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As customer insights have become an integral tenet of business, it’s been ingrained in some that the data itself is the single most important currency of business. But like most dogma, that concept is fundamentally flawed. In this modern age, businesses have had to shift how they not only perceive, but how they treat, trust between the company and its customers.The success of a business depends on its ability to earn and maintain consent to access customer insights. In order to earn consent, a consumer must trust that the company has their best interests in mind. Trust has become the currency of business, and ultimately it is up to the company to foster, build, and protect that trust.

By definition, currency is simply a medium that facilitates the exchange of objects based on their perceived value. Something is given in exchange for something taken. To earn consent, you must give value first, and then return additional benefit. It is tempting to think that data is the most important part of a digital barter system, and many businesses are built almost completely on the tit-for-tat sharing of data in exchange for online services. But, that’s just a part of the customer insights equation.

Yes, customers want to know what information is being collected from them and why. And yes, they rightly believe that they should gain specific benefits from the use of their data such as reduced costs, enhanced experiences, and increased convenience. But it is not a straight trade. This concept of a digital barter system is as flawed as the notion that data itself is the currency of business.

Consumer insight data has tremendous value

In an environment of growing consumer mistrust and increasingly complex legislation, consumers are starting to recognize that their data has tremendous value to businesses. Increasingly, consumers will only exchange their data for something that has personal value. The medium that facilitates that exchange is trust. If there is no trust, there is no exchange of value.

Trust is the ultimate competitive advantage that businesses must trade above all else. Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce echoes that sentiment. He says “in the world of these new connected products, in the Fourth Industrial Revolution… trust has to be the highest value in your company, and if it’s not, something bad is going to happen to you.”

Trust is the highest valued commodity

True consent data is earned and mutually beneficial to the business and the consumers, finding the balance between personalization and privacy. When you recognize that trust must be the highest value in your company and you understand that trust facilitates the exchange of value between customers and companies, then data privacy takes on an entirely new dimension. It’s no longer a digital asset that is protected. A company is protecting the trust they have earned through the iterative collection and thoughtful application of customer insights.

To protect that trust, companies must make strategic investments to address data concerns such as privacy, security, bias, and availability, but also build a reputation for transparency, reliability, and fairness. Trust was once a brand attribute that was projected. Today, trust must be operationalized across the business within its systems, technology, and processes. The ability to continually and repeatedly meet and exceed customer expectations around data collection, use, and sharing of their data is key.

When it comes to building trust through compliance, businesses must move beyond the mandatory legislated minimums and use consent and security to build stronger relationships and improve engagement by:


  1. Partnering with executive teams to build a culture of transparency that employees across the enterprise value, understand, and reflect in every customer engagement;
  2. Working closely with marketing to clearly articulate how the commitment to transparency has been formalized and the unique value it provides;
  3. Developing well-designed iterative consent experiences that clearly explain what data is being collected and why,encouraging ongoing engagement;
  4. Demonstrating the value of ongoing engagement—sharing back the results of that engagement will be a key differentiator;
  5. Responding to customer data subject requests consistently and with predictability, and ensuring that the process is seamless and painless; and
  6. Taking ownership of mistakes and working with customers to rectify issues in a timely manner.

Lack of trust is on the decline

According to PwC’s 22nd CEO Survey, concern about a lack of trust in business declined for the first time in six years. Furthermore, after years of steady decline across the board, the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Report claimed a modest rise in trust overall from both the informed public and the general population. Although it is too early to determine if this marks the beginning of a trend, it does signal an opportunity for businesses to continue leveraging trust as a compelling differentiator.

On the surface, it seems that CEOs feel their enhanced focus on trust has started to pay dividends. However, as Kevin A. Plank, CEO of Under Armour famously noted, “trust is earned in drops and lost in buckets.” Perhaps businesses recently have earned a drop of trust , but trust remains scarce and as the currency of business, its real value has not been fully realized. If businesses falter now, their ability to compete will be lost in buckets.

What do you think?

Do you agree that trust is lost in buckets? Click the social icons to share this post and your thoughts on the true value of trust.

Transparency in the Age of Consent

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Sweeney Williams

Sweeney, a self-professed “privacy geek”, is a passionate advocate for transparency as the way for businesses to build trust in the digital age. He is a security and privacy leader providing best practice guidance to business stakeholders and customers to assist, advise, and educate on all aspects of data privacy and security.

He has extensive experience in go-to-market security and privacy strategy, regulatory compliance, risk management, and Software as a Service (SaaS). In his free time, you might spot Sweeney skateboarding around his hometown of Toronto or hobbling around due to injury.
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