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Trust: the basis of every successful relation

In today’s digital age, trust is the currency that underpins our interactions with technology. We willingly grant permissions, share personal data, and rely on online services, all built on a foundation of trust. A rapidly evolving business landscape blurs physical boundaries. The question arises: What are the key elements of trust, and how can organizations win back their customers’ confidence?

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When you install a new application on our device, you probably automatically approve the permissions it asks for.  When you use a service online you pass it your personal information.  These are all acts of trust: trust that your information will be used correctly, trust that it will be stored safely, trust that you receive the service level you requested.  

A 2023 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (pwc) has revealed that although over 92% of consumers believe that trust adds value to the relation with an organization, only 27% trust the organizations they do business with.  In a time where business deals fly across the ether and the brick-and-mortar economy is disappearing; what are the main concerns around trust, and what can you do to gain the trust of your customers? 

Dr. Brene Brown breaks trust into seven elements: boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, non-judgement, and generosity (acronym BRAVING).  Breaking down trust in these components, one can identify main areas of concern for customers and ways to mitigate them:

Boundaries: We trust that our vendor will only act within the areas that we consent

Reliability: We trust that we will constantly receive the same level of service that we are expecting from our vendor

Accountability: When things go wrong, we trust that the vendor will make the right amends

Vault: We trust that data will not be shared without our consent

Integrity: We choose a vendor based on our shared values, and trust they will stick to them even when things are difficult

Nonjudgment: We trust in having a transparent communication without feeling judged

Generosity: We trust the vendor will act on our behalf when we need them

Trust is difficult to earn and easy to lose; once lost, with the number of competitive products, it is difficult to regain.  In response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, around 40% of surveyed Facebook users said they would leave the platform (NBC news April 2018).  

As a vendor, how can show that we can be trusted?  There are two forms of trust, and both are equally important to achieve to have a sustained trusted relationship: cognitive and affective trust.

Cognitive trust 

Cognitive refers to rationality, competence, and reliability.  When relating to business this involves criteria such as customer reviews, industry reputation and evaluation of internal operations.  

Contracts are a typical example for enforcing cognitive trust, by outlining the boundaries and accountabilities of a relationship. Today’s electronic tools, particularly smart contracts, have made this far easier to uphold these obligations.

Audits and certifications, such as the ISO 9000 family of standards, set a standard framework for communicating the historical performance, and ambitions of a company.

While these are all good, there is however a catch.

As a customer: How many times have you read and understood all the Terms and Conditions before accepting to purchase a service?  How clear is the recourse when a contract is breached?

As a vendor, you could be legally obligated to perform acts of cognitive trust, but how strongly do they contribute to adding value to your company?

Affective trust

Affective trust deals with emotions and shared values.  In the light of Antennagate, Apple worked hard and spent millions to successfully retain its customers; but one of the first things they did was take accountability – admit that they had a flaw.

A collaborative approach with customers, with open communication and responsiveness for their unique needs is a game changer. Culture expect that you share their values and are willing to help them; the company culture should embrace this need and reflect this in its relationships with the stakeholders.

With today’s multitude of possibilities for communication, customers have many channels to communicate publicly or privately with your organization.  It is vital to be able to filter the noise from the signals and be responsive to achieve affective trust.  The tooling is there to help, customer sentiment analysis and automation tools can help triage the cases effectively to the right course of action.

In ‘The Five Disfunctions of a Team’, we learn that trust is the basis of any team that is willing to succeed.  Without trust, the whole structure collapses.  A long-standing customer to vendor relationship will eventually lead to a degree of collaboration.  Even tech-giants like Microsoft have opened the doors to the open-source community to collaborate with tooling and documentation.

Driven by our enthusiasm for building lasting communities, Elevate-tech puts affective trust at the forefront of our interactions and look forward to be a part of your success story. 

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