Wednesday, May 8th, 2019 | 6 min read
The currency of today and of the future is three-fold: trust, track record, and relationships. A company’s track record of success combined with their relationships with hard-earned customers creates the trust needed to survive. This topic is especially top of mind as technology leaders around the county – and the world – grapple with how to deliver personalized experiences while keeping customer data safe.
Data starts with information. Yet, information wasn’t always easy to come by. For the first few decades of my life, we read the morning paper and watched the evening news to learn what was happening in the world. If you wanted to know more about a specific subject, you went to the local library. And if the book you wanted wasn’t available, well…you waited until it was.
Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. The Internet era sparked an age of information overload, and, in the Digital Age, information is faster, cheaper, and more readily available than ever before. As information has become more accessible, however, so has sensitive data – whether that’s credit card details, social security numbers, or the names of a company’s customers. Nearly 60 million people in America alone have been affected by identity theft, and corporate data breaches are in the news on a regular basis.
While no doubt transformative, the developments of the Information Age – which brought the onset of the Internet, smartphones, and social networks – have also caused countless issues that strain consumer trust. As a result, technological advancements aren’t automatically considered positive because people are rightfully wary of the harm tech can do. That’s why, the most powerful currency of today is no longer information, it’s trust. Therefore, the most crucial thing any organization can do is build trust with their customers, partners, employees, and investors.
Building trust in our skeptical world is no small feat, but I can say from experience that there’s a blueprint for success. First, brands must focus on building technology that’s tied to a purpose that benefits the world. This goes beyond developing a lofty mission statement or running ads that tout a brand’s charitable works around the world. Companies must commit to building a product that helps people, solves real problems, and creates jobs.
Second, startups and multinationals alike – especially tech companies that have access to lots of customer data – must listen to their audience and fix problems when they occur. You have to be humble and avoid the overconfidence that can come with gaining a global footprint and watching your revenue soar. Brands must have the compassion to understand that when customer data is at risk, people’s livelihoods are also at risk. Further, if there’s a problem that harms customer trust, companies must do everything in their power to fix it for good.
Finally, you have to watch the world around you. That means learning from your own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others. It also means watching how the market – and the entire technological landscape – shifts around you, so you can be better positioned to identify and implement new, innovative ways to keep customer data safe.
Even though technology has evolved leaps and bounds compared to just a decade ago, today’s tech companies – both the big names and the up-and-comers – can learn both from brands that pre-date the social media era, as well as from companies that are based around the world.
While I served as CEO and Executive Chairman of Cisco, we worked hard to use tech for good. We gained our customers’ trust by developing products that helped them execute their missions, and we worked closely with the government to ensure that we were transparent about our use of customer data. While we were far from perfect during my time at Cisco, we did our best to focus on giving back, skills training, customer trust, and creating new jobs. This approach aligns with the business landscape in Europe, where companies disclose how they’re going to use customer data, and get consent to do so.
While the U.S. can make regulatory improvements that usher in an era of greater transparency, brands can – and should – take the initiative and be more open about how they use customer data. Doing so would go a long way in repairing the trust gap between brands and the general public (provided, of course, that companies are truly committed to handling data in smarter, more secure ways).
Sprinklr supports many of the world’s most iconic brands, and several of them – including Microsoft and Nike – have been Sprinklr customers for nearly all of the 10 years that the startup has been in business. That track record speaks to Sprinklr’s commitment to protecting customer data, which has also become a major competitive differentiator for the company.
Further, my focus on building trust as the most important currency of today is at the heart of my relationship with Sprinklr. JC2 Ventures, the purpose-driven venture firm that I started up in January 2018, supports Sprinklr, and I’m proud to sit on the company’s Board of Directors as well. I was initially drawn to Sprinklr not only because of their innovative social media management technology, but also because they prioritize customer trust above all else.
The companies across all industries that prioritize trust will be well-positioned to thrive over the coming years, and the world will be a better place because of that simple fact.
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