Trust. I would argue it is the foundation of all relationships – personal, business, and technological.
I think it is safe to say trust is something Boston College and college in general work to teach us. We trust ourselves that even though we only studied 10 minutes rather than the 3 hours we were planning to study that our natural intelligence will help us pass this test. We trust our roommates that they have our back and will bring us the White Mountain they promised. We trust our peers in our clubs in which we may be vulnerable or may rely on each other to get things done.
We also place a lot of trust into social media and digital business. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be getting into the back of people’s cars alone at night to get home from a restaurant or bar or that when I was abroad I would be staying in other people’s houses that I found online, I would have appreciated you thinking I was that easygoing and adventurous and would also have laughed in your face.
We wear FitBits and Apple Watches that track more personal information than ever before.
We trust the Internet with our information even though I swear if I even think about something, it then pops up on my suggested Instagram followers and all over my computer.
Where is the boundary for companies like Apple and Google to share our information? We trust them to keep it private, but what about when it may contain information that is could harm our safety?
Digital business is endlessly connected and constantly changing, so how do companies and technologies garner people’s trust?
Accenture argues with the new digital world and its increase in scale, trust has become the cornerstone of the digital economy. In Accenture’s Trust in the Digital Age study, 80% of customers said they won’t do business with companies they don’t trust. In this digital era, companies have to consider customer trust at every level of the data supply chain – from collection, aggregation, sharing and analysis, to monetization, storage, and disposal. Managing this data supply chain effectively and in a way that protects customers and gains their trust can have a decisive impact on reputation and effectiveness. How companies manage, secure, and share the data they capture has become a competitive advantage and a determinant of profitable customer relationships. Companies that are able to gain customers’ trust are able to capture the most valuable customer data and work toward full digital business potential.
Accenture argues customer trust in a digital business is built on digital ethics and security. They recommend that in order to gain customers’ trust, companies must:
- Elevate trust to the C-Suite – choose leaders capable of creating a culture of transparency
- Rewrite the trust equation – identify and strengthen elements of trust to gain customer confidence
- Keep customers at the center – capture only necessary data and use it to enhance customer experience
- Embed trust into the fabric of the organization – put trust at the center of customer strategies and operating models
- Make trust a cornerstone of partnership models – establish common ethical standards and technical safeguards for all ecosystem participants
Companies must take preemptive action to reduce digital risk and gain customer trust. If companies wait to address their data ethics and policies until something goes wrong, they expose themselves to digital and reputational risk. For example, in 2014, Facebook experimented with the emotional impact of negative news stories on 700,000 users, violating informed consent, which made headlines and forced them to issue an apology. As a result of the public outrage, Facebook changed their data policies.
In another example, in January, Lyft released a statement that they were looking into allegations that employees misuse customer data, and potentially abuse information like locations and phone numbers.
Companies such as AT&T, Coca-Cola, Verizon, Google, and Mazda are taking preemptive steps to gain customer trust through data ethics and security improvements. In order to ensure high data integrity, in November 2017, AT&T and Amazon Web Servies (AWS) announced a set of solutions to improve cloud security for their joint business customers.
Through taking these actions to gain customers’ trust across all channels, companies are able to maximize data, reduce risk, disrupt their own markets and enter new ones, and set themselves apart from competitors.
This research has caused me to be more aware of how I place trust into companies and lean more into the discomfort I feel at times with the way my data is captured and used. Just as we push for trust in our personal relationships, I think we must push for and demand this same level of trust in our digital relationships.