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What the Facebook data scandal taught businesses about customer experience

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By Sameet Gupte, CEO, Servion Group

In the world of customer experience, the recent Facebook data breach scandal has resulted in a lot of discussion around customer privacy. Companies, all over the world, are talking about how trust plays a pivotal role in the relationships they build with customers.

The first step to offering a superior and relevant experience to customers is building trust in their minds that, in turn, sets their expectations. It leads to positive outcomes such as greater loyalty, higher revenue, and consistent referrals. Brands get what they give, as far as trust is concerned.

Even though Facebook was not ultra-quick to respond to the scandal, they are trying to regain the trust of their users.It is now critical for them to focus on continuously creating opportunities to reinforce it. However, in this digital-first day and age, it is easier said than done. With new channels emerging for customers to reach out and interact with brands, negative feedback is merely a click away. Unless they are proactive about building trust across their entire CX ecosystem, that they may erode the level of trust that they share with customers.

Humanizing the experience
On the Sunday after, Facebook started their apology tour by publishing an apology note – written by Mark Zuckerberg –in leading newspapers across the world. Written in a plain black text, with a tiny Facebook logo in the background, the founder addressed the situation in a personal way. “I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time”, he wrote.

When breaches of trust cause a breakage in brand promise, brands should not try too hard to hand-hold customers through the situation.In fact, pushing official statements that evoke neither empathy nor offer reasonable clarity can backfire. Instead, they should empathize with how customers have perceived the situation, and accordingly communicate before starting to rebuild the trust that they had lost.

Next-gen and the art of listening
Today’s customers want to be proactively listened to, not reactively spoken down to. Whether over the phone, through chat or across social media – they want to be heard. An important part of this is customer feedback management. Eastbridge Consulting Group research states that 70% of complaining customers will do business with a brand if the issue is resolved in their favor.

Acting on customer complaints gives brands a chance to redeem themselves; to turn a negative incident into a positive and reaffirming interaction. Improvements can be monitored too, thereby making it a model for continuously scaling up the experience.

The Internet sat up and paid a lot of attention to Zuckerberg’s apology note. Along the way, it has collected tons of feedback – good, bad and the ugly. Now, it is up to them to ensure effective communication so that their customers, every one of them, feel that they can be trusted again.

A quick customer-first response helps in building a strong comeback. Depending on how customers react to it, the next step should be taken. If there is a lack of clarity in communication, it should be addressed in the follow-up. Customers, these days, expect nothing less.Working alongside with them to resolve issues can only make the bond stronger.

A year of reckoning for customer experience
The other big news in the world of data privacy is that Europe has taken a firm stance by instituting the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) framework. It will be challenging times, especially for the e-commerce industry. But, it also presents opportunities for companies all over the world to sit up and take notice of how customers may be perceiving a crucial part of the experience – trust.

According to a prediction by Forrester, 2018 will be a year of reckoning for many brands. In a recently-published report, they talk about how “firms born with or driving customer-led, digitally centered strategies are separating themselves from the pack” and why “digital platforms are increasingly dis-intermediating brands, separating them from customers”.

It is an inconvenient truth that controversies, as history seems to indicate, are often catalysts for initiating change. In the world of customer experience, they force companies to reinvent the way they approach their customers. From MySpace LinkedIn, Yahoo, Dropbox and Uber to retail and governmental agencies, data breaches have been unfortunate reminders to businesses of all sizes that they need to step up their game in delivering great experiences.

The biggest lesson to be learnt from the Facebook data scandal is that the rules of experience have not changed. Trust leads to loyalty, which results in a better experience for customers, and a good experience shows them that they matter.

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