Client Trust: Privacy, Perception and Personalisation

Published 13 March 2020

The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Report reveals that people today grant their trust to institutions and organisations based on their perception of competence (delivering on promises) and ethical behaviour (doing the right thing and working to improve society).

How customers spend is also increasingly connected to the purpose and values of a company – in one report, 83% of Millennials said it was important for the companies they buy from to align with their beliefs and values. At the same time, customers also expect seamless and highly customised experiences[1].

Thus, to grow their trust advantage in the digital decade, companies need to work on three things: Data Privacy, Personalisation and lastly, Brand Perception– as highlighted in IBM’s recently released Global C-Suite Study.

Data Privacy

“Data privacy and transparency are a core concern for consumers and businesses globally,” highlighted Arun Biswas, General Manager, IBM Global Business Services Singapore. “Our survey findings suggest that more business leaders in Singapore need to consider the changing relationship between customers and their data and ensure that they retain their customer’s trust, in order to build the foundation for their future success and avoiding falling behind their peers.”

In comparison to their global counterparts, Singapore CXOs rank data privacy at a very low priority for delivering a competitive advantage. However, with third-party data becoming less acceptable and available, data privacy is being seen by leading companies to be a strategic business advantage[2]. Why? Because customers will only give companies their personal data if they can trust that it will be kept safe.

Companies need to be transparent. Customers want to know how long their data is being kept, how it is being protected and whether it is being used in a responsible manner. They also demand transparency of data associated with products and services offered by organisations. It matters for customers to know where products originate from and how they are processed. They want to read real reviews of the product or service and see if there are third-party accreditations.

This need for transparency also extends to B2B companies—in a recent study[3], 36 percent of B2B buyers did not believe their vendor had given them the full picture during the sales process. One way to gain the trust of B2B buyers, then, is to ensure there is transparency in processes. When businesses share data with their partners, it makes eliminating blind spots and bottlenecks in the supply chain far easier. It also makes it easier for automation, digitalisation and AI capabilities.

Companies need to be accountable. It is, of course, not enough to promise your customers that their data is safe—measures must be taken to deliver on that promise. As the world becomes more digitised and reliant on data, the risks and costs of data breaches climb higher and higher. Thus, security needs to be integrated into every part of the business. Organisations need to invest in and establish governance and policies to protect against cyber-attacks. In this way, they can protect customer trust and brand.


Having a higher purpose and assurance of data privacy and security is not enough. To get access to customer data, companies need to ensure they offer something of value in return.

Companies need to understand how their customers assign value to data. When customers offer their data, they expect something in return. However, companies often do not know what customers consider a fair trade. People are sceptical about the rewards of giving up their personal data. One study found that “telling people that sharing their data will allow for a more personalised experience does not result in a greater willingness to share data”[4]. In another study, 75 per cent of those surveyed believe that sharing their data benefited businesses more than customers[5].

Companies need to put control back into the customer’s hands. Customers are beginning to expect full control and ownership of their personal data. Organisations need to think about how they can use data to increase interactions with customers in a way that is both “less intrusive and more relevant”[6]. One way that companies are already doing this is through self-sovereign identity models that allow users to control their personal data, allowing them to provide proof of their identity and claims without the company keeping their data. For example, customers would be able to open a bank account without the bank knowing their personal details – the self-sovereign system is a blockchain, decentralised one, so the system automatically verifies the details without keeping the data.

Brand Perception

Trust is built based on how people perceive your organisation. When customers have access to information at their fingertips and have the power to give reviews and feedback on public platforms, brand perception is not just about marketing and advertising. Furthermore, with changing expectations for companies to do good beyond only earning a profit, brand perception is also built on organisational purpose and stakeholder impact. A study found that 92% of respondents would be more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental issues. The same study also found that people were more likely to purchase from companies that have a social or environmental purpose.

Companies need to re-evaluate their purpose. With more and more people concerned with how their actions and choices impact the world, customers are increasingly more selective about which companies they engage with. This year, the World Economic Forum held their annual conference in Davos with the title ‘Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’, a clear signal that business as usual is no longer enough.

People are making their voices heard through campaigns, strikes and movements. They are speaking with their pocketbooks as well – 76 per cent of respondents in a consumer study said they would boycott a company if they learned that the company supported an issue contrary to their beliefs. Businesses can no longer cling on to the illusion that they exist in a vacuum and only answer to their shareholders. It is increasingly clear that how they conduct themselves and their purpose has a direct impact on their financial, social and environmental sustainability. They need to point to a larger purpose, for the betterment of the world around them, instead of their bottom lines and profit margins.

Companies need to produce valuable insights. Customers and clients want to know what kind of organisation you are before they even purchase from you. The easiest way to do so is to look at the content your organisation produces – this is especially important for B2B organisations.

In Edelman and LinkedIn’s B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, 89 percent of the Decision-Makers surveyed said that good quality thought leadership enhanced their respect, perception of capability and trust of an organisation. On the flip side, low-quality content is a risk to organisations: 27 percent said that reading its thought leadership has directly led them not to award business to an organisation. B2B companies are missing out on opportunities when they do not pay attention to creating a thought leadership culture within the organisation.

Trust has always been crucial for society and business, and it is more critical now than ever before. The companies that understand how to grow that trust with their customers – through data privacy and security, personalised customer experiences and strong brand purpose and perception – will be the ones that will have sustainable success into the future.

However, growing a trust advantage goes beyond customer relationships. It also has to do with how data-friendly your enterprise is and how empowered your employees are. In the next article, we will look at how companies can ensure they have the capabilities and culture for data-driven strategies to thrive.

Next Article

[1] IBM Institute for Business Value. “Build Your Trust Advantage: Leadership in the era of data and AI everywhere”

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ellett, John. “B2B Buyers Don’t Trust Vendors— And That Is A Huge Opportunity for Marketers.” Forbes. October 10, 2018. https://www.forbes. com/sites/johnellett/2018/10/10/ b2b-buyers-dont-trust-vendors-and-that-is-ahuge-opportunity-for-marketers/#1616ea146a01

[4] “2nd Annual ARF Privacy Study.” Advertising Research Foundation. August 2019.

[5] Sterling, Greg. “Survey: 58% will share personal data under the right circumstances.” Marketing Land. June 20, 2018.

[6] IBM Institute for Business Value. “Build Your Trust Advantage: Leadership in the era of data and AI everywhere”

[7]Edelman and LinkedIn. “2020 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study”.

Start your Leadership Journey Today

Let HCLI be your trusted partner to facilitate organisational progression through multi-level leadership development.