Here’s a short video I recorded this morning at London’s Heathrow Airport, after reading an article on new marketing technologies in the July UK edition of Wired Magazine.

What I’m talking about: The article describes many new marketing technologies that can manipulate customers and invade their privacy. My bottom line (as I write in the first chapter of We): There are two types of technology – those that bring you closer to your customer and those that put a barrier (or create distance) between you and your customer. If a technology builds your relationship with a customer, great. If it hurts your relationship, then there are reasons beyond privacy and manipulation that should keep you from using that technology.

Here’s the video. Please excuse the rough video quality … that’s what happens when a Flip Video (which is normally adequate) gets combined with bright lighting behind me, and my complexion after 12 hours on an airplane.

Here’s the blog post on We Relationships I reference in the video. (Postscript: The video describes how United Airlines used their baggage tracking technology to help me today, and this blog post describes how they didn’t use the same technology to help me 10 days ago. The result: Today I got my bags on time, 10 days ago I was severely inconvenienced. It’s not about the technology, it’s about how you use it.)

What do you think? Any of you using these technologies in your marketing? Any of you notice digial signs looking back at you in retail stores? Anybody paranoid that their cellphone usage is helping Big Brother track your every move?


  • Dan Gunter
    Jun 22, 2009 - 08:39 am

    Steve, the problem really boils down to fundamentals. Most companies already have the technology to make customer encounters positive ones. Even slip-ups can be turned into positive situations IF the technology is put to use to resolve a customer-related problem quickly, which demonstrates the company’s interest in customers. So why did the airlines fail you in one instance and succeed in another? I’d say the difference was 99% employee thinking.

    First, instill customer focus in your employees. If you don’t do that, the technology is meaningless, it won’t be used to its fullest capabilities. Second, make sure everyone has full access and understanding of how to use the technology to solve problems. Not just how to use it, but how to consider creative ways of using to show the customer “I’ve got your six!”

    The same applies to companies using disruptive techniques like Twitter. There is a huge difference between Tweeting something useful and simply annoying me. I’ve pounded this drum repeatedly lately. Companies that Tweet useless messages simply trying to get my attention annoy the hell out of me. So much so that I take a two-step approach.

    Step 1: I turn off the “mobile device” feature, meaning their Tweets don’t make it to my cell phone. (There’s the FIRST opportunity they’ve lost, which is my form of “disciplinary action” against them.)

    Step 2: If they keep sending Tweets that are annoyances that disrupt me instead of being of any value, I knock them off the Twitter list completely. (Opportunity to reach me TOTALLY wiped out, the ultimate disciplinary action on my part — essentially, they’re “fired.”)

    Twitter and other tools can be a great way to reach people who are interested in what you are doing. But too many people grab onto such technology and use it with no thought, training, or experience in how to use these tools properly. When you set up a Twitter feed, there should be a clear focus as to the intent of using it.

    The really sad part is that more often than not, the company that causes me to want to block their Tweets has done more damage than they realize. They’ve actually given me the impression that they are careless — not just about technology, but careless about customers (existing or potential) in general. It spills over into my decisions about whether or not to even do business with them.

    It takes seconds to generate a Tweet and send it to multiple people. It can literally take years to overcome the damage that can be done in that few seconds (assuming they haven’t annoyed me to the point that they can never regain my confidence.)

  • Judith Ellis
    Jun 22, 2009 - 08:40 am

    Yes, Steve, it’s all about how you use it. I think I made this exact point here in an earlier comment. Great thoughts here.

  • Judith Ellis
    Jun 22, 2009 - 08:48 am

    …and great thoughtful insightful video too! “You customer can see into the soul of your company.” Wow! Thanks for that! Cool T-shirt too! 🙂 Lots of exclamation marks, eh?! Good on you!

  • Judith Ellis
    Jun 22, 2009 - 08:53 am

    The good thing about this seeing is that we can influence this by the way we treat our customers. This important point was not lost on me. This brings to mind how training is so important and being on message through our actions daily with every customer. Great stuff, Steve!

    • Dan Gunter
      Jun 22, 2009 - 18:16 pm

      Just ran across an article which underscores my point: “The Ups and Downs of Paid Tweeting.”

  • Steve Yastrow
    Jun 24, 2009 - 02:06 am

    Judith and Dan,

    Your comments are so thoughtful, well-reasoned and encouraging. Thank you so much for them, and for your attention to these ideas. I encourage everyone who reads this to pay close attention to the comments of Judith and Dan, not only here, but always. Thanks!

    • Dan Gunter
      Jun 24, 2009 - 10:26 am

      Steve, very kind and generous of you to say, but I’m just glad to know that amidst all the clutter and noise of the web, there are indeed communities of people who choose to engage in deeply reflective and thoughtful dialog.

      The world is getting smaller every day. All the more reason we are developing new — albeit largely subconscious — habits of filtering out that increasing noise: it takes more effort to engage in true dialog in a crowded place. But that doesn’t negate the value or importance of doing so, it just means we have to try a little harder.

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