Trust is a Critical Customer Experience Metric: Determine How Perceptions of Data Privacy and Security Affect Your Business

Trust is a Critical Customer Experience Metric

I’m certainly not the first person to say that trust is required for humans to interact with technology. Rachel Botsman, in her 2017 book Who Can You Trust? defines trust as “a confident relationship with the unknown.” Considering we rely on technology for a myriad of interactions and transactions from finding a mate to managing our finances, trust is a key aspect of the customer digital experience. In the conversations I’ve had recently, I’ve noticed two interesting things about digital trust.

First, more people are aware of information privacy and security as they relate to technology. For some, that has resulted in changed behaviors, such as enabling two-factor authentication. It may even influence what products or services they use. For others, the awareness is relatively new and their behaviors haven’t caught up—yet.

Second, there seems to be, more than ever, a lack of trust around the institutions providing the technologies. It has always taken time to trust new technologies—think of the transition to trains, cars, and now, driverless cars. Because organizations are intertwined with the technologies they deliver, it’s critical for customers to trust the technology and its governing body.

What does trust mean in the digital space?

If we expand on Rachel Botsman’s definition, trust in the digital space means we are confident that things will go as promised. Even technologies such as blockchain, which don’t require you to trust another person in order to conduct a transaction, require trust in the process. You believe the transaction will go according to plan or you would not use it.

Because lack of trust is beginning to change customers’ behaviors in the digital space, it’s a leading indicator of an institution’s overall health—especially if your digital product is your business. That means measuring and optimizing this customer experience metric is more important than ever. For this article, I’ll focus specifically around measuring trust as it relates to data privacy and security, using the following three-step process:

  1. Define how your customers perceive and manage their personal data.

  2. Define what trust means for your organization and how that translates into how you manage and safeguard customer data.

  3. Determine how the digital layer (the liaison between the company and the individual) establishes and maintains trust with customers.

1. Define how your customers perceive and manage their personal data.

It’s true that not all people are as concerned about privacy and security as others. For some, the convenience of the service your business offers is a fair trade for the information they provide. That is, until they are offered an alternative. As a business, it’s important to understand how your customers view data privacy and security as it applies to the information they’ll be providing in order to use your product.

To understand how customers perceive and manage their personal data, you must first conduct qualitative research to uncover perceptions and behaviors using your product and/or products like yours. At Voice+Code, we often achieve this through field studies, diary studies, usability studies, and/or one-on-one user interviews. The goals of the research are three-fold:

  1. Define how customers, in their own words, view their personal data.

  2. Understand how a customers’ view of their data manifests itself into behaviors we can then measure.

  3. Understand how these perceptions and behaviors influence how they interact with our organization or organizations like ours.

We don’t recommend asking, “do you trust our organization?” Trust is complex and a single question survey isn’t going to get us the multi-faceted information we need to define what it means for customers. Instead, we focus on how customers talk about their privacy and data and what actions they take to manage their private information. We define:

  • What actions are a leading indicator of trust?

  • What actions indicate a lack of trust?

  • What feelings are a leading indicator of trust?

  • What feelings point to a lack of trust?

This information will impact how we define trust for the organization.

2. Define what trust means for your organization and how that translates into how you manage and safeguard customer data.

The idea behind first defining how customers perceive and manage personal data is to highlight where and how your organization may be violating trust.

A common scenario is when there is a lack of alignment between business goals and user goals. When this is the case, businesses often resort to tactics like dense terms and conditions or pre-checked opt-in boxes. While these tactics may trick users in the short term, the imbalance is such that the long-term viability of the relationship is at stake.

For example, in early 2018, Facebook received a huge backlash when major news outlets reported that personal information taken from 50 million Facebook accounts was harvested and used by Cambridge Analytica for political purposes. The financial implications were almost immediate—according to Fortune, a significant decrease in market value that was eventually regained. But the long-term effects of losing customer trust, which may take longer to manifest and are harder to measure, could lead to an eventual downfall.

In addition to customer perceptions and behaviors, recent legislation will likely influence how your organization collects and manage customer data. Last year, California passed The California Consumer Privacy Act, which will go into effect in 2020. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in May 2018 and could influence legislation in the United States.

Once you’ve identified where your organization is potentially violating trust when it comes to data privacy and security, determine what steps you will take to fix it. Ensure your business goals align with your users’ goals and come to a consensus on what trust means for your organization. Determine how that definition of trust affects your current and future products and services. What is success or failure as it relates to trust?

3. Optimize how the digital layer (your digital product, which is the liaison between the company and the individual) establishes and maintains trust with customers.

The digital product layer is where you measure and optimize for digital trust. You’ve done the upfront work of customer research so you better understand what trust—with an emphasis on data privacy and security— means to customers and how that manifests itself in terms of their behaviors. You’ve taken steps to align your organizational goals with user goals, with an emphasis on fostering and maintaining trust. The digital layer bridges the gap between customer and organization—it’s what the customer interacts with. You’ll measure changes over time in behaviors or attitudes using the product that you’ve defined indicate trust or lack of trust.

For example, you rewrite copy to help users understand what information you collect and what you do with it. As a result, more users enter their personal information, which means they can access a wider array of your product features. Because of this, users’ engagement with your app increases over time. Or you deliberately reduce the amount of unnecessary personal data you collect. As a result, you receive less customer service calls about the information required to sign up.

In addition to behaviors, you should also measure customer self-reported metrics—these will be specific to your product and stem from your customer research. Measuring both changes and behaviors and perceptions will give you a clearer picture of how trust, as it relates to data privacy and security, affect your bottom line.

Interested in learning more about how to measure trust as it relates to your digital product? In our Goals and Metrics: Measuring the User Experience workshop, we help your team learn what and how to measure critical user experience metrics to demonstrate a return on investment.