Organisations should know customers' 'distance dance' - academic

A significant portion of organisations' activities focus on creating relevant and memorable experiences while cultivating engagement and building trusted relationships, according to Doris Viljoen, a senior futurist at the Institute for Futures Research (IFR), a strategic advisory unit at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.  

She says more people expect individualised service, tailored to their unique preferences. In order to get such high levels of individualisation right, organisations need large quantities of diverse data about each person.

However, people are getting more sensitive about the kinds of personal data that organisations have access to and what they do with it. Hence, the "distance dance" – customers want organisations to come close enough to know their deep personal preferences, yet they want these organisations far enough away from their PPB (Personal Privacy Boundary).

The PPB is an imaginary yet very real boundary, according to Viljoen. If it is crossed, a person feels exposed, even vulnerable, and perceives the transgressor with mistrust. Organisations that aim to offer hyper-individualised products and services may find themselves very close to a person’s PPB.

The "distance dance" is not only influenced by the relationship between the organisation and individuals and their PPBs. Changes in the regulatory environment may have a significant influence in the near future.

Organisations may find that the data they generate through their activities, combined with the ways in which they protect their customers' privacy, could grow into their next most valuable asset.

"It is worth getting to be very good at doing the distance dance in 2020," says Viljoen.