If you have ever felt as if you were getting lousy customer service when you call a company with a question or problem, the treatment might have been intentional. The person on the other end might have looked at their secret consumer dossier on you and decided that someone else was more worthy of their immediate attention.
Yes, there is a secret consumer dossier on you. Companies use the information they have about you to determine whether you will languish on hold for an hour or get their best customer service rep with a cool accent within seconds. Those secret consumer scores affect how companies treat you.
Just a New Version of Profiling Potential Customers
When people conducted business transactions and did all of their shopping face-to-face, sales personnel often judged people by their appearance and adjusted the level of customer service accordingly. When you walked into the bank (people actually used to do that regularly), or a clothing store, a clerk might rush over instantly to assist someone who looked wealthy. People who looked as if they lived on a different social level got ignored until all the upper crust got served.
Today, the vast majority of commercial interactions happen without the two sides of the transaction ever meeting or seeing each other. Businesses still want to focus their attention on those whom they consider being their best customers. In today’s detached world, companies vet customers, by compiling information or subscribing to services that do the data collection work for them.
The dossier companies assign consumer scores to everyone, so the customer service representative can tell at a glance how badly they want to help you with your situation. One type of hidden score is the “consumer’s lifetime value” score. Unlike your credit report, however, the companies that create the dossiers do not have to share the information in your file with you. One exception to this rule is California, where, as of 2020, residents can get their file information and have some control over what goes into their dossiers.
What Could Be in Your Secret Consumer Dossier
Here are some examples of things in these secret consumer dossiers:
- What you buy
- How much money you make
- Your history of returning items
- How much money you spend
- Your history of interacting with customer service
- What you order from delivery services, like GrubHub
- Messages you sent to Airbnb hosts
- Which apps you use and how often you log on to them
Your consumer score can impact more than just how long you sit on hold when you call the electric company. Some experts say that a better score can, for example, increase your chances of getting an upgrade on a flight and other perks.
The dossier companies, like Sift and Zeta Global, do not make it easy for you to get access to your file. Some people jump through multiple hoops trying to do so, and eventually, the company stops responding to the person’s emails. Until your state or the federal government takes action, consumers will not be able to see their files, challenge errors, or control what goes into them.
Your state’s regulations might vary from the general law of this article. Be sure to talk to an elder law attorney in your area.
HuffPost “Companies Are Giving You A Secret Consumer Score, But Good Luck Getting Your Data.”(accessed December 12, 2019) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/secret-consumer-score_l_5de916c7e4b0d50f32afc6d3