Part 1: Trust, the currency of experience

Team working in the office.

The why of trust

The success of an organisation is becoming increasingly dependent on a solid foundation of trust. Trust is also the foundation of both data collection and content engagement. This series explores how trust supports and influences the key pillars of successful data and content strategy, but for Part 1, let’s talk trust.

Static card: "Within what has become a data-driven economy, it's clear that trust is no longer just a survey question to ask but a business imperative to deliver on."

Within what has become a data-driven economy, it's clear that trust is no longer just a survey question to ask but a business imperative to deliver on. Research conducted by Forrester, Edelman and the OAIC, among other sources, has given us unique insights into the impact trust has on an organisation's success – something that is based largely on relationships with customers, employees, partners and regulatory institutions.

The puzzle of trust

Firstly, what is trust? According to ‘Measuring Relationships in Public Relations’, a co-authored publication by Linda Hon and James E. Grunig, trust is defined as "One party’s level of confidence in and willingness to open oneself to the other party", for which they defined three dimensions to trust; Integrity, Dependability and Competence.

Forrester expands and evolves these dimensions into what they call the 'Seven Levers Of Trust', namely: accountability, competency, consistency, dependability, empathy, integrity & transparency.

All these dimensions or 'levers' are important; however, it may be debatable which takes priority for your organisation and industry. Regardless, with more boards introducing a mandate on trust, what should the executive leadership team be doing to ensure success in this regard?

Static card: "Building and maintaining trust is not only a collaborative effort but also a shared responsibility."

The CEO may establish and commit to a clear set of ethical principles to be embedded within the business (empathy/integrity); build and maintain a transparency framework for visibility of such principles in action (transparency/competence); embed methods of measurement which are tied to compensation (accountability/consistency); ensure success can be both monitored and benchmarked over time (competence/dependability).

With these fundamentals in place, we must turn to the rest of the C-Suite and ask how they can instil and maintain customer trust. And with that question, we may hear a variety of answers. For example, if we were to ask the Chief Information and/or Technology Office (CIO/CTO) how can we instil trust in our customers, we may hear something like, "It's about ensuring security, governance and establishing ethical innovation practices".

On the other hand, if we were to ask the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), we may hear something like "brand presence" or "brand reputation". The Chief Experience Officer (CXO) may perhaps quote Adobe's Trust Report 2022, which found that 46 percent of participants say that both in-person and digital experience are important in gaining their trust, so "we must continue to improve and deliver great customer experiences". Lastly, the Chief privacy officer (CPO) may say it's about providing clear policies and understandable terms of service, along with tools allowing customers to manage opt-in/out across various dimensions of consent.

The interesting thing is they'd all be right, each of their suggestions simply being pieces of the same puzzle. This suggests that building and maintaining trust is not only a collaborative effort but also a shared responsibility.

It's important to note that none of the above suggests trust is built on providing discounts or offers to customers. Instead, it's listening to and anticipating their needs, delivering not just the 'next best offer' but the 'next best conversation', providing the right experiences in accordance with the established principles while maintaining the dialogue throughout the relationship. It's about providing transparency and clarity when you didn’t have to. It's being presented with the opportunity to do wrong by your customer but choosing the opposite path.

The journey of trust

Above, we explored the importance of trust, how it may be defined and the roles and responsibilities of the executive leadership for successfully gaining and maintaining trust. In Part 2 and Part 3 of these posts, we will look at the journey and measurement of trust, along with the capabilities and tools that may need to be considered to build and maintain trust.