This past weekend, I spent 15 minutes on the phone with my bank waiting to tell the first available representative that I lost my ATM card. My lengthy delay was kicked off by the announcement that Wachovia had been ranked No. 1 in overall satisfaction compared to other top financial institutions. Needless to say, my hopes were raised for a speedy fix to my problem, but instead I paced agitatedly from one side of the living room to the other.
In truth, however, I have to admit that I was losing my patience after just five minutes of wait time, even though I called during a non-peak time (10 p.m. on a Saturday night). That’s what self-checkout lanes, text messaging, EZ-Pass and other forms of modern convenience have done to my tolerance level. I find myself going from calm to cranky more quickly these days—just ask my staff.
According to recent research from Yankelovich, consumers define success as being able to take time off when they want to as opposed to having more money. This attitude seems part and parcel of the power consumers wield over the marketplace now, which is manifesting itself in numerous ways. For example, in recent months I have received calls from Target Marketing subscribers who are curious as to why they were asked for their place of birth during a renewal telemarketing effort. Now, anyone with experience in phone renewals for controlled circulation knows a personal question used to verify that the renewal was indeed requested by the subscriber is standard practice. But the fact that more people are questioning its use points to their growing awareness about—and distrust of—data collection. One subscriber even requested reassurance that the telemarketing call was legitimately on behalf of the magazine.
The privacy climate obviously is evolving, and businesses must advance with it. For years, we’ve been saying that we want to engage customers with our advertising messages. Well, they’re engaged, so we must be prepared to respond when they start the conversation.