retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

It is a fact of our technological age that many companies know far more than they used to about their customers. Or, at least have access to more data about the customers. Many have actionable data but don’t actually use it to its full potential. In the words of the old English proverb, “There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.”

But apparently there is such a thing as too much action on customer knowledge.

The Washington Post had a story the other day about how “Netflix sent out a tweet Sunday that roasted a subset of its most devoted users over an open fire: those who are obsessively watching its heavily promoted holiday movie ‘A Christmas Prince’.”

The tweet read as follows:

“To the 53 people who've watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?”

Now, let’s look beyond the inherent snark of the tweet. (I like snark a lot, but I think it is risky to mock your paying customers.)

The Post notes that some Netflix users found the tweet to be “creepy,” because it exposed to the light exactly how much Netflix knows about its customers’ viewing habits. Speaking as a devoted and longtime Netflix user, I’ll concede that I knew they were paying attention … in many ways, this is a good thing, because it allows Netflix to make more personalized recommendations.

But the reaction suggests that there is such a thing as going too far.

It points to the Eye-Opening reality that companies have to be careful not just about how they use customer data, but how they communicate about their actions.
KC's View: