Privacy, trust, and personalisation: a winnable paradox?

Genefa Murphy, CMO of Five9, discusses how organisations can achieve a much needed balance between privacy, trust and personalisation

Data privacy and personalisation are two of customer experience (CX) leaders’ most significant concerns. Personalisation is about allowing customers to determine their own fate when it comes to brand engagement. Privacy is broad reaching, but at its most basic privacy means ensuring data is safe and not used unknowingly. Together, they can cause a bit of a conundrum because in many ways they are opposites. However, organisations do have an opportunity to deliver on data-driven personalisation while also respecting the privacy of customers’ personal information. Key to this is showing the value of data, and one way to show the real value of data is by delivering excellent customer service.

Desire vs. reality

The personalisation-privacy paradox is one consumers, as well as organisations, struggle with. 80% of consumers report that they are more likely to engage with a brand if it offers personalised experiences, with over two in five frustrated by a lack of relevant, personalised experiences. To get personalisation right, access to an individual’s data is essential and the more you have of it, the better job you can do.

However, at the same time, recent research suggests that half of consumers are concerned about the impact of these personalised services on their data privacy. Therefore, customers’ continued desire for a frictionless, personalised experience must be counterbalanced by robust data privacy and security. Beyond that, organisations must be able to demonstrate to customers that their data is not only secure but is being put to the best use to deliver high value. Customers won’t accept blanket harvesting of every accessible data point, nor will they stand for any laxity of secure protocol and procedure.

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Offer more than just ticking a box

The impact of poor data privacy practices means that regulation in this space has exploded in the last five years, from GDPR to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and beyond. Big tech companies at the centre of the privacy debate have been forced to respond. Apple, Google and Facebook, for example, have all rid their services of third-party cookies, while legal rulings against organisations in breach of privacy rules are ramping up.

While companies must ensure compliance with regulations, they shouldn’t only hold themselves accountable to regulators. Organisations must seek to meet the highest standards of consumer trust, which means going above and beyond not just letting the letter of the law set the baseline.

Essentially, this paradox can only be solved through trust. Hard to win and easy to lose, trust must be earned and continually validated. However, that doesn’t mean companies should be afraid of putting customer data to good use, especially when it results in superior service. Securing customer trust is about being clear and transparent about what data you are using and why. And it is about showing that the payoff for access to data is brilliant service, alongside top-notch security.

For example, measuring customer satisfaction is part and parcel of customer experience. Gathering and analysing customer voice feedback provides the basis on which to innovate and improve services for the benefit of customers. However, as a recent Five9 and Metrigy study shows, just a quarter of organisations are doing it right, by both gathering and acting upon customer feedback. Over 37% of organisations, meanwhile, gather customer feedback and then do nothing with it. Harbouring this unused information leaves customers distrustful — why seek additional data that is then left languishing? Being clear about why you want data, what you will do with it, and then taking action is essential in closing the trust loop.

Where privacy and personalisation meet premium CX

This perfect balance between personalisation and privacy shows up as seamlessly connected experiences in the contact centre, where agents are empowered with information and insight that drive better conversations. Using real-time data and actionable insights, agents can respond dynamically to each customer as an individual. Using customer data effectively enables agents to pick up cross-channel conversations smoothly, offer personalised responses and meet customers with greater understanding and empathy.

Of course, this level of personalisation requires robust data analytics technologies alongside platforms to deliver insights straight to agents when they need them. Agent empowerment comes from data working seamlessly to provide accurate, intelligent routing and incorporates back-end integrations with CRM systems, knowledgebases and real-time coaching tools that guide agents during customer calls. That’s why an open platform for customer engagement is not a nice to have but a must have.

Robust data analytics is also essential to delivering next-generation service experiences using technologies such as Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs), which give swift, personalised responses with self-service options that customers prefer. Like any personalised service, innovative IVAs based on machine learning and AI require data. The need for data to drive these experiences is vital. What is doesn’t mean is that customers have to compromise on privacy. There can be a balance.

In fact, virtual agents help organisations avoid data violations by collecting sensitive customer data, such as credit card information during a self-service payment, without revealing that information to human agents. This can be a win-win for customers who will enjoy frictionless experiences with added peace of mind.

Human agents still have a hugely important role, and they must be trained and supported to follow security best practices. For example, implementing formal security and privacy awareness programmes is essential to ensure that all personnel understand applicable data protection laws, regulations, and industry standards. Similarly, any technology employed by the contact centre must adhere to the most robust security protocols, while also supporting policies such as permission controls and certified caller authentication.

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Trust is key

During every engagement, customers must be assured that their data is only being accessed, analysed, stored, and used for a purpose. If they feel that privilege is being abused for any reason, they will be quick to move elsewhere. Trust between brands and consumers is more critical than ever. To create great CX strategies focused on personalisation, brands need to know where the line is and which technologies can support them to get the mix exactly right.

Written by Genefa Murphy, CMO of Five9

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