To trust or not to….Dig­i­tally


As cus­tomer data mounts, so too does the re­spon­si­bil­ity of com­pa­nies to use it well. But amid the ab­stract com­plex­i­ties of dig­i­ti­za­tion, how do we keep our cus­tomers’ trust? Tech­nol­ogy can’t al­ways win it and laws can’t al­ways pro­tect it. Only re­spect­ing cus­tomers as more than the sum of their data will earn their con­fi­dence – and only that con­fi­dence can se­cure a bright fu­ture for the dig­i­tal age.

A lot is said about data. When amaz­ing po­ten­tial and se­ri­ous risk com­bine in one is­sue, it gets at­ten­tion. Noth­ing in­spires con­cern like the threat of change, and it isn’t long be­fore talk of good and evil be­gins.

But data is nei­ther good nor evil. It is merely a tool. Like a ham­mer, its help­ful po­ten­tial can be eas­ily mis- used. But what a mis­take it would have been to toss the ham­mer away af­ter a few sore thumbs. Data is a tool of equally rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro­por­tions, and we all to­day hold its fate in our hands.

Busi­ness holds per­haps the strong­est hand of all. It is we who col­lect and use data, and there­fore we who bear the most re­spon­si­bil­ity for shap­ing fu­ture-ori­ented, sus­tain­able pro­cesses. Over the pre­vi­ous decades, the econ­omy has re­formed in the im­age of dig­i­ti­za­tion. Com­pa­nies are more likely than cus­tomers to have a re­al­is­tic sense of the depths to which data per­me­ates. Users spend hours a day in­ter­act­ing with var­i­ous screens with­out hav­ing much con­cept of the mas­sive ex­change of data en­abling the ex­pe­ri­ence of con­nec­tiv­ity they have grown ac­cus­tomed to – and re­liant on. A few min­utes on a tablet sends hun­dreds of apps pro­cess­ing and ex­port- ing to who knows what ends. The re­sults and ef­fects of col­lec­tive data are not of­ten our con­cern.

Un­til they be­come it. As ma­jor leaks and hacks have shown, com­pa­nies are just as vul­ner­a­ble to the threat of data in­se­cu­rity as their cus­tomers. Yet com­pa­nies, from be­hind all those screens, un­der­stand data bet­ter than the pub­lic. We can see the added value data anal­y­sis re­turns to cus­tomers, and work to con­struct so­phis­ti­cated sys­tems that per­son­ally com­ple­ment them. But in the process, com­pa­nies risk for­get­ting that cus­tomers are more than the data they cre­ate. The pub­lic, al­ready wary, can feel for­got­ten – even used.

Al­go­rithms do not re­place re­la­tion­ships

How much can we rely on the pub­lic to make good busi­ness mod­els? Should we sim­ply ex­tract the in­for­ma­tion that we want with the self-as­sur­ance that we know what’s best? Too many com­pa­nies trust their data more than their cus­tomers. A ner­vous pub­lic, plagued with sto­ries of cor­po­rate abuse, will only pull fur­ther away from cus­tomer re­la­tion­ships, set­ting up a dig­i­tal age of mis­trust and iso­la­tion. Com­pa­nies must not aban­don cus­tomers to in­ter­pret the com­plex­ity of cy­ber trust them­selves. No side has all the an­swers to this great so­ci­etal shift, and we all share the vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

Com­pa­nies have noth­ing to lose and ev­ery­thing to gain from trans­parency. No mat­ter the tool, the method re­mains the same: trust is the only way to se­cure cus­tomer re­la­tion­ships through dig­i­ti­za­tion and beyond. Trans­parency tells cus­tomers the re­la­tion­ship is mu­tual. Both sides ben­e­fit from safe, strong data.

Nowa­days ev­ery­one has ac­ces­si­ble per­sonal pro­files. Data af­fects our lives even if only through the so­cial net­work news feed show­ing us only what it feels we want to see. When re­la­tion­ships don’t go beyond data, we live in bub­bles with­out per­spec­tive. When mis­trust min­i­mizes data, we hin­der the ex­pe­ri­ence of plu­ral­ity nec­es­sary for a bal­anced life and proper in­te­gra­tion in so­ci­ety.

The deeper the trust, the higher the qual­ity of data. An open com­pany in­vites an open cus­tomer, and the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion hinges on this open­ness. Where com­pli­ance mat­ters to the law, trust mat­ters to the cus­tomer – when peo­ple feel se­cure deal­ing with a com­pany, they rely on it to do the right thing. Only a re­li­able re­la­tion­ship is sus­tain­able, and that’s one thing dig­i­ti­za­tion won’t change.

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