Giving Data Control to Customers

“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.” – Carly Fiorina

In this age of digitization and the consistent advancement in technologies, companies are having a ‘field day’ collecting huge amount of customer data. This data surrounds customer buying and social activities both in the real and virtual worlds. Companies are able to produce better and more customized offerings, including ones that continue to collect and disseminate detailed information about customers. While there does not seem to be any apparent problem with this data collection spree, the fact is that some companies do not keep their customers informed about what they do with the data. The rising incidences of data abuse and misappropriation are alarming, and customers are becoming more and more vary of giving out information. Instead of causing alarm, it would be prudent for companies to give data control to customers – that means informing customers of when their company collects data about them, and the value the company intends to provide in exchange for the data. Companies that act surreptitiously, concealing what they use customer personal data for will lose the trust and goodwill of their customers, which in turn could signal the end of their business.

We have said often that customer trust is the foundation of successful businesses. With customers becoming increasingly aware of their rights and privileges, companies can no longer afford to conceal information from customers, especially with regard to the personal information they collect about customers. It is imperative to transfer data control to customers by letting them know what data a company collects, what it plans to use the data for, and where the company plans to send it. The fact is that customers know that companies are capturing data about them, and if companies fail to give data control to customers and use the information for unfair and unethical practices, they could land themselves in a world of pain, which would include litigation. Research proves that customers are not only aware of the data being ‘sneaked away’, but also could possibly be misused. Of the people surveyed, 97% of them have concerns of data fraud and misuse. This misuse includes identity theft (84%), invasion of privacy (72%-80%) – making customers reluctant to share information with companies, even though they may be unaware of what information they would be revealing.

Giving data control to customers would make customers more confident of what and why they were sharing information. This in turn would lend feelings of trust and confidence from customers in a company. Companies need to understand that personal data is extremely valuable to customers, and hence if they want customers to divulge it, they must show high returns and value for customers. Ensuring that this exchange of data is transparent and honest, will earn companies the trust and loyalty of customers – which anyone running a business knows are extremely critical for their survival and success in today’s cutthroat environment. The more trusted and admired a brand becomes, the easier it becomes for customers to trust it with data and personal information.

Is your company aware of how to afford data control to customers? What are some of the things your company does to ensure that customers can trust it enough to share information? Some companies find it hard to understand why they should allow customers to delete their information when they want. For them the aim of tools they use for digital marketing is to track customers and their behaviour, but by affording customers, an opportunity to delete their information their company would constantly be losing customer data. However, the fact is that privacy is as important as digital marketing. Whether customers decide to remain with a company or separate from it by deleting their data, depends on the company’s ability to offer service excellence, and products and services that would prove beneficial to customers. The more value a company can give customers the chances of gaining their loyalty and trust, are enhanced. The premise of data control to customers is that companies would not collect and use customer data without informing them. When customers know that a company would be collecting and storing information about them, they would know what to expect when they visit the brick and mortar stores, online store, and website of the company. It would not be creepy to be greeted by their first name when they visited any of these ‘locations’ – rather customers would feel welcome. Transferring data control to customers in this manner is one of the best ways to gain and retain customer trust – one of the strongest pillars of a successful business.

An important part of giving data control to customers is to let them know beforehand that information about them would be collected and how the information would be used. Only information that companies need to add value and serve customers well must be saved – information that would not serve any purpose should be discarded, and asked for only when your company would need it to enrich the association with the customer. It is the job of companies to protect the interests of their customers – data privacy and protection are among the top most interests for customers. Giving data control to customers means that a company involves them in deciding which information would be useful and hence should be stored, and which piece of data would be irrelevant in the current scenario. This combined decision of what data companies should use and what they should discard, enhances the confidence customers would have in a company, enabling them to want to share data willingly.

Data purging is also a critical part of affording data control to customers. When customers leave a company, or specifically ask for their data to be removed from the company’s database, it is a company’s duty and responsibility to comply instantly with the wishes of their customers. It is important for a company to show its customers that it is listening to them, and doing whatever it can to remain transparent and honest in their dealings with customers, which includes letting customers know by when they would delete their information permanently. Allowing data control to customers is about enabling customers to moderate and manage their information – it is about giving them access and tools to delete their information, when and how they deem appropriate. This way, when your company does ask for specific information at any stage of the association, customers would be more amenable in sharing it.

We have mentioned several times, and it is a fact of business that companies cannot survive without customers. Hence, it is imperative for a company to put customers at the heart of whatever they do, show them respect and courtesy, extend top class customer service at all times, and ensure that your company transfers data control to customers. Customers of today are an intelligent and forward thinking breed – they ask more questions and expect to receive intelligible and accurate responses from companies. They are aware of the risks involved in placing personal data online, and would not be open to sharing information with companies that appear ‘shady’ and dishonest. In order to gain the respect and trust of customers, it would be better for a company to provide data control to customers and place them in the ‘driver’s seat’ with regard to every aspect of their relationship with the company.

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