The companies that will benefit most from the exponential growth in customer data will be those that go beyond compliance and communicate with authenticity, transparency and consistency.

With a number of new data protection and privacy laws on the horizon in the U.S. and beyond, organisations may be planning on making 2020 the year of compliance. But if you’re really serious about building your brand in a decade that’s set to be defined by data, you need to prioritise how you communicate with customers.

To say that technology is disrupting business is to state the obvious. However, what isn’t so clear is that in the race to embrace these new digital ways of doing business we could be disrupting the relationships we’ve built with our customers. 

A balancing act

Increasing access to data is revolutionising how we deliver customer experiences. Whether through social listening, contact centre speech analytics or benefiting from the information that pours into an organisation when it has successfully implemented an omnichannel engagement platform, it’s now possible to offer truly personalised experiences. 

However, with great power comes great responsibility. It’s why the regulatory landscape has started changing, first with the GDPR in Europe and now with the CCPA in California and soon up to 16 other states across the U.S. Each of these new laws is designed to heighten levels of compliance when it comes to collecting, applying and sharing customer data and each is the result of growing consumer concern about the security of their personal information.

Addressing consumer concerns

Consumers are worried about fraud, they’re worried about what happens to their digital identities in the event of a cyber attack and increasingly, they’re worried that certain organisations might already know too much about them.

These new laws are a step towards addressing those fears and are designed to give consumers more control over their personal data. But regulation alone is not enough. Nor is it sufficient for organisations to show that they’re compliant with these new laws. Yet most leading organisations will be pouring much of their energy into communicating compliance and explaining how exactly they’re aligned with new legislation and ready for the introduction of the next act.

Don’t point to compliance

However, such activity, while necessary, is missing the point. For example, every one of our contact centres around the world that handles credit or debit card information is PCI compliant – in fact, they’re all above compliance in terms of security as PCI is merely the benchmark – but to most consumers, saying so means nothing.

Instead, whenever sensitive data is involved, what we need to communicate is that we take every possible step to keep this data safe; and in the unlikely event that something goes wrong, we will alert you to the problem and do everything we can to solve the problem. 

An emotional response to an emotional situation

We’re focused on building an emotional connection with our customers when things go right, so we need to remember there will be an emotional response when there is a moment of truth. We have a responsibility to communicate in the clearest and most transparent way possible what has happened and what will be done to fix it. By talking about compliance or the law it can sound like we’re hiding, even if technically, the actions described in both statements are identical. 

We also need to remember that transparency doesn’t mean not doing anything. If we think about the act of data collection itself, explaining why your organisation needs the information makes a huge difference from the customer’s point of view. If we need data to deliver a differentiated experience we just need to say so. If by sharing the data that’s exactly what customers receive, they will be happy with the arrangement and more likely to advocate for your brand.

Grounding the message in reality

Direct and open communication is crucial, but so is grounding what an organisation says in reality. Your customers are more and more interested in brand philosophy – authenticity is more than simply a buzzword. If the company stands for something or has guiding values your customers want to know. It’s a new opportunity to engage with the customer base beyond the traditional sales funnel, but those engagements have to be authentic. Don’t forget any statement you make can be fact checked in a moment and can never be erased from the internet whether grounded in fact or a work of fiction.

As we enter a decade that will be defined by data and how organisations handle it, the key to maintaining and building upon customer relationships will be about communication, not simply about compliance. Those organisations that can demonstrate they are doing the right thing and can articulate it in a vocabulary that chimes with consumers, through the channels of their choice are going to have a very happy new year.


Martin Wilkinson-Brown

As Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for Sitel Group, Martin Wilkinson-Brown leads the Global Marketing and Communications team to drive marketing strategies, enhance the group’s go-to-market offerings and provide innovative customer experience management solutions.