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Part 1 of a 6-Part Series

A trusted customer relationship is much more than acquiring a loyal following or a steady revenue stream. It’s the foundation that compels customers to share more of their data, so businesses can derive insights into unmet needs, evolving beliefs, and new behaviors across the marketplace.

Build Trust with Customers

While earning that trust is necessary to put customers at ease with sharing their data, businesses have a lot of ground to cover. McKinsey research recently reported that 44% of surveyed consumers rank healthcare and financial services as trustworthy of their sensitive information. Meanwhile, only 22% or fewer feel the same way about 14 industries, including pharmaceuticals, utilities, retail, technology and electronics, telecommunications, automotive, public sector and government, consumer goods, agriculture, media, and oil and gas.

Data privacy and protection represent such high-profile customer data issues that governments worldwide have created, passed, and established new regulations. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Brazil’s General Data Protection Law (LGPD), California’s (USA) Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and others are indeed enforced. But those regulations cannot help businesses connect their trustworthiness with the potential value provided by customer information.

Customers, not brands, should own the data-driven experience

Deeply woven in a great customer experience is the trust that businesses will do the right thing, regardless of regulatory requirements. This reality is the case no matter how disruptive the competition, chaotic the economy, or evolving the customer need. The decision between one company and a competitor always comes down to a customer’s ability to trust that the chosen brand will deliver on its promises and consider the relationship worth protecting at all costs.

But customers don’t want to receive a great experience at any cost from their end. They want the freedom to define how, when, and where every interaction happens. More importantly, their specific preferences and needs must be addressed based on data they choose to share.

Think about it: would you share data with anyone? Of course not! So why should customers provide information that has no direct impact on the product, service, or experience being offered?

When customers cannot control which people or businesses access and use their sensitive data, feelings of distrust inevitably emerge. For example, I wouldn’t want any brand to collect my fitness tracker data without my consent. As soon as my information is shared without my permission or stolen through a security breach, my desire to use the device is gone, and the search for a more secure, privacy-aware product from a competitor begins.

Data security as a foundation for trusted customer experiences

Ultimately, customers, not companies, own the data-driven experience. They initiate the engagement by sharing their information and decide when it should end. The business receiving the data bears the responsibility of collecting it in ways that are transparent to the customer and compliant with privacy regulations. Doing so gives customers the peace of mind that they control what personal information is used to shape a personalized buying, product, or service experience.

The foundation that businesses need to be accountable for how that data is used in alignment with individual customer expectations requires four fundamental capabilities of a trusted experience:

  1. Treat customers as trusted individuals

Speaking to customers as individuals without marketing jargon and meaningless claims is an important sign of respect. Such treatment makes customers not only feel like they are part of the creation of a better brand experience, but also want to contribute and engage with that community.

Using data privacy and protection laws as the guiding basis, businesses can leverage machine learning insights to understand whose information they have and how it’s related to the customer’s expectations. They can show customers how their data is captured, processed, and shared. And more importantly, a workflow can be immediately triggered when a customer opts out of the sale and use of personal information to any third party or within the brand’s organizations.

  1. Collect consent and preference transparently

Customers want to know exactly how their information is being used – from what you’re requesting to how it benefits them. It doesn’t matter that the data is as minute as location or complex as omnichannel interaction tracking. When information is exchanged for even the simplest push notification about an ongoing sale, every action needs to add value to every customer's life. 

While encouraging businesses to do their due diligence when handling customer data, government regulations are changing how brands ask for and treat that information. For example, multi-page user agreements that require a law degree to fully understand are beginning to be replaced with a single screen that lets customers pick and choose what they’re signing up for and when to opt out. Such an experience makes them an active part of the process, not an object for information.

  1. Put customers in control

The fastest way toward gaining every customer's trust is convenient access to their data and one source to manage it. With a centralized and intuitive portal, customers can turn specific settings on and off, depending on the brand engaged and their personal preference and comfort. Much like a mobile device, customers can choose to allow their location data to be captured while their product performance and usage information remain uncollected.

Providing one source to enable customer control goes a long way in establishing a much-needed line of trust. Meanwhile, businesses can use the portal to monitor and report on activities critical for proving compliance and fulfilling customer preferences at scale, such as third-party sharing, consent management, and access rights. This approach accelerates the identification of compromised data and users in the event of a breach – even with details such as affected accounts, profiles, and attributes.

  1. Turn data insights into meaningful action

At the core of personalized experiences is customer data. Without it, businesses cannot have a clear picture to understand why customers respond differently and how brand engagement and marketing efforts resonate.

By turning insight into action at scale, companies can shape their experiences based on customer sensitivity, location, access, and relevant consent agreements. A customer identity and access management (CIAM) solution helps achieve this goal by unifying profiles of first-party identity, consent, and profile data. It also orchestrates and synchronizes customer data to and from all solutions for customer relationship management (CRM), e-commerce, and marketing automation.

Privacy and the customer experience intertwined

The balance between the value of personal data and the risk of collecting, storing, and using it is not just about securing privacy and complying with regulations. The ultimate focus should be on building a trusted experience that compels customers to stay with the brand.

Giving customers control over their information leads to the trusted engagements that everyone craves. And with an intelligent, unified approach to data privacy management, those experiences become compelling reasons for long-term loyalty.

Interested in learning more about the relationship between data privacy and protection and business resilience? Read the latest white paper on SAP Customer Data Cloud, “Data Privacy Goes Mainstream.”

Want to know how SAP can help? Learn about SAP Solution Extensions from BigID.