In our hyperconnected world, empowered consumers share their brand experiences across multiple platforms. Digital messages spread in milliseconds. Posts with just 140 characters have the potential to make or break brands.
It has never been more important for brands to connect with their audiences; to demonstrate transparency, honesty and credibility; and to generate – and repay – trust.
By interacting with businesses, we expect them to take care of the details we share with them. This trust is present within our exchange of information. But trust represents more than this; it’s far more than a physical or digital transaction; it’s more than a hastily-signed contract, or credit card handed over in a restaurant. It’s an absolute faith that consumers have in those businesses which are in the privileged position of retaining customer information. It’s an expectation that businesses will minimise risk to their data, and have the necessary safeguards in place. As businesses have become the custodians of consumer data, this faith consumers have in them has evolved into ‘digital trust’.
Digital trust is defined by Accenture as, “The confidence placed in an organisation to collect, store and use the digital information of others in a manner that benefits and protects those to whom the information pertains”. It is“the currency of today, and will be central to defining the high performers of tomorrow”.
Organisations are curators of data
As consumers, we place a huge amount of trust in the companies with which we do business.
Every interaction, every touchpoint generates data that companies collect and store, as it becomes a goldmine of invaluable insight: from contact details to bank details, credit history, location intelligence and buying behaviour. Research from global technology firm Pitney Bowes revealed that in the past five years alone, 76% of businesses in the UK, France and Germany have increased the level of personal data they collect.
Public and private organisations alike have become curators of sensitive information. Many consumers give this only a fleeting thought. Perhaps they click the ‘Save my bank details for easier checkout’ button; provide their dates of birth to quality for a birthday voucher; or readily share their mother’s maiden name to get faster access to their account.
Trust is implicit in these interactions, but 60% of the businesses quizzed by Pitney Bowes in the UK, France and Germany feel that consumers are likely to become more concerned about sharing their data in the future.
Using customer data wisely
Businesses have a moral and legal obligation to customers to protect and guard their information. They must use it wisely, to understand behaviours, drive insights and facilitate personalised, contextual interactions.
Businesses have a duty to their customers, and it is a business’ responsibility to generate this trust.
Your business can generate trust in the following ways:
Customers can see straight through disingenuous interactions. I had an experience with a furniture company recently in which they told me for three consecutive months that my shipment would be ready next month. I trusted them – but after three months of ‘please do bear with us, thank you so much for your patience’, I realised my shipment was as likely as seeing a unicorn trotting along my local high street.
Tell your customers how you’ll use their data. First Direct bank told their 1.3 million customers recently that they were building a profile of them based on voice recognition software in a shift towards ‘biometric banking’, and this would make it easier for them when they phone in with queries. Now, they don’t need to provide a password when they ring in. However, they can opt out if they want to.
Give customers a choice
The EU GDPR, coming into play in May next year, brings in new requirements regarding consumer consent. Email and SMS marketing will need opt-in consent, whilst telephone and direct mail will require an opt-out. Don’t bury their options in the small print.
Use their information to deliver highly personalised communications
The Pitney Bowes study found that consumers are happy to share more information if it means that they receive personalised, relevant, accurate communications as a result. For example, 55% of consumers questioned in the UK, 53% in Germany and 52% in France said they were happy to provide information on hobbies and interests if it led to more targeted communication.
Extract meaningful insight from the data they provide
Use it to understand their purchasing habits, for example, so you can target them with offers if they’re seasonal buyers.
Make omnichannel a reality
With their data, you can build up a profile of how they prefer to interact with your business, and you can ensure you have the technology, people and processes in place to deliver a consistent, seamless experience across digital and physical channels.
Deliver a world-class customer experience
Ensure your business is structured so that you can be responsive, agile and truly customer-centric. It’s easier to lose trust than to gain it, and one negative interaction will affect your customer’s perception of you and can easily lead them to share this experience across their digital platforms.
Platforms such as Feefo encourage customer reviews and are used by an increasing number of brands, demonstrating a culture of transparency and openness – and a perception that you take your customers’ opinions seriously.
Let your customers tell your story
Enabling your customers to speak on your behalf is powerful, credible and authentic. Where you can, hand over to your customers to speak about you in case studies, references and across digital networks.
Stay on top of compliance – and tell your customers how you’re doing this
The EU GDPR, mentioned in point two, will have an unprecedented impact on businesses’ collection and storage of data. Tell your customers what it means to them, and what changes they should expect.
Of course, you want your brand to be loved by your customers. But building their digital trust in you is equally as important.
Trust must be earned, and digital trust is no exception. Gain that digital trust and your business will see the benefit.