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Democratising data ownership for true ‘know your customer’

Inverting the ‘360-view of the customer’ model could create a win-win situation for both customers and vendors in an environment of infinite online possibilities.
Read time 4min 30sec

Data has been described variously as the new oil and the new gold, with organisations going to great lengths and expense to acquire, protect and utilise it. A vast number and variety of customer data and information are sourced, curated and even sold on in efforts to deliver customer-centric solutions that meet market needs.

To date, data subjects – aka people – have had their information gathered, traded, sliced and diced, mainly so that vendors can profit. The benefits to those data subjects are often minimal, if there are any at all. At best, customers might be incentivised to part with information about themselves, their interests and sentiments through a discount offer or loyalty points. But the true owners of valuable customer data – the customers themselves – are generally not remunerated and not in control of who uses it and how it is applied.

As a result, they receive endless marketing for products and services they don’t want, but have to search marketplaces for the products and services they do want.

At the same time, vendors gathering and analysing data from historical data, surveys, loyalty programmes and social media analysis are challenged in staying up to date with each customer’s changing sentiments and needs. Example: if customers were looking for a cellphone last month, are they necessarily still interested in buying that particular cellphone today? Does a purchase of baby products represent a customer’s growing family, or a once-off gift for a friend?

Data aimed at customer-centricity now is very constrained, confined to regions and groups, and still very siloed. A lot of analysis goes into finding affinities, preferences and sentiments, but the constraint is that this information is usually limited to cities, and possibly countries.

However, all these efforts may be overlooking the most obvious method to find willing customers and understand their needs: by asking them.

To have true impact, customer data should be available from across all regions around the world, and across all sectors – within a global marketplace “data vault” where customers subscribe to; ie, they voluntarily provide their personal data to the global marketplace. The customer would be in control of their own data, and access may be given to potential vendors of their choice.

All these efforts may be overlooking the most obvious method to find willing customers and understand their needs: by asking them.

This “self” data management control would entrench POPIA (Protection of Personal Information Act) rules in that the customers themselves allow access to their data (not the other way around) and have the power to give or revoke consent to vendors.

Personal data as a personal asset

In an environment of infinite online possibilities, the solution to both vendors’ and customers’ problems is to turn data ownership and know your customer (KYC) models on their heads and make them truly customer-driven. By inverting the POPIA and/or KYC model to enable customers themselves (not the vendor) to own their data which includes their needs lists or preferences, the customers can then share and monetise their data in a global data platform at their prerogative, allowing vendors to tap into a market of willing customers, and give customers the convenience of receiving information on only the products and services they want.

If all customers and all products were present in this global market environment, the customer would curate their own data and announce their interests and needs, and vendors would then go to them to offer their products and services.

The customer should own and drive the process and be enabled to sell their own data, which – thanks to focused curation – would be up to date and accurate, and thus more valuable. Not only would the customer be remunerated for participating and updating their preferences, interests, affinities and needs, they would further benefit by being engaged only on relevant products and services.

Expanding on international moves to create single digital identities for all people, the ultimate state of peoples’ information should be one of where a person’s full information (including non-personal information, achievements and life history) is stored as a global marketplace vault or repository for any organisation such as a vendor, service provider, seller, regulator or authority to use, with permission of the persons being engaged, solicited or researched.

This would have the immediate benefit of having a global market at your fingertips and saving all the costs associated with marketing, campaigning, building and maintaining client lists and market databases.

While modern technology makes it possible to create a true and up to date 360-view of customers in a global online platform with the inverted POPIA and/or KYC model to resolve the customer information ownership issue, the challenges would still be:

  • Who owns and controls the global marketplace vault facility, or can it be regulated with service-level / engagement policy between all concerned parties?
  • Application of protection of personal information legislation with regards to the right of authorities to access information for legal, governance and regulatory purposes.
Mervyn Mooi

Director of Knowledge Integration Dynamics (KID) and represents the ICT services arm of the Thesele Group.

Mervyn Mooi is a director of Knowledge Integration Dynamics (KID). His competencies and focus is within data/information management and governance.

He has been in the ICT and data solutions industry for 38 years, beginning his career as an operator at the CICS bureau in Johannesburg in the early 1980s. Thereafter, he was appointed as a programmer at state-owned oil exploration and production company SOEKOR.

In 1986, Mooi joined Anglo American's head office ICT department where he remained for almost 12 years. Here he progressed to become a senior programmer, analyst, database administrator and technical support specialist.

After completing his degree in informatics, he then left to join Software Futures, where he worked as a senior consultant for 18 months in the data warehousing and business intelligence arena.

Mooi joined KID in 1999 as a data warehouse and business intelligence specialist. His experience in ICT disciplines includes operations, business and systems analysis, application development, database administration, data governance/management, data architecture/modelling, software support, data warehousing and business intelligence.    

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