The Biggest Information Integration Mistake

Has this ever happened to you?

You phone the customer service line of a large company (bank, telephone, Google AdWords, etc) and get an automated voicemail system.

This voicemail system then asks you for information "to help you get to the right party". You then dutifully punch in your telephone number, bank account number, or client number, whereupon you are transferred to "the appropriate party".

The "appropriate party" finally answers the phone and then they ask you a question. You know what question they ask, don't you?

They then ask you for the SAME DAMN INFORMATION you just gave them.

Sometimes, they then transfer you to one or more other "appropriate parties", who all, without fail, ALSO ask for the same information.


In this day and age of analytics and customer tracking, why do companies consistently drop the ball with one the the most important visitors they can possibly have - the current client who needs help or is unsatisfied?

Although privacy laws make it clear that you should not be handing out your customer information to just anyone, they also acknowledge that you are entitled to (and must) collect, pass on and use the information necessary to complete the transaction requested by the visitor. Otherwise there is no point.

It is the height of rudeness to ask someone to give up some of their privacy to you and then for you to treat that information as unimportant and disposable, in the process inconveniencing them.

It's kind of like asking someone for their business card, looking at it, then throwing it away in front of them. Followed immediately by asking them to give you their phone number again. It's stupid, wasteful, inefficient and rude.

This also applies to online forms - deleting a customers form data and forcing them to start over just because they had one typo is bad usability, bad form, and bad programming.

Rules for collecting personal information:

1. Create and enforce a privacy policy that is designed to both protect your visitors and to allow you to do the job your visitors want you to do, safely and securely.

2. Never collect personal information that you do not need to do the job (any additional information should be anonymous and aggregate), and make sure that it's with permission.

3. After you get permission to collect personal information - use it to help the visitor. That's why they gave it to you in the first place, and is the basis of the permission.


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