A businessman walking a tightrope - AI, personalization vs privacy concept
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Editor's Note: This is part 3 of a 4 part series on customer experience, sponsored by NICE.

In the contact center, AI-powered technologies like Predictive Behavioral Routing are helping companies make personal connections with customers by pairing them with the best employee based on personality, behavioral characteristics and interaction history. But with rising concerns over data privacy and security, consumers can be wary of allowing companies to collect the data that helps companies provide these personalized experiences.

According to PWC, only 25 percent of consumers believe companies responsibly handle their personal information. Worse, only 15 percent think companies will use that data to improve their lives in some way.

On the flip side, if an organization can provide relevant experiences for consumers while still respecting their privacy, customers value them more. Research by Accenture shows that 88 percent of consumers say companies that provide personalized experiences without compromising their trust are more appealing and can relate to their needs better than others.

But creating the perfect balance between personalization and privacy is easier said than done. According to Eran Liron, CMO at NICE, it all comes down to trust. He offered his view in a recent TechRadar article:

“Building trust is an ongoing task. One that requires organizations to be more transparent and more accountable with their customers’ data. Eventually, offering better privacy will be a gauge of trust and can be the next competitive differentiator.”

Related Article: How Innovative Technologies Are Making Customer Interactions Human Again

Gaining Consumer Trust in an AI-Powered World

Here are some ways you can provide better customer experiences through AI while earning the trust consumers demand.

1. Stay Transparent

One of the most important ways to build customer trust is to clearly let customers know how you collect data, what that data will be used for, and how long that data will be stored. Although many companies already have these items covered in their privacy policy, some are still leaving customers in the dark when it comes to AI and their data. According to Constellation Research on AI, 23 percent of businesses that have adopted AI don’t have a privacy policy.

But simply having a policy isn’t enough. You need to be sure it’s written in language both consumers and employees understand, and is easily accessible by all. In addition to being a requirement under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the recent California Consumer Privacy Act, being open and honest about how you handle a customer’s sensitive information will go a long way in building the trust that drives customer loyalty.

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2. Educate Your Customers

AI can be a scary proposition for consumers because many have no idea how the technology works. So, in addition to covering your bases with a privacy policy, you should be able to explain to customers in common language how you’re using AI in your contact center. Don’t get too detailed, but do give them enough information so they can get better understand how you go about securing your data so they’ll feel more confident about sharing it with you.

For example, if you’re using Predictive Behavioral Routing in your contact center, AI uses personality data to pair customers with an employee behind the scenes. Although the data is never displayed to the employee, the customer still benefits from a more human, personalized customer experience while helping them get their issues resolved in the most efficient, thorough way.

3. Use and Store Data Responsibly

Make customer privacy and data security a priority in your business by developing and carrying out strategies that ensure you’re using data in a responsible way. Take a look at the current security and privacy controls used in your contact center and find out where the gaps lie.

First, find out where routing providers process your data. If they process data in countries with limited data privacy laws, it’s probably time to reassess. Also, look for privacy certifications like HIPAA, PCI, SOC 2 Type II, Privacy Shield Framework, ISO and other best-in-class security and privacy controls. If providers don’t have these certifications in place, you may be risking customer data.

Second, when researching solutions, you’ll want to find out more about how data is collected. For example, some providers access consumer data without an individual’s permission such as on Facebook or LinkedIn, or purchase data from third parties without full understanding of how the data was acquired. This type of social scraping may result in counter-productive discriminatory customer experiences or results without your knowledge. In addition, it might be prohibited in industries such as finance, healthcare, and telecom, or may even result in improperly identifying a customer’s demographics, beliefs or health.

Be sure to look at your internal resources, as well. Call center employees should be trained in both information security and web security policies so they can handle customer data in the most responsible, secure way possible. In addition, consider hiring employees in data controller roles to help with staff training, compliance and data audits. Under GDPR, hiring a data protection officer is a requirement.

4. Offer Value

Customers are more willing to hand over their data if they get something in exchange. In fact, 79 percent of consumers say they would be more willing to share their personal information if they received value in return, Deloitte research on privacy concerns.

We see this give-and-take every day when we log into our Netflix accounts and are served up series and movies based on those we’ve already watched. When we visit Amazon and see the perfect product recommendations based on purchases we’ve already made. Or open Spotify and see a list of carefully curated playlists from our favorite artists.

For contact centers, this means using AI to help resolve customer issues on the first call, solve problems in a more efficient manner, provide callers with personalized interactions, and make the overall experience more satisfying and valuable.

Find Your Personalization-Privacy Balance

As consumer expectations continue to rise, you’ll need more of the right kind of data to accommodate their needs. But you’ll only get there if you’re proactive about data privacy and security. By staying transparent, educating your customers, using their data responsibly, and delivering value, you can provide customers with one-of-a-kind experiences, while building the trust that keeps them loyal.