The more a company uses data, the more it can build personalized experiences and engender trust on a micro―individual customer―level. And that’s a good thing. But, something to consider: the more micro data is shared within an organization and throughout an ecosystem, the greater the likelihood of macro trust incidences that negatively impact a company’s image.

There is an inherent tension between micro and macro trust. Companies that strive to balance this trust equation will maximize revenues through increased customer loyalty and competitive differentiation, while minimizing trust incidents—thus positioning trust as the new currency for customer experience.

There is an inherent tension between micro and macro trust.

Striking the balance

The sharing and use of data—across an ecosystem of companies—allows for improved customer experiences, but at the same time increases exposure to (data-related) macro trust incidents.

When companies take a hit on trust, they take a hit financially. Accenture Strategy found that on average, a material drop in trust leads to a six percent decline in revenue growth and a ten percent decline in EBITDA growth. For a US$25B company, that translates into a loss of US$1.5B in future revenue.

The optimal balance depends on the industry, risks versus rewards, and the sensitivity of customer data. Sharing genetic or medical data is obviously more sensitive than sharing hotel preferences. Because of the nature of the data, such companies will need to provide greater incentives to their customers and a higher level of micro trust.

The bottom line on trust

54% of companies on the Accenture Strategy Competitive Agility experienced a material drop in trust and conservatively lost out on US $180B in revenue.


Segmenting on trust

Segmentation is all about demographics, psychographics, geography and behavior. Today, businesses can complement these variables by segmenting their customers based on trust and the willingness to share data. This dynamic of sharing and enhancing service increases micro trust levels as customers see their data is being translated into tangible value.

While companies work to segment by trust and introduce different levels of personalization, it is critical to have offerings that are attractive, not intrusive. Providers should align the experience with their brand, making values such as simplicity, personalization and service excellence tangible for customers.

Seventy-nine percent of consumers are frustrated when companies fail to use personal information to make offerings more relevant.

The fine line between useful and creepy

As companies move toward “market of one” interactions and personalized offers, they must toe the line between “useful” and “creepy”—and bear in mind that this line will be drawn differently for each person.

Millennials, for instance, are generally more trusting. They are used to sharing personal information and will reveal more if they feel a reciprocated improvement in their brand experience. But over time, they are likely to expect greater innovation in return for handing over their data.

Organizations need to design for transparency to clearly demonstrate what’s in it for the customer, ensuring that the data value exchange is fair to them. Transparent design means clearly demonstrating the value both the data owner and data user can gain and designing products and services to give the individual greater control.

A healthy trust tension

From farming to pharma, no industry is immune to trust incidents. What can companies do to better balance this equation and have a healthy trust tension?

Be better than you have to be

Companies have an obligation to strengthen trust whether industry or governmental bodies mandate it. “Better than you have to be,” means staying ahead of regulatory curves and going the distance to protect and preserve trust. As companies innovate and broaden their ecosystem, they will be driven to introduce technology improvements faster than regulation and should couple that with aggressive transparency and security to become trust leaders.

Improve top line through micro trust

Leading companies solicit data and treat customers differently based on their investment in privacy. Leverage macro trust to justify enhanced data gathering, and deliver high quality, personalized experiences. And shape a virtuous circle of more customer engagement, which leads to more data sharing, more personalized experiences, and ultimately more revenue.

Secure sustainability through macro trust

With corporate ecosystems expanding, the risk of macro trust incidents grows exponentially. Leading companies will invest aggressively to protect customer data and imbed ethical and sustainable decision making into the heart of their choices. That requires establishing best practices, clearly communicating them, and monitoring progress throughout the extended ecosystem.

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Shivani Vora

Managing Director – Innovation Lead, North America

Rachel Barton

Senior Managing Director – Accenture Strategy Lead, Europe

Ajay Easo

Managing Director – Accenture Interactive and Fjord


The bottom line on trust
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