Can Brands restore consumer trust?
Along with privacy and identity, trust is probably one of the most contentious and debated words especially in relation to data and the digital economy. The purpose of this thought piece is to present a concept; which only presents itself in a digital economy, when the user has access to their own data.
An assumption, ahead of thinking about trust, relates to data portability/ data mobility. The idea behind data portability as part of a regulatory frameworks such as GDPR and PSD2, relates to the user being given the right to ask for their data back from the company that has collected it. As an idea it is seen as controversial as data control/ ownership is seen by brands as a key strategic requirement to remain relevant, to offer personalisation and keep control of the customer. This concept argues that giving the data back actually creates a far bigger opportunity for Brands, but it does require the current data collector and controller to shift their mind sets from “control to win”, to delivering what the customer wants first. This latter phrase we have given lip service to for a long time.
The 3 E’s of TRUST ?
There are two existing models of trust that are relevant to business and to keep it really simple let’s call them “experience” and “emotional.” Experience trust is simple to grasp, every time you do something and whatever you do, it all works/ functions (within reason) as you would expect. This works as expected feedback loop reinforces a message that whatever you use can be trusted. Think about using your bank card, starting the car, getting on a plane, charging your phone, posting a picture on Facebook, using a vape pipe, drinking water, taking a taxi, texting, etc. Society depends on experience trust, as it makes life simple and convenient. As the old advert goes “it does what is says on the tin.” Virtually every band and every company has close to 100% experience trust, as without it there is no first or repeat customers. Further we also love rules, regulations and standards which make the services repeatable anywhere at any time from any provider, essentially experience trust makes usage and choice easy.
Emotional trust is the subtle bit. “Do I believe that the company I am about to use has my best interests at heart?” Your bank can make the payment (experience trust - it will happen as promised) but do you trust it that it is giving you the best products, service or advice? Whilst there are always a few exceptions; the reality is that pharma, government, the church, charities, banks, social media, medical, insurance, CPE, retail, gaming, media and auto have destroyed our natural goodwill emotional trust. We now know that “they don't have our best interests at heart.” Yes, you can use the service and trust it will do what you want (the joy of regulation and standards) but we have lost faith in companies purpose, ethics, morals and integrity. To hide this many of the world’s biggest brands spend vast sums in marketing and branding to keep you in denial about these real facts and focus on it works. Whilst there is no other choice, we have no option but to fall back to experience trust as our best mechanism for selection.
The implication could extend to the reason we don’t implicitly (emotionally) trust digital brands at one level is because we know that our data is being used/ abused as the mechanism to make money for the business in exchange for the service. Therefore we translate this into the motive behind the every piece of communication as one of monetary gain on some level; however subtle.
Something disruptive and novel is happening and it opens up a whole new world of trust that was either lost/ forgotten never existed - this will, I am sure be debated. For want of a better way to describe this new trust component I will label it Enablement trust ( keeps everything to E - the third E of trust !) Before we describe enablement trust, we need to remind ourselves of the context of data portability/ data mobility, where the user/ consumer can ask for their data back. The wider concept (which is not new) is that the user is the best person to have/ store/ keep/ retain their own data. Up to now (2018) this has been a very hard concept to grasp and evaluate but companies are emerging who make this ideal simple. In the same way we don’t understand how email works, but we use it, we don’t need to understand how giving users control and consent of their data works if it is secure, private, trustable and simple.
Where is the link between data portability and enablement trust?
Whilst the corporates owned and controlled your data, they offered to you products based on a limited data set and they abused this position offering and selling products and service that were not in your best interest ( as the business case did not work so have this one as it works at scale) and lost emotional trust in the process. They are fighting tooth and nail to keep their data on you and the right to reach you, as owing your data gives them the power and right to control you. Hoping that functional trust and marketing is sufficient to keep you “loyal.”
When all your data is back into your own care and position, you the user can now decide who looks at your data, who can provide products and services to you, you are in control not just of the data but control of the channel. Brands have paid lip service for the past 30+ years to customer first, customer centric and all that jazz. Well now the customer is now first. The corporate now will have to ask the customer to look at their data, how the power changes. Therefore, enablement trust becomes interesting as a concept.
If the corporate fouls up in the current model, the user cannot do anything - in the new model the user can turn off your feed to their data. Therefore, the corporate who works out that by putting the user first, really creating amazing customer experiences is the one the user may choose to keep using and allow access to every more and rich data. This is enabling the corporate to re-establish emotional trust by showing to the user that they are putting the user’s best interests at heart: because they have to.
Therefore, giving data back can have two effects on corporate thinking. The first is the immediate response. Lock down, never, this gives up on our position, we have invested to create this data, the value is in control, we know better than the user, in summary defence and defend. The second more reasoned argument is that we have a chance to change the game, we can be the first mover, we can win by doing what we have said we would do forever - put the customer first and do that every day in everything we do, and we have a ability to be there serving our customers.
How do brands turn this around?
Trust and transparency and taking the customer on the journey by story-telling is one way that springs to mind. There will be other ways and the introduction of more personalised engagement helps to show that a brand really cares about me (and puts my best interests first) and what I like. Is this only about consumerism and personalisation or a greater story where as a brand companies have to demonstrate they care more and that they have a responsibility to be more active in their CSR? The difference data makes is that we can now see who does what they promise and who does not. Given we probably don’t trust brands to do this by themselves and the regulators will be too slow, let’s start by taking charge of our own data.
digi.me in context
The reason digi.me exists is to enable users to easily, quickly and without having to worry, get their data back. The beauty of the digi.me solution is that the user is not being asked to take their data from one big un-trustable data store to another, it comes to them and only them - securely. Digi.me does not see, touch or hold any user data. We cannot access of sell it but rather empower the user then to decide who has access and provide best in the world consent management controls for the user.
The thinking comes after reading Anthony Thomson’s excellent book called “No Small Change.” He proposed the idea of functional (experience) and emotional trust with much more description. Tony Fish has expended it to offer the idea of enablement.