It’s hard to think of two more valuable resources right now than data and trust. At their most powerful, they operate hand-in-hand: organisations earn the trust of consumers and consumers are willing to share their personal information in exchange for a richer customer experience. But that relationship is rarely so straightforward. Indeed, organisations are finding trust is getting harder to come by at the same time superior CX is in hot demand.

Trust under fire

We know from previous years’ research that trust has been an increasingly important element in the consumer’s relationship with organisations. And our recent State of the Connected Customer report shows it is now at an all time high – 82% of customers now agree a company’s trustworthiness matters more than it did a year ago, compared with 73% in 2019. More than three in five customers feel they’ve lost control over how their personal information is used, up from 46% in 2019. And more than four in five consumers want more transparency over how their personal information is used.

Organisations that wear their security-first hearts on their sleeves – not in the murky depths of well-buried links on their websites – are showing their customers they have nothing to hide.”

This is where the COVID-19 pandemic comes into play in important ways. The pandemic supercharged the shift toward digital-first experiences. It happened fast and with little opportunity for consumers to have a say in how those experiences would look. Suddenly, our every move was made digital, from shopping to getting food to recreation to work. Consumers faced a barrage of requests for passwords and personal information at every turn. 
 


 

All of this was combined with reduced agency, no time to transition and against a backdrop of general uncertainty and anxiety. It’s no wonder consumers have been extra cautious when it comes to sharing their information and more demanding of transparency in how it’s used. 

Sure, it’s true that handing over our credit card details now comes with the knowledge we can easily cancel a card and recover costs pretty quickly. But the serving up of names, dates of birth, phone numbers and even our movements via check-in apps, for example, can feel more intimate and leave consumers feeling vulnerable. We’ve all heard phishing horror stories or know people who’ve been victim to them. I’ve stood in many a socially distanced queue over these past few months and seen people who are as keen to have the virus eliminated as anyone, nonetheless reluctant to plug their details casually into a cafe’s iPad. Who gets to see them? How will they be used? Will they be shared? How can they be used? You can cancel credit cards. You can’t cancel your name and date of birth.

Stories, not small print

So where does this leave organisations wanting to deliver personalised, relevant, empathetic CX based on customer data? How can they help their customers feel confident and comfortable about sharing their personal information? 

Prioritising security and transparency are critical to gaining that consumer trust. It’s no good for an organisation just to say it has measures in place to protect your data – it must demonstrate that protection is a priority. While pages of small print might tick regulatory boxes, they don’t create customer confidence. Open and honest communication of information is key here, and one of the most effective ways of offering that is via storytelling. 
 

 

Savvy companies will use powerful examples and share the good news stories about their practices. Being transparent about the challenges and the opportunities at stake can be a compelling way to demonstrate to consumers how sharing their data can benefit them. With such a vast array of digital platforms now available, there are myriad ways organisations can share the stories their consumers want to hear. 

Engaging customers in conversations about what they are willing to share over which platforms is another critical part of the process. It gives them back control over which data they offer up and how it is used. Are they anxious about sharing info with a chatbot but happy to do it over the phone? Try to accommodate that. 

Organisations that wear their security-first hearts on their sleeves – not in the murky depths of well-buried links on their websites – are showing their customers they have nothing to hide. And customers aren’t looking for perfection. They are looking for transparency and clarity. 

Too often, consumers are forced to do their own research or expected to understand the fine print. The ubiquitous cookie pop-up is a perfect example. How many consumers really understand what that means and what their choices are around accepting it? Yes, information is good but only if it is clear.

Showing what it means

The pandemic, disastrous as it has been, has produced exactly the kind of stories about data use and its benefits companies can use to demonstrate their dedication to customer safety and nurture trust. 

Our research found 71 percent of consumers understand their personal information plays a role in contact-tracing. In Salesforce offices, for example, personal data has been used to ensure appropriately distanced workplaces. We’ve seen that clarity and transparency around how data will be used and the benefits it will deliver means people haven’t just been willing to share personal information – they’ve been glad to. 

We’ve seen this play out at scale in Australia, through initiatives such as the NSW Government’s Service NSW app. The app replaced the previous hodge-podge of apps and spreadsheets and clipboards that had resulted from every business in the state choosing its own approach to recording visitor data.

Clear, transparent communication about how the data the app collects will be used and the benefits of sharing that data have driven enormous uptake and use of the app. And, crucially, this has underpinned effective contact tracing efforts, sparing most NSW residents from particularly arduous restrictions.

This is the essence of how transparency and trust in data mutually reinforce each other. The success and transparency of the contact tracing efforts prove to users the benefit of sharing data, making them more likely to do so in the future. In turn, this helps deliver more benefits.

That’s the power of building trust.

For more insights into what consumers expect from organisations and how organisations can work to meet those expectations, download the State of the Connected Customer Report here.

 

Jo Gaines is AVP, Salesforce Digital360 and Executive Sponsor Salesforce Women's Network ANZ.