analysis like this presents a difficult balancing act for technology firms. While customers increasingly want products and services that adapt to their diverse and specific preferences, concerns about privacy will make them think twice about personalization efforts. It can be hard to know when personalization has gone too far and become “creepy”, but a good rule is to try to balance “give and get” for customers.

For example, Intesa Sanpaolo, an Italian bank, doesn’t force its customers to share information but provides incentives to share personal data by giving them access to more tailored financial services. The role for IT teams in all this is to help colleagues in the line to understand this balancing act, and to make informed trade-offs that protect customers.

And, to do this, IT teams need their employees that interact with the business to teach, tailor, and assert control in those relationships – what CEB calls the “challenger” profile in its work on B2B sales.

Chart 2: Critical attributes of “challengers”  Source: CEB analysis


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