The Delicate Nature of Trust

Published: Jun 11, 2018
Author: Forrest Carr

There are a few companies that I trust with my identity information and personal data implicitly, even as a lifelong security guy.  They simply give me so much value that I stay authenticated to their services at work, at home, in the car, and on mobile.  On the other hand, there are many companies that I completely avoid because of the annoying and creepy methods they use to showcase how they are tracking me, my location and my behavior.  After all, there is a fine line between digital stalking and consumer trust.

Companies are continuing the journey through digital transformation and modernizing interactions with consumers and partners.  One of the many challenges is to accurately identify an individual customer in each of the digital and physical channels available to them in order to interact with your brand.  If that challenge was not difficult enough, you also have to protect all of the personally identifiable information (PII) so that you can keep the trust of your consumers and partners.  Old and new regulations are also defining the level of protection that is required…think PCI and GDPR. 

While protecting PII, the goal is to be able to turn your customers’ many profiles into a single unified customer view so that you can continuously personalize and improve their digital experiences.  While every customer has only one true identity (in the human sense), they have many profiles with the different channels and devices they use to engage.  For example:

  • Mobile: phone, tablet, wearable, car
  • Social: social media and ecosystem of tagging and following
  • Physical: where you are, location
  • Home: desktop, virtual assistant, smart home

The profile categories blur together a lot, and will continue to blur with Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence advancements.

To build trust with your customers you must approach digital identities and data protection as a business challenge instead of a technical  issue.  For example, understanding what is motivating your customers to use your product or service as well as learning their definition of the best digital experience is critical to building relationships with your customers.  Understanding both of these business level viewpoints will make the technical work easier, cheaper and more effective because you will not waste time and money delivering the wrong experiences and protecting the wrong assets. 

At any point in time, a customer’s profile may be passive or active for each channel or device they use.  Active means that the customer’s identity is linked or authenticated for that channel or device (app login, location beacon, follow on social, etc.).  Passive means that the channel or device assumes your customer’s identity group via persona or segment.

The goal is to properly and securely authenticate a customer, or convert them from passive to active.  In order to get a user to authenticate, you must ‘earn it’ by giving the user value that is important to them.  Value to each person is different, which is one reason why the value exchange should be looked at from a persona or market segmentation perspective.  This approach will allow you to both understand what is valuable and map out a customer’s journey with your brand throughout the digital interactions.  Individuals also have important and varying beliefs on privacy and data security.  

The keys to getting more customers into what I call the Trust Zone are transparency, consent, reputation and the ability to opt-out and erase data.  An increase in trust level can mean an increase in user adoption of digital channels.  Even for a customer in the Trust Zone, there is work to do to keep them as an in-elastic customer so they will be more loyal and an advocate of your brand.

People are humans – don’t forget to humanize the experience to help win their trust.  For more information, please click here.

Forrest Carr is Managing Director of Innovation, and a thought leader in the areas of information security, data protection, digital experience, IoT and innovation.