Privacy Advisor

A Q&A with Dr. Martha Rogers, IAPP Privacy Academy 2006 Keynote Speaker

October 1, 2006

The Privacy Advisor interviewed Dr. Martha Rogers, one of the world's leading experts
on customer-based business strategies and growing customer value.

The Privacy Advisor (TPA): You have an impressive list of Fortune 500 clients. How do you help them leverage privacy as a way to enhance the customer relationship and build trust in their brands?

Rogers: We believe that privacy is the most tangible form of trust - so how customers perceive the trustworthiness of the whole organization is very likely to hinge on how they perceive the attitude and delivery of data privacy and security. We help them analyze the role of the Chief Privacy Officer and to look at responsible information stewardship and all that that entails, and the impact that may have on daily decisions in the organization.

TPA: What are the principles of the responsible information stewardship process?

Rogers: Education and awareness for employees and customers. Monitoring privacy process and policy through the organization. Process management, including scorecards, external verification and security technologies. And finally, redress and enforcement, including the formal mechanism that employees and consumers can follow if they think they have a problem.

TPA: How do you or a company measure whether a commitment to privacy actually does grow customer value and the bottom line?

We measure the strength of the relationship - the level of trust that a customer has in the company. Privacy is a part of that. And our goal, using Return on Customer, is to understand the value that every customer brings to the relationship today and the value that every customer brings to an organization tomorrow - and an important part of that is the trust in the relationship.

TPA: What are some of the privacy and security threats that you anticipate becoming more of an issue with advances in technology and e-commerce?

Rogers: The spammers and the phishers and the hackers will continue to assault us and what that means is that we have to provide not just data protection, but protection of the relationship that we have with customers. We have to look out for them in ways that they can't. I think that what's going to happen is that we are going to see assaults through a rising number of hot spots and new media such as mobile phones. Many companies will use these highly interactive and potentially intrusive devices very carefully, but many will not. And every time a company doesn't, then two things happen - first, it will leave the technology more vulnerable to the clever pirates and robbers, and second, there's a possibility of resentment toward all companies and all use of the medium.

TPA: What privacy and security concerns are dominating the corporate agendas?: Most companies are preoccupied with compliance and public relations issues when the real opportunities and the more important issue is making the most of the data from customers and building the trusting relationship with them.

TPA: Are companies mostly reactive when it comes to privacy - for example after a security breach - or is there a trend toward proactive privacy strategies?

I'd love to say that there is a strong trend toward proactive privacy strategies. But I think that most companies see themselves as reacting after a privacy breach and after legislation is put into place. If we were to handle the privacy issues within our companies properly, then first of all, we would not have so many security breaches and second, we would probably obviate the need for legislation. In a perfect world we would not need any more privacy legislation because companies would be ahead of what the legislators believe would have to be put in place.

TPA: What do you think the level of trust is among American consumers when it comes to corporations' ability to protect their information?

I think it depends on the corporation. It's an important potential differentiator. I think that most customers don't trust most companies to look out for their best interests across the board. Privacy is just a part of that.

TPA: What do you emphasize when advising your clients?

Rogers: Basically the main idea is that all value for an organization is derived from its customers. Products don't pay us money. Brands don't pay us money. And therefore the decisions that we make about research and development, plant openings and closings, call center investments, and privacy for example, should be made with an idea about whether that decision will increase or decrease the value of the customers.

TPA: What are some of the key points you made when speaking with privacy pros this month at the IAPP Privacy Academy 2006?

Rogers: The best experience that a customer gets is not the one that we give all customers. It's the one that we give to that customer in order to provide the best experience for each customer. To be as competitive as possible, we need individual customer information, and we will not get it unless we protect privacy, secure data and get customers comfortable giving us that information.

Dr. Rogers is an acclaimed author, a world-class speaker and a founding partner of Peppers & Rogers Group, the world's leading customer-focused management consulting firm with a roster of Fortune 500 clients. Peppers and Rogers Group is a division of Carlson Marketing Worldwide.