Big Data. Big Brother. The NSA debacle. People in the United States are feeling vulnerable. And with all the publicity surrounding online security hacks and stolen account numbers (not to mention all-out identity theft), is it any wonder that consumers are leery of giving brands their personal information?
Today’s customers are very protective of their privacy and defensive about how much data companies collect on them. The last thing they want is to have the feeling of either being sold to, or being spied upon. So why should a customer hand over his personal information to your brand? What’s in it for him?
As brands we need to measure the need for insight against the privilege of customer trust. Today’s customer is very much aware of what their data is worth to brands. They want to receive a direct benefit for giving their information to you, and they also need to be reassured that their information won’t be sold to the highest bidder. If they feel for one moment that you’re not keeping your end of the bargain, you’ll not only alienate them—they’ll also share that anger with their friends.
Believe me—the backlash isn’t worth it.
In today’s world brands that violate the trust of their customers (even by mistake) have a tough time getting it back, and it’s often an expensive fix (if it can be fixed at all). If you treasure healthy relationships with your customers, then be clear with them on how you intend to use the information you collect. Whether you’re conducting an online survey, asking people to download a report, conducting a contest—whatever you do that requires some form of information exchange—be transparent about your motives and intent. This is important at every touch-point where personal information might be required, and especially financial transactions. Let them know on your forms, sales pages and contact pages that you will take good care of their information.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. How easy is it for you to give away your own personal information? What have you come across lately that makes you begin to feel a little uncomfortable?
Now more than ever, brands need to go out of their way to take care of their customers. If we want to keep their trust, we need to think about them more as neighbors and friends than as faceless groups.
For instance, a friend of mine gets regular updates from her banking representative at weekly networking meetings about how to watch out for telephone bank fraud—especially for senior citizens. The bank rep lets the group know what scammers are up to now, and what information the bank never asks for by phone. Helping customers and non-customers protect their elderly loved ones is a win-win for them, because when people start feeling like a number, they gravitate to the brand that they feel understands their pain. Don’t you?
So know your markets’ concerns and address them. Use your platforms to show them in detail that you’re just as worried as they are about identity theft, fraud, and just-plain-sneaky behavior. More importantly, share ways they can protect themselves. As technology advances, people can’t help but worry about intrusion. Be mindful—and helpful—and you’ll avoid the inevitable back-lash from Big Data misuse.