Customer intimacy versus privacy

Customer Engagement Management (CEM) is all about connecting to and engaging with your (potential) customers. An important strategy which can be used and related to CEM is Treacy and Wiersema’s valuable discipline, customer intimacy. Peelen and Beltman (2013) defines a customer intimacy strategy as “characterised by the fact that companies build up a relationship with customers. It is not so much the market that becomes the centre of attention, but the individual wishes of customers that count” (p. 51). Knowledge of these individual wishes and preferences are extremely important to develop a good long relationship with customers (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

Business require a lot of information to build up this certain relationship to give the customers the ultimate experiences. However, do the customers want to share al their information? Research from the Future Foundation (2015) shows that 50% of the people surveyed are into providing information if it is related to getting discounts. Less than 30% of the people wants to give permission when it is about previous purchases to improve their services. Out of this you can indicate that people are not completely ready to share their information for all of the reasons businesses want them to.

Figure 1. Reprinted from Future Traveller Tribes 2030 by Future Foundation. Copyright 2015. 

The example of discounts and personal pricing does raise some concerns. According to economics (as cited in Future Foundation, 2015) forms of personal pricing can have a good effect on as well business as consumers. Nonetheless, there are concerns about the combining of personal pricing with the gathering of big data. Consumers can be scammed or be disadvantaged because they do not have a lot of knowledge about these issues. This can be resolved by current privacy and consumer protection laws and by providing more transparency into the assembling of Big Data by companies. As referred to in the research of Marketo (2015): one on one marketing is very powerful, but it should speak to individuals “on their own terms”.

Another example for ‘handing over’ our privacy to implement customer intimacy, is for social security. The CEO of Thomas Cook Belgium describes that people are more hesitant of giving their personal information, despite of previous events such as the terrorist attacks at the airport of Zaventum. People should become more aware that handing over some of their privacy is for their own safety. By giving personal details governments can screen everyone more easily and companies, such as tour operators can contact customers faster at crucial situations. The CEO even mentions that it should be possible for companies to share details of customers with one another. In this way for instance the Facebook profiles of customers can be shared, so that the companies can contact their customers in a more personal way to keep them up-to-date (Dekeyser, 2016).

All in all, we should think about the advantages and downsides of the relinquishment of our privacy. The using and trading of Big Data can lead to “more competition and better informed consumer choices” (Future Foundation, 2015) but it can also guarantee more personal safety in the future.


Dekeyser, J. (2016, march 26). Toeristen, geef alstublieft een extra stukje privacy prijs. De Tijd. Retrieved from

Future Foundation. (2015). Future Traveller Tribes 2030; Understanding Tomorrow’s Traveller. Retrieved from

Marketo. (2015). The 5 Principles of Engagement Marketing. Retrieved from

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). The nature of the CRM strategy. In E. Peelen, & R. Beltman, Customer Relationship Management (pp. 50-53). Pearson Education Limited.



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