E.On has been criticised for sending a personalised marketing letter to a deceased customer, urging him to reconsider leaving for another supplier. The letter was addressed to the man’s executor and sent to a recently sold home in Brighton, highlighting a significant lapse in data management. This case is not isolated; similar reported instances involve the TV Licensing Authority and NHS mistakenly sending communications to the deceased, causing distress to families and raising questions about data accuracy and respect for privacy.

The executor of the deceased pointed out the insensitivity of using personalisation techniques in such a context, where the letter addressed the deceased by his first name to persuade him to remain a customer. This situation underscores a critical flaw in how companies manage and utilise customer data, especially posthumously. Despite knowing the customer’s death, as evidenced by the letter being addressed to the executor, the automated systems failed to adjust the communication accordingly.

This mishap calls into question the effectiveness of data hygiene practices even among large corporations like E.On, which boasted an annual turnover of over €115.6 billion. It is imperative organisations to ensure their data management systems are equipped to handle sensitive situations with the dignity they deserve.

Another compelling reason to prioritise the accurate handling of data pertaining to deceased individuals stems from the recent advancements in virtual avatar technologies. Last week, news of virtual avatars designed to represent deceased loved ones in the digital world hit the headlines. These digital avatars offer a futuristic form of grief support, allowing users to interact with 3-D representations that mimic the voice, mannerisms, and movements of deceased individuals. Clearly, these avatars come with potential opportunities but also ethical challenges and marketers and organisations explore these new developments, it is critical that they navigate them with responsible data practices.

As we move forward, both digital preservation through avatars and improved data hygiene practices stand as critical areas for development. While one offers a revolutionary way to remember our loved ones, the other ensures respect and dignity in how their legacy is managed posthumously.

For information on how you can manage your deceased data effectively and sensitively get in touch with our expert team