Thursday, December 5, 2013

Customer Privacy

This is more of a business post focusing on an aspect of what I consider to be part of customer service.

I've noticed a trend lately in my Facebook newsfeed of various self-employed people posting the specifics of who bought what from them; usually conveyed in one of the following two phrases:  "Thanks so much, (insert customer's full name) for purchasing (insert product purchased)! -OR- "Shipping (insert product purchased) to (insert customer's full name) today!"

I believe I understand the concept and even the intent behind both phrases.  With the first phrase, I think the business owners are wanting to thank their customers for their business; and with the second phrase, they are probably just wanting to keep their customer up-to-date on the status of the order.

Both of these are very good things! 


I cringe whenever I see these posts, and I'll tell you why.

Customer Privacy Invasion.

Perhaps, Mrs. So-and-So does not want the web of world wideness to know the specifics of her purchases.  Perhaps the item she just purchased was to be a surprise for one of her FB friends; and now the surprise just might not be very surprise-y, afterall.

I realize that part of my hesitation regarding this trend might stem from my legal secretarial training - client confidentiality is of upmost importance in the legal field.  It's one of the things I prided myself on when I owned and operated my office support business for 25 years.  It's one of the things on which I still place high priority, even regarding my friends and family and non-business issues. 

Too, client and customer confidentiality aside, bringing it down to a personal level - for me, I am simply *not* comfortable with having my purchasing transactions made public.  There's nothing nefarious going on regarding what I buy . . . but what I choose to buy and whom I choose to tell is my prerogative; not that of the business owner.


I didn't know if I was alone in this thinking or not.  I do tend to happily dance to my own tune.  BTW, everyone should have their own tune, doncha think?  I sure think so!

Still, I wanted to find out what other people thought about this trend of publicizing one's customers'  purchases.  So!  I created a one-question survey over at Survey Monkey.  My first survey, btw - Yay!

As of right now, the survey has been up for 2 days and 14 hours.

Here's the question I asked on the survey:
After purchasing something from a small business, how do you feel about having that purchase publicized via that business' Facebook page, Twitter page and/or other Social Media accounts? (examples: "Thank you Jane Doe for purchasing (insert product here)!" -or- "Shipping (insert product here) to Jane Doe; thanks, Jane!"

I posted links to the survey in 3 different places over at Facebook:  on my personal wall, on my business page and within a women's business group to which I belong.

So far, I've had 29 responses to the survey.  The answers I created for people to choose are:
- I like it very much.
- It doesn't matter either way.
- I do not like it.

Here are the results so far:
- 1 person (3.45%) selected, "I like it very much."
- 8 people (27.59%) selected, "It doesn't matter either way."
- 20 people (68.97%) selected, "I do not like it."

Over the majority of the people have indicated that they do not like this trend of business owners announcing customer purchases.  Additionally, several of the comments that I have received in the 3 places where I posted the survey links discuss how the posters feel it is an invasion of their privacy to have their purchases announced in social media.

Posters' suggestions were also made that in lieu of using the customer's full name that either their first name or simply their state be used.  This is a good suggestion; one that I've even used.  I also fully understand one of the other reasons why small business owners are apt to announce their sales:  it's a great way to advertise one's business.  Afterall, if people are buying and other people know about it, then it stands to reason that more people will want to buy, as well.  But, this type of fun advertising *can* be accomplished without violating our customers' privacy.  Aside from being the thoughtful thing to do, it's also smart  . . . 'twould be a shame to lose a customer because they thought their privacy was being ignored.

Regarding keeping your customers informed of the status of their orders, it might be best to stick to PMs, emails and even phone calls.

Regarding thanking your customers for their purchases (which really is a MUST), this can also be accomplished via private electronic communication.  However . . . nothing can beat a hand-written old-fashioned snail mail thank you note!  AND!  For that extra special touch, consider contacting Sharmiessence to have the envelope addressed in calligraphy:

Thanks for reading y'all.
Here's to the success of your business!

UPDATE:  12/6/13; 11:39am
The stats have changed somewhat; still going in the same direction though.  Here are the current results:

- 1 person (3.33%) selected, "I like it very much."
- 8 people (26.67%) selected, "It doesn't matter either way."
- 21 people (70%) selected, "I do not like it."


  1. Wow. You just gave me another reason to stay away from Facebook. Thanks! I think that's just horrible! Email is perfect for "thank you for your order" and "status of your shipment." Anything more is just, well ... yucky!

    1. Hi, Pamela! To allay any suspicions that *all* business owners on Facebook do this, please let me tell you that's not the case. It is definitely a trend I've noticed lately, but it's not pervasive to everyone who has a FB business page. :)
      p.s. - GOOD to "see" you; thanks for commenting!