How To Foster Customer Trust In An Age Of Data Collection

Larry Alton

Businesses know that they need customer data to be successful in today’s landscape. Customers know that businesses collect their personal information, but many have some hesitancy about the motivations behind it. In order to foster trust, company executives need to prioritize the notion of trust.

Trust: A top-down priority

We live in an era where data collection is a part of life. Whether consciously or subconsciously, people know that their Internet activity, purchases, and other consumer behaviors are being tracked.

For the most part, our society understands this. However, there will continue to be instances where unscrupulous businesses and entrepreneurs take advantage of the system and abuse collected data. And this sort of behavior ruins things for the rest of us.

Research from the annual Edelman Trust Barometer suggests that trust is a rare commodity in today’s business world. According to the most recent report, just 47% of global customers trust businesses. In the United States, trust declined 9% over the past year, with only 43% of consumers placing trust in institutions and organizations.

In a separate report titled “The State of the Data Nation,” Informatica found that 73% of UK adults surveyed are wary of how their personal information and data is being used by online brands.

It’s not enough to have your company’s marketing and PR departments emphasize trust in their campaigns. To truly connect with customers and put their minds at ease, top-level executives need to prioritize honest practices, promote transparency, and show customers they care about privacy.

Practical ways to foster trust

Trust often seems like a vague, elusive object that can’t quite be grasped, but there are plenty of practical ways to foster it. Here are a few steps you can take to ease the friction that exists between the business-side need of collecting data and the consumer-side fears of giving away too much personal information.

1. Understand what trust is

According to Trusted Advisor, trust has four components: credibility, reliability, intimacy, and self-orientation. In order to create a brand that customers trust, you have to get each of these elements right. Only focusing on one, two, or three of them will leave you unbalanced and ineffective.

2. Be open and honest

It’s absolutely imperative that you practice openness and honesty when it comes to collecting data. You need to be over-the-top in telling your customers what data you’re collecting and exactly how it’s being used. Some customers won’t like it, but it’s better than having them find out another way.

3. Follow the rules

When it comes to things like device fingerprinting, you need to follow the rules. For example, the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) limits the use of cookies and personal data tracking without explicit user-side consent.

“Even though device fingerprinting technically only collects data about a user’s device, it is used to identify an individual person, and thus falls under the category of personal data,” WOT explains. “When it comes to collecting personal data, the GDPR stipulates that must be legitimate interest or explicit consent to be allowed to do it, regardless of the technique used to collect it.”

Never attempt to skirt the rules. Following them, even when they seem to hurt your short-term interests, will always prove to be the best long-term play for the brand.

4. Show proof

Social proof is one of the best resources you have. When you show prospective customers how much your existing customers trust you, it changes their entire perception. Testimonials, reviews, ratings, research studies, and surveys are all excellent options for building trust through proof.

5. Apologize immediately

No matter how well you follow rules and promote transparency, you’re occasionally going to mess up. And even though they may give you a hard time, most customers understand that businesses aren’t perfect and are willing to give them a second chance. The key is to apologize immediately and actively work to regain trust (rather than cover up the initial problem).

Do your customers trust you?

Your customers might do business with you, but do they genuinely trust your organization? In an age of data collection, you probably can’t answer this question with complete confidence. So instead of offloading the responsibility to isolated departments within your company, it’s time for key company decision makers and executives to take personal responsibility and prioritize organization-wide trust from the top-down.

Will you?

For more best practices, see Top Three Ways CFOs Can Run A Responsible Business.

About Larry Alton

Larry is a freelance marketing & technology consultant with a background in IT. Follow him on Twitter @LarryAlton3.