This article provides an overview of how the HomeGauge platform was designed to work when managing Contacts And Accounts, how it operates today (the date of publication of this article), and planned changes for the future.
- The HomeGauge platform was originally designed to manage account creation and account access, and this design was ideal for what our customers needed at the time. As consumers began to favor privacy over simplicity, their needs changed.
- We focused on building something that was easy to use, but that has had some unintended consequences.
- The platform is operating as intended, but we have identified a number of ways to modernize these processes, which will remove some of the functionality in question, and provide a more standard consumer experience.
UPDATE Feb 3rd 2020
There has been a change to the functionality of how HomeGauge manages contact information. Specifically the change relates to the Inspector having access to the system-generated password provided to a Buyer.
We previously showed that password to the Inspector IF THE BUYER HAD NEVER LOGGED IN so the Inspector could help the Buyer with accessing their report. This was a feature requested by our Inspectors.
Based on more recent feedback, the system-generated password has now been removed from the Inspector's view.
Additionally, for clarity, an Inspector is able to see the Name, Email and Phone number of a Buyer ONLY IF they are scheduling an appointment, AND have that Buyer's email address. This is functionality requested by our Inspectors historically so as to confirm the details entered by a Buyer in the past was not inaccurate. Based on recent feedback, this too will be removed (at a date to be confirmed) to meet more typical user account management practices.
No other personal information of the Buyer is shown to Inspectors.
Any software or online service we use that requires a login of any sort works using the idea of unique Accounts. An Account will have a username, which some companies make to be a unique field, (such as your name or a sequential number), and some companies make it so that it is your email address.
Whichever method is used, the idea is to have a unique identifier to prevent duplicate accounts, and continue to add new data and functionality to each customer’s own account.
Google is a great example. You likely have one username (which is your email address in this case), and all the services you choose to use that belong to Google can be linked back to that username. Those services could be your Gmail email account, your search history, your contacts, your maps app on your phone, etc, and is designed to provide convenience for you as the customer.
If you are a Google customer, you may have experienced getting a calendar invite from someone in your gmail, which is automatically added to your calendar, and then your Google Maps app automatically populating with the location of the meeting, and tells you when it’s time to leave based on the traffic.
HomeGauge also made the decision many years ago to provide a convenient service like this based on the concept of a unique Account. Our thinking was that if you are a Buyer you may very well interact with HomeGauge Inspectors many times in your life, and so for convenience, you would have one account, defined by a Username.
Problem Use Cases
The current way the HomeGauge platform works presents two potential problem use cases:
- Some Buyer Account information is shown to Inspector
When scheduling a new inspection, an Inspector enters the email address of the Buyer. When they do so, and if an Account is already associated with that email address, the Inspector will be shown some of the Buyer’s information, (which may include their email address, cell number and name).
The platform is designed so that the Inspector can confirm that information is up to date, avoiding missed appointments and other problems by notifications being sent to the wrong place. This was a keenly requested feature from our Inspectors.
Some HomeGauge Inspectors have highlighted that allowing the data to be confirmed this raises a potential privacy concern.
- System-generated passwords
Today we are used to creating accounts online, and when we do create one, we are often sent a temporary password that we can use to login for the first time.
If a Buyer with an existing account has never logged in and changed that password, that system-generated password is visible to the Inspector.
This also was intentional at the time of design as Inspectors wanted to help their Buyer get access to their report if they called them with problems.
Note that a system-generated password is one automatically created, not one that any Buyer has chosen for themselves, and that once the Buyer has logged in to their account, the password field is not shown to the Inspector, and can only be managed by the Buyer.
A shared responsibility towards data
On the broader topic of Buyer data, we as HomeGauge operate in a trusted position, as do our Inspectors, and together in partnership for the Buyers. We go to great lengths to ensure we earn this trust every day, and take great care to listen to our customer concerns and develop solutions that help address those. We expect any data that an Inspector has access to will be treated with confidence, and that any action to the contrary would be a breach of our Terms of Service.
There are several different ways to solve a situation like this, and we already have a number of items on the roadmap for modifications. Any change comes with benefits and compromises and so we collect input from our Customers. It is likely that in this case, we will be removing the system-generated password from this view as a first step, and then moving to the more modern approach to creating and managing accounts. Note this will also remove the capability for an Inspector to help their Buyer access the report if they run into any difficulties.
If you would like to provide feedback on this particular topic, or any other aspect of our products, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that due to the volume of submissions we may not respond to all requests, but we do read every one.