Trust | Technology
trust in brands
But misuse of consumer data
threatens to erode that trust
by Prachi Tiwari
Today, with brands trying hard to get noticed and engage with us, we feel assured that our expectations will be met every single time we purchase or experience a brand. Consistently meeting expectations is what creates trust, and meeting those very expectations is where technology is playing an increasingly prominent role.
But have you noticed how certain high-value companies have made waves recently for reasons other than their breakthrough innovations that are changing our world? Unfortunately, their data breaches are making us see technology in a new light.
Whether it was 57 million Uber accounts, 145.5 million consumer data records on Equifax, and every Yahoo account, or Russian meddling in US elections through Facebook, the widespread footprint and openness of digital media and platforms are contributing to the overall unease around technology.
The reality is that we take a leap of faith when we pool rides with strangers (Uber), or let them stay in our houses (Airbnb). The movement of data across borders is growing at unheard of speed and digital flows are overshadowing trade in traditional products. The digital world has permeated into every aspect of how we do business, and the latest apps/devices seem to encourage an even more addictive behavior.
But is this ubiquitous play by technology helping us build more trust? You entrust your data to one service provider who then passes it onto another without informing you. When we trust someone, or trust a brand, we expect an honest interaction, a level of reliability, an assurance of not being taken advantage of.
The right balance
You could be wearing a fitness tracker that monitors your exercise and vital signs. While this motivates you to be more active, what if this data is shared with your insurance provider? And what if the insurer decides that your activity levels are not enough, and increases your premium?
A recent study on trust and technology by the global bank HSBC asked respondents what worries them most. The top-ranking concerns were "personal data being leaked," followed by "bank account hacking," and "debit or credit card cloning." These worries outranked a fear of serious illness or being burgled.
And these fears often are justified. We already know of airlines that rely on special algorithms to detect the kind of device being used to search fares. These airlines use the information to show premium phone users higher prices. Despite these issues, however, there is a strong case for using technology to drive better brand delivery and democratize access to various products and services for potential consumers.
The question is, how do brands strike the right balance between using their consumer data to deliver a better user experience and leveraging the data to serve their growth ambitions? How can brands accomplish both goals without compromising consumer trust?
Whether it is making payments to your local newspaper vendor, using artificial intelligence (AI) assistants like Alexa or Siri, or leveraging robo-advisors to invest, newer advances in technology are aiming to make our lives easier and transactional experiences simpler. In the future, AI-guided cars may be the new normal.
Technology is helping brands track customer satisfaction and feedback to deliver more personalized experiences and provide online help solutions 24/7. Digital technology is helping low-income people in rural India, especially women, find ways to save money and obtain and repay loans. It’s also helping drive precision farming and improve education.
It is vitally important that we ensure that technology’s positive role is not only understood but also that the trust we place in technology is not abused. Initiatives to help secure trust include strong digital policies that respect consumer data privacy and human rights, and protect consumers from fake news and fraud. More human oversight as part of key technology-based decisions should also help.
The growth of brands like Amazon, Uber, or the online Indian Jeweler CaratLane, who are changing the way we purchase a product or a service, are being propelled by increasing levels of trust. Infusing humanness into technology is the way to go. After all, for all the technology we have, it’s really the people who are at the center of the value that businesses create.