Who Else is Listening to Your Customers?


Verizon did something quite remarkable with their new cellular telephones: the phones alert you “as well as anyone else nearby” when you dial the police emergency number. As you might imagine, that’s not always a good thing. More precisely, Verizon is implementing a government mandate that cellular phones notify you when they connect to 911. It’s a bad idea in the first place, of course, but that’s the fault of the FCC. Customers are up in arms.

Now apply this lesson to your telephone service. Your customers are calling from a busy street corner, from an airport lounge, or from a fast-food restaurant. What information do you demand from your customers when they call you? Is that information something they’d be comfortable saying out loud?

Although a person’s social security number and mother’s maiden name has to be one of the worse-kept secrets in the entire world, as it’s known to any one of the millions of merchants who have access to a person’s credit records, people still consider that information to be very private (and rightfully so). Do you demand that your customers provide this highly confidential information over the phone? Do you find that customers are reluctant to give this information out unless they’re speaking to a person?

When I’m in a public place, I don’t like to say my credit card number out loud over the telephone even though a credit card number isn’t much of a secret. The three-digit or four-digit codes that have recently appeared on credit cards are now supposed to be the “real” secret, and I certainly wouldn’t like to give that number out loud.

So, the question becomes: what information do you actually need from your customers? What is the least intrusive information you can request? How can you make your customers comfortable about saying this information out loud?