I've had a number of conversations recently about the level to which businesses want to be seen to be using the insight and information they have about their customers.
Maybe it's the news about governments monitoring our online activity or maybe it's just a greater realisation about just what we are all sharing online. Either way, there's growing concern about how companies are seen to be using personal data.
Up until now, when consumers have been faced with the choice between privacy or convenience, they've firmly gone for the convenience option. But as companies are learning more and more about how they can use customer information to create personalised experiences for their users, there's an increasing question around how much they want to be seen to be using this data. If it's too visible, will it turn customers off from providing the information? Will it even turn customers off from the brand itself?
Clearly there isn't going to be one answer for everyone, but there is a common currency that's been at the centre of each of these conversations - "How much do your customers trust you?"
It's no surprise that where customers have high levels of trust in a brand, there's a greater acceptance and even desire for the brand to use the insight they have to tailor the experience for their customers.
Now that businesses are getting smarter about how they can use information to create value, it's more likely that brand trust, not smart thinking, will be the limiting factor generating value.
It seems that in some cases, customers positively delight in the company using the data - Tesco are masters at exploiting it to drive promotions and engagement and generally it is seen as a positive addition to the customer's relationship with the brand. In other cases, it's seen as an intrusion.
But if this is true - what is it that marks out why some companies are trusted and some not?
I'd love to hear what you think creates the trust - here are a couple of my ideas:
It's not just a digital thing. It sounds obvious, but trust is a complete package. No matter how much you say that you are going to use data in a positive way, trust is elusive and built up around all your engagements with the customer. How well you deliver on the core service promise? How trustworthy are you seen in all your social and environmental commitments? If you are seen as not playing by the rules by say... erm... let me think... not paying the right amount of tax (just for an example) then, even if this doesn't hit top line sales, it may damage your trust and that may impact the confidence users and customers have in letting you have their data.
It's about authenticity. You have to ask, does the experience for the customer meet the promise at every point of the digital engagement? If the promise is to use data to create a better experience for the customer, it's got to be seen to do just that - and not just foist a bunch of sales messages or push product lines that aren't selling quite as planned.
Both of these ideas are slow to create and quick to destroy. If trust is the differentiator in how much value you can create from the new data you have, then my guess will be that those who are going to be really successful in creating trust will have to start thinking quite broadly about how they are building it across the whole of their operating environment.
Feel free to share your thoughts below.