It seems that far too many organisations feel the urge to “do it to” their followers. Everyone from banks through social networking sites to credit card agencies (oh, sorry – they’re banks aren’t they) feels the urge to offer a well-rounded set of clauses that describe their agreement with all kinds of privacy and security. Then they change the agreement.
You sign up to their service (whatever it is) and in return they promise to be fair, to secure your data, to only do what they say (in their terms of service). They also retain the right to vary the terms of service.
Based on a set of agreed conditions, a customer chooses to partake of the services provided by some organisation and as part of that agreement the organisation promises to totally ignore the agreement and change the conditions to such an extent that the customer would never (in their wildest dreams) have ever agreed to the terms in the first place.
All the while, the organisation’s lawyers (like a pack of rabid dogs), ferociously protect the right of the organisation to vary the conditions, while the customer has no such right.
Such an organisation (readers – please tell me of any who are not like this) will insist that the changes are essential to their business model and that services previously provided freely (or at least very cheaply) are unsustainable.
Hint: don’t blame the customer for the weakness in a business model.
In the past, in order to gain access, subscribers of Groupon’s mobile app agreed to the limited use of specific personal information. The new terms expanded the definition of “personal information” and also gleefully exclaimed that such expanded information would also be shared with ‘partners’.
Sometimes, it might be passé, but companies need to understand that they are engaging in a partnership with their customers. In order for those customers to enter into this partnership, they must take on some level of trust in the organisation.
Customers’ trust is based on the premise that the agreement struck will not be modified in any material sense; on a mutual trust that both parties will stick to the agreement.
Clearly the corporation holds all the aces. It matters not that the suite of terms that we agreed to are long gone. Tough – the new agreement is what is.
As some wit once said, a long time ago: “We have a relationship based on Trust and Understanding; we don’t trust them, and they don’t understand us.”