Putting ‘Big Trust’ back into Big Data

Putting ‘Big Trust’ back into Big Data

There isn’t a CIO around that hasn’t got an opinion on how and why they should be taking advantage of Big Data to analyse the past, make sense of the present and predict the future. But while many are enthusiastic about using the information that they have on their customers to change how they interact with them, scandals from lost data, security breaches and Facebook’s recent ‘psychological experiment’ have made the term ‘Big Data’ a dirty word to some people.

The result of this is that data privacy is often seen as a liability by many businesses, which naturally puts them on the defensive. Rather than thinking of it as a selling point of their business and becoming well known for being committed to respecting customer data, they skirt around the issue of data protection and risk appearing dishonest simply through a lack of communication. This is not a healthy foundation on which to build customer-seller relationships. The focus for businesses should be on the appropriate and accountable use of data, in order to combat suspicion, reassure people that their information will not be abused and to win their trust. In fact, we need a whole new concept to create a culture that will banish customers’ fears.

Welcome to the ‘Big Trust’ era.

One of the first things to remember about data privacy is that it should be spread throughout an organisation, rather than being seen as just a compliance feature. Big Trust should even be built into your company’s DNA - it should be taken into account in every decision you make and everything you do when interacting with customers. There’s nothing worse than a company that boasts of its honesty getting caught selling customer details to a direct marketing company, or even secretly sharing them with partner organisations.

The second thing to remember is very much related to the first; if you’ve spent all that time making privacy part of your organisation and your reputation, don’t ruin it all through careless practices. Be very careful with the kinds of interaction that your organisation has with its customers based on the data it has collected and don’t misuse it yourself. Most people accept that you will gather a certain amount of information to augment your marketing strategies and they might be willing to put up with this if it means they will be targeted with appropriate offers, information or rewards. However, after a once-a-decade purchase like a new washing machine, a customer won’t want to be bombarded with offers for different washing machines via email; so give them the option at the point of sale to have your database ‘forget’ the purchase. It will free them from the irritation and protect your business from future mistakes.

Finally, be open about what you’re doing with data. Always make clear exactly what information you hold, which metrics you collect and how it is used. Everyone who buys from you should be able to read your data protection policy on your site and there should be a mechanism in place to hold your business to account if they suspect you of breaking it. Transparency is the name of the game when it comes to privacy and when this is combined with accountability on your part, you will have gone a long way to preserving your customers’ peace of mind.

The end goal is to create an efficient knowledge bank about your customers as people, not as consumers, so that they begin to feel that your company has their privacy interests at heart. This requires a joined-up approach throughout the whole customer experience, from the website to the post-sale marketing activity, so that no one touch-point breaks that trust you have established.

The key to an effective Big Trust system is simply to make the customer feel that they are being served by your approach. Making privacy a part of your company’s image and everything it does will allow you to execute your Big Data plans, but without tarnishing your reputation or driving your customers away.