In 2016, the Center for the Future of Work released The Business Value of Trust, a report highlighting how and why established brands lose consumer trust. Fast-forward to today, the situation has worsened—in fact, one of the most debated topics at this year's Davos World Economic Forum was the way in which the rapid pace of technological change is increasing convenience for users, while simultaneously undermining their trust. Consumers' trust in brands is at an all-time low, and data breaches continue to rise at an astounding rate, often with far-reaching consequences. With major regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and ePrivacy upon us, it is clear that people are beginning to take action to protect their privacy.
The biggest threat to companies today is not from competing organisations but from their own ability to win and keep consumer trust. Trust is the new competitive differentiator and "Return on Trust" is the new digital economy imperative.
In order to turn these trust issues upside down, companies need to develop a proactive trust strategy. This two-part article series will help you develop a trust strategy by providing a simple framework to assess where you are today and where you want to be, while also providing a sample of the steps you can take to get there.
So, let's get started.
Where Are We Today?
This is the first question you must ask and answer. It sets the context for how far you have to progress if you're going to achieve your objectives and make trust a competitive advantage.
An effective way to answer this question is to conduct a trust-gap analysis. This type of analysis will help you determine which of your business activities are currently earning trust and which are eroding it.
Our suggestion is to take a multi-stakeholder view. Trust impacts your team, partners, suppliers, and of course, your customers.
Where Do We Want to Be in the Future?
The purpose of answering this question is to recognize the type of relationship you wish to have with your customers at some point in the future. When answering, you will need to consider how your trustworthiness impacts your culture, workflows, and your products and services.
The description you establish from this question will become your true north. It will inform your business strategy, roadmap, and units of measure.
What is Our Plan (Strategy) for Closing the Gap?
To close the trust gap, you need to ensure your strategy can be practically translated for multiple stakeholder groups. It needs to be meaningful across the organisation, otherwise you risk falling victim to the strategy execution gap.
Practically, this plan will articulate how to amplify the areas of your business that currently earn trust, while mitigating the impact, or better yet, completely eradicating the areas of your business that currently erode trust.
A good example of this can be seen in AirBnB's efforts to design for trust.
What Must We Do (Roadmap) to Execute Our Plan?
Once you have established your plan, you then need to decide who will execute it and how they will do so. When making these decisions, it is important to remember that there will likely be multiple stakeholders in the room. This is a participatory effort, so give ownership to the people best qualified to execute the strategy and deliver a "Return on Trust" across the business.
How Will We Know (Unit of Measure) if We're There?
Your progress towards achieving the future state you've defined will be fluid. The way you measure progress should be no different. You may choose to define a collective "Return on Trust" metric or you may instead choose to focus on individual metrics, like Customer Data Trust.
So, What Comes Next?
It's important to balance both qualitative and quantitative research across attitudinal and behavioral dimensions. Sometimes what people do conflicts with what they say, and understanding ‘why' can help you amplify the impact of your trust strategy more quickly.
In Part 2 of this series, we will detail three plays you can use across critical aspects of your strategy. These distinct plays will help you frame a better picture of the market, get closer to your customers, and quickly evolve how you design trustworthy products and services.