Business Insight and Consumer Trust—a Tug-Of-War We Can All Win

Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson

Snapchat last year agreed to settle charges that it deceived consumers with promises about the disappearing nature of messages sent through the popular mobile messaging app. The company allegedly deceived consumers over the amount of personal data it collected and the security measures taken to protect that data from disclosure. In fact, Snapchat’s failure to secure its Find Friends feature resulted in a security breach that enabled attackers to compile a database of 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and phone numbers.

Then there’s the case of PaymentsMD, LLC, a U.S health billing company that misled thousands of consumers who signed up for an online billing portal, by failing to inform them that the company would seek highly detailed medical information from pharmacies, medical labs and insurance companies.

The rollcall is long and dirty. The fact remains that companies like these are still misusing consumer data for their own gain. Data privacy is not on their radar, or thousands of other companies like these.

Balancing business insight and consumer trust
Companies are in a quandary. On the one side, they need to extract insight from the overwhelming amount of human-generated data that is available to them. The information—especially social data—is located in multiple applications and repositories across multiple time zones. In addition, some of the most valuable knowledge is locked in reports, social media, and even emails as well as customer service transcripts, memos, and product reviews. Inside all of this unstructured data are facts and insights about every aspect of an organization’s business.

On the other side, companies need to honor the trust of customers, consumers and other critical constituencies. Only when there is trust that organizations are handling social information responsibly and providing sufficient individual benefit, will the data be shared in a sustainable way. After all, no-one wants to be the next Snapchat or PaymentsMD.

Chief marketing officers are at the sharp end of this quandary: they need to use social data strategically while building trusted relationships with the people who use their products and services. Indeed, the core of digital transformation is to use social data as a tool that provides benefit both to the business and the customer.

So what’s the solution? A new thought leadership study by Altimeter Group on behalf of DataSift explores how companies can balance the twin imperatives of insight and trust, and offers a series of recommendations as a starting point for strategic planning.

#1: Data strategy
Companies need to strategically plan ahead to ensure social data is used in a trustworthy, scalable and value-added manner. This means identifying key internal and external stakeholders, understanding the case law as it pertains to social data use and developing a clear plan for how human data will be used in the business. For example, what are the core use cases? How might they help/surprise customers?

#2: Data usage
Firms need to understand how to use data throughout its lifecycle, and the impact that data will have on customers, consumers and other constituencies. For example, they need to know where the data comes from, how it is enriched, what methodology is used to interpret it—and crucially, how it is to be used. Is there any possibility that the data will reveal personal/intimate information?

#3: Data governance
This is the process by which the organization tracks and measures the way data is collected, used and communicated. They need to ask themselves how the data will be used and what security measures are in place to ensure data privacy? Who has access to the data and what permissions do they have in terms of data use? And whether the data can be manipulated or changed.

Drawing it all together
In this era of digital transformation, human data is growing faster than anyone imagined. Companies are pursuing policies to analyse this data to inform their decisions, while consumers are wary that their data is at risk from being mis-used. In this climate, companies need to look hard at the way they use data and assess what the likely impacts may be—not only on short-term revenue gain, but also on long-term trusted relationships. Maintaining that balance, in which both businesses and their customers thrive, should be the guiding principle.

You can find out more about how organizations can balance the need for data insight with consumer trust in our upcoming webinar, Staying on the Right Side of the Fence When Analyzing Human Data.

Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson

Written by Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson

Zuzanna is SVP, Marketing at DataSift. You can follow her @fattypontoonski.

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