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May 16, 2022

Why Trust Unlocks a Superior Customer Experience (CX) and Builds Brand Equity

When a journalist agrees to protect the anonymity of an “off the record” source, it is a code of honor between the two parties. In providing information under the terms, a source extends a level of trust, and a reporter’s reputation rests on honoring the agreement. To a reporter, protecting the relationship is a sacred duty. Good reporters have been known to face jail time rather than betray the confidence of a source to a grand jury.

The trusting relationship between a brand and its customers should be viewed from a similar lens. In the brand-customer dynamic, information is customer data and insights derived from that data. Customers expect a brand they engage with to safeguard their data and use their data only in the context of permissions granted and for intended purpose. At all times, a brand is bound by permissions and preferences granted by a customer, and a brand’s reputation hinges on honoring its agreements – written, unwritten, or otherwise.

Just as journalists know they’ll never work again if they break trust with a source, brands that violate a consumer’s trust will lose the customer, likely forever. Heavy fines for violating data privacy regulations are certainly one consideration, but at its core building a sacred trust with a consumer is about building brand equity.

A foundation of trust is the basis for delivering a superior omnichannel customer experience that sustains profitable revenue growth for a brand and sustained relevance for the customer. Customers provide brands with more data if they trust the brand. That is, they know their data will be used only in accordance with their wishes, and also because they know it will be used to create deeper, more meaningful, personalized and valued experiences over time.

Consumers Embrace the Value Exchange

Consumers embrace this value exchange. In a Harris Polls survey commissioned by Redpoint, 54 percent of consumers said they are willing to share more personal data with companies to achieve a more personalized experience. Super majorities of Gen Z (72 percent) and Millennial (70 percent) consumers say they are “very willing” to share their data for that purpose.

As with the reporter-source dynamic, sharing data comes with the understanding that a brand will honor a customer’s wishes. In the same survey, 71 percent of consumers said that it is essential or very important that a brand allows the customer to give explicit authorization for how personal data will be used, with similar majorities saying that it is very important/absolutely essential a brand reveal how the information is being used (73 percent) and allow the consumer to set specific permissions for the data they allow the brand to collect (68 percent).

Brands that fail to honor permissions or preferences will face the wrath of its customers, with 88 percent of consumers claiming they are likely to switch brands if a company sells the customer’s data to other companies for marketing/advertising purposes without authorization.

Brand Equity: A Personal Experience

Survey results are telling, but to bring the concept of consumer trust and brand equity to life it’s best to hear from a company that recognizes the importance of data in building and persisting that relationship.

With summer around the corner, many people are making travel plans. For millions of travel enthusiasts each year, vacation plans start with Xanterra Travel Collection. In business for more than 100 years, Xanterra offers unique travel experiences on six continents. Stewards of six national parks, the company’s extensive hospitality portfolio includes cruises, international walking and biking tours, scenic rail travel, and destination vacations to several pristine locations such as the Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park, and the Tuscany coast.

One reason for the company’s continued success is that its loyal customers know that their data will be used exclusively to improve their experiences. A customer who books a guided biking tour of the French countryside, for example, has no concern their data will be sold to a bike company.

“We decided as a company several years ago that we are not in the business of sharing our data with third parties for profit. When we had those conversations, we developed 10 guiding principles around the collection and use of data that Xanterra and our sister companies adhere to as a best practice,” says Director of Marketing and CRM Andrew Heltzel. “Customer data is extremely important and valuable to us, we want more of it, and we want to secure and enrich the data that we have. What’s interesting for us as a travel and hospitality company is that if we can secure your trust, if you feel good that we’re managing your information responsibly and to your satisfaction, you will have that same level of care and confidence moving from one Xanterra brand to the next because we all share the same guiding principles about your data.”

Customer Controls and Personalization

Xanterra partners with PossibleNOW to develop and manage its preference center, and with Redpoint to use those preferences and other data points to develop a single customer view to help manage the entire customer experience.

Customers control how Xanterra communicates to them by refining email preferences, easily accessible via a personalized landing page. Customers of Windstar, for example, which operates cruises, have the option to opt in or out of a monthly newsletter, exclusive offers, “close-in” sailings (next 60 days), or new voyage announcements. Customers also have the option to manage a travel interest page, selecting where and when they’d like to travel. Xanterra then uses those preferences to enhance personalization.

“Customers have the flexibility to manage their communication preferences a little differently from one Xanterra brand to the next, but the underlying guiding principles never change. We still secure and treat a customer’s data like it’s gold. We never sell it – ever,” says Heltzel.

Build A Trust Relationship Using First-Party Data

The deepest, most valuable relationships in life are based on an in-depth understanding of the wants and needs of the other person. The more each invests in the relationship, the more mutually beneficial and sustained the relationship becomes. Each must receive value commensurate with the effort put forth. This is true of the relationship between friends and partners and true for a brand and its customers.

The deep understanding of a customer is built on knowing all that is knowable about the person. And the best insights come from first-party data that already exists in any number of silos across the enterprise. The key is to bring all that data together into a golden record or single view of the person that is complete, always up-to-date, accurate and available across all customer touchpoints and all in real-time. By harnessing first-party data, companies have the fuel needed to effectively drive the customer experience engine. The better the data, the better the insights gained, and the better the outcomes will be for both parties. Being able to achieve this at the cadence of the customer is key to a brand sustaining relevance to its customer.

Naturally, the more data customers share about themselves, the better this entire cycle works. And this is where it all comes back to a trust relationship. Again, in our daily lives, we share more with people we trust. We also know that what we share will be held in confidence by those we trust, or we will cease trusting them and stop sharing. Keeping the commitment to protect and use a customer’s data only in the way that has been mutually agreed is the same principle and is fundamental to having a trust relationship that builds and persists real mutually beneficial value. On the other hand, instead of building brand equity through trust relationships, a brand that breaks that trust, destroys brand equity. Winners will be the most trusted brands. Be one of those!