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Build for Change: Revolutionizing Customer Engagement through Continuous Digital Innovation by Alan Trefler

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Chapter 2Death by Data

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Data can kill your business. Cost data is particularly deadly. It’s the easiest to gather and the most dangerous to apply. It becomes very easy to see what a customer is doing that costs your business money, and to calibrate how different practices might be less expensive. Responding to this without proper context can impose ultimately self-destructive changes on how you engage with customers, because that response is based on an incomplete understanding of the consequences. Consider an early cautionary tale that is periodically recycled through analogous missteps by tone-deaf companies.

In the mid-1990s, First National Bank of Chicago looked at some of the information it had been gathering about its customers and decided to try influencing their behavior in a way that would cut costs. The bank wanted to drive customers to its automated “Bank-by-Phone” system, which was a money saver for First Chicago, so it imposed a $2 charge on customers who wanted to get account information from a live Customer Service Representative.1

It’s not surprising that First Chicago is long gone. Imagine telling a Gen C customer she has to pay to speak to someone in your enterprise. Then imagine trying to do business that way with a Gen D customer! But First Chicago embraced and assertively advocated this idea of influencing customer behavior, arguing that the bank’s new policy ...

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