Many new technologies, such as facial recognition technology for Customer Experience are emerging. Facial recognition and facial expression analysis are capturing essential information about how customers feel during an experience at the moment. However, much to my surprise, many people are scared of this technology. It is time to lose the fear of facial recognition technology.
Before we dive any more in-depth on this issue of scariness, let’s review what the technology is and how they differ from each other.
- Facial Recognition: This technology assesses your facial features and based on the spatial relationships it records and compares to a database, identifies who you are. Facial recognition identifies you, the person.
- Facial Expression Analysis: This technology records your facial features and determines how you are feeling based on the spatial relationships it records and compares to a database. Facial expression analysis identifies how you, the person, feel, not who you are.
We have discovered since discussing and writing about it, that plenty of people find facial recognition technology and facial expression analysis technology creepy. While I recognize that this is the case, I don’t understand it. I see facial recognition and facial expression analysis as a new technology that can help us improve our Customer Experiences. I predict that one day soon we won’t know how we lived without it.
We did a recent podcast on how people are sometimes scared of new technology. My wife Lorraine is one of them. When I suggested to her back in the day that she should get a mobile phone, she said, “Why would I want one of them?” Eventually, she bought one. She became used to it, and now she loves it and wouldn’t give it up.
This process is normal for people. We are scared of new things all the time. For example, did you know the following?
- When trains were first invented, people were worried that they would get ripped apart if they traveled faster than 50 miles an hour.
- The New York Times criticized the telegraph service in the 1800s saying “it was too fast for the truth.”
- The New Yorker wrote in 1933, the telephone was considered dangerous and people were convinced if they were on one in a storm they would get hit by lightning.
It’s interesting to me how people react to new technologies. These sound silly to us now. People sometimes find new technology frightening. However, once they give it a chance, they usually think it is helpful and forget they were scared of it.
For example, not so long ago, people didn’t want to migrate to online banking. In the minds of many people, the internet was a sinister nest of bad-actors waiting to steal all of our electronic money right out of the virtual bank.
However, online banking has proved to be helpful to society. There also hasn’t been a ton of electronic money heists either. Most of us bank online these days, too, and we sleep just fine at night—at least about online banking.
Technology is Already Sharing Information about You. Get Used to It.
Using these technologies in Customer Experience analysis and design is inevitable. It’s a matter of when and in what way firms choose to use them. The question is then, with this technology, how can you benefit from it while minimizing the blow back of it?
First, you must realize that technology is already sharing a lot of information about you. For example:
- Your mobile tells people exactly where you are with various apps.
- Your search history shows what websites you’ve been to and how long you’ve spent on them—and what you’ve downloaded.
- Stores offer you Wi-Fi so that they know where you’re going in the store and where you linger.
Second, you probably don’t realize how often you are being videoed today. The New York Times estimates that there are 9,000 CCTV cameras just in lower Manhattan and the same goes for London. (And if you are thinking, It’s not recording me; I don’t go to New York or London, remember that just because The New York Times didn’t do a story on your town doesn’t mean it doesn’t have CCTV cameras, too.)
Finally, remember that you will get used to it, especially if it is helpful. We feel more comfortable with technology if we get value out of it. For example, Madison Square Garden uses facial recognition technology for security purposes, which I don’t think anyone would argue is a bad thing. Airlines use it to help people check in for flights more efficiently, which is of great value to many passengers.
Reducing the Creepiness Factor
So how should you introduce the technology in a way that presents value instead of creeping people out? You must improve the experience and be transparent with what’s happening with the data.
When Apple introduced facial recognition software on the iPhone, people didn’t mind it because the technology made it easier to get into the phone. On the other hand, using facial recognition technology to allow you onto a plane feels a lot creepier to people.
To be fair, the airlines are improving their experience with customers by using facial recognition technology. Their mistake was they surprised people with it. No one knew it was an option until they were waiting in line at the airport. Moreover, I think the creepiness effect was heightened because people didn’t know airlines had their faces in their database.
I know my face would be in the database. I have signed up for CLEAR in the U.S. to help me optimize the security screening for flights. It allows them to verify my identity faster so I can get right to loading the bins and the big pat down from the TSA.
So, yes, I had to give them my information to do that, but there was quid pro quo involved with the faster security screening at the airport. I gave them my info because I trust them to handle my information carefully. If you can assure your customers you will do the same, then they will probably feel more comfortable with giving you the information.
Also, most people are less comfortable with the idea of mass surveillance, especially if they are unaware of it. However, most organizations don’t participate in mass surveillance when using facial expression analysis for a project. Instead, they are transforming their user experience on the website and want to gather real-time information about how it is working. In these cases, customers know they are being recorded and that the technology is analyzing their facial expression, a big difference from mass surveillance without permission.
Your job as a marketer and a Customer Experience professional is first to ensure that customers understand the benefits and that they can see them. Those benefits should be crystal clear to your customers.
Your second job is to be transparent about it and do not surprise your customers with it. The technology is far less creepy when you know upfront than when you didn’t think it was going on.
Finally, make it optional so your customer can control whether they participate. Allow customers to put a toe in the water and see that it’s okay before they dive in.
The reality with facial recognition software and facial expression analysis is as long as your customers enjoy value from it, know that it is happening, and have control about whether they participate in it, they will be more likely to lose the fear of facial recognition technology.
You aren’t afraid to ride trains or use a telephone, and it is likely you aren’t worried about a telegraph disrupting society to the point we descend into anarchy. I predict that once you get used to the idea of facial recognition software and facial expression analysis, you will feel the same comfort with the technology as you do banking online.
It would be best if you learn to lose the fear of facial recognition and facial expression analysis. You’re better off getting on the front edge of it. You can gain a tremendous competitive advantage by learning how to use it, discovering what you can use it for, and begin enjoying the benefits of it before your competition does.
To hear more about how to Lose The Fear Of Facial Recognition Technology in more detail, listen to the complete podcast here.
Measuring authentic customer emotions in real time without asking customers is the future of CX. Understanding how your experience makes customers feel in your experience shows you what you need to keep doing—and what you need to change. Moreover, you can improve the impact and perhaps most importantly the ROI of your marketing content. To learn more about our New Authentic Emotion Measurement Training, please click here.
Hear the rest of the conversation on Why Are We Scared of New Technology on The Intuitive Customer Podcast. These informative podcasts are designed to expand on the psychological ideas behind understanding customer behavior. To listen in, please click here.
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX