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Before building an experience based on data, you’ve got to earn trust

Susan Etlinger
ThinkstockPhotos-478126393

A few years ago, I started thinking about how data informs the customer experience. The catalyst was simple; I was frustrated with my fitness tracker, and felt deluged by a stream of numbers that weren't particularly helpful (the dashboards sure were pretty though).

Part of the issue was that all the design energy had gone into the physical device. For the time, it was cool and sleek. But syncing it was clunky, and it featured a proprietary metric that may have been useful for branding purposes but did nothing for me personally. So if insight was supposed to be core to the product, the product had failed, at least for me. But wearable devices aren't the only products in which data experience is critical. Insight has become an expectation, an essential part of the customer experience overall.

And it's not just the production of data that forms the experience; the way the product consumes data shapes our experience too. We need to trust that our data is being used thoughtfully and ethically, or any insight that it provides is meaningless.

When that relationship is out of balance, people find workarounds. Designers and developers have a love/hate relationship with workarounds. They hate them because they expose flaws, and love them  (one hopes) for the same reason.

If you doubt that trust is part of the customer experience of data, consider these fascinating workarounds:

  • A recent story in Alternet introduced a group of fashion designers and developers committed to helping consumers block facial recognition technology and confuse drones, among other things.
  • The makeup tutorial of your dreams nightmares: artist and film maker Jillian Mayer presents this YouTube video on how to apply makeup to hide from facial recognition apps and surveillance cameras.

If you dismiss these as edge cases, you're well within your rights. But maybe that's just today.

Isn't it worth considering whether and how customers might be signaling distrust of your brand's data experience? If I were Samsung's Smart TV division, I'd look at how many people are disabling voice commands. If I were Facebook, I might look at photo upload rates over time, tagging behavior and changes to privacy controls.

What would you look at? As always, I appreciate your thoughts and comments.