By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
Nearly every business is amid some sort of transformation today. The two most common forms we discuss here are digital transformation and business transformation, in the sense of evolving the company’s go-to-market and customer value proposition. What I want to discuss today is the critical role that trust plays in the success of transformation and the importance of prioritizing the development of trust among your employees, your customers, and with the technology you invest in.
As this Deloitte article, Ethical Technology and Trust, states, “In what we recognize as an emerging trend, some companies are approaching trust not as a compliance or public relations issue but as a business-critical goal to be pursued—one that can differentiate them in an increasingly complex and overfilled market. Every aspect of a company that is disrupted by technology represents an opportunity to gain or lose trust with customers, employees, partners, investors, and/or regulators.”
Building a Culture of Trust
I believe the focus on trust must start internally. If your customers don’t trust the company vision, top-level company leadership, or their individual managers, building trust with customers becomes nearly impossible. A culture of top-down mandates and forcefulness is a thing of the past – you need to focus on how you build a culture of engagement and satisfaction, and trust is fundamental.
This Harvard Business Review article, The Neuroscience of Trust, reveals that “Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.”
Looking at these statistics, you can imagine how a high-trust culture pays off in business-model or digital transformation. Employees who are engaged and satisfied and who trust their leadership buy into the vision being presented and work more energetically toward the desired outcome – versus trying to pull the weight of a low-trust culture along.
When it comes to digital transformation specifically, the Deloitte article references earlier suggests considering the emotions of your employees and handling their concerns transparently. The article says, “Give employees a reason to trust. Much of the anxiety over AI and other advanced technologies stems from the fear of the displacement of labor. From an ethical perspective, this presents business leaders with a challenge: balancing the best interests of the business, the employees, and the wider community and society. It’s a task made more complex by the fact that advanced technology systems are not self-sufficient. While AI can replace some jobs, for example, it creates others that often require specialized skills and training. Companies can build trust with employees by advising them how technology may affect their jobs in the future. This could include retraining workers whose roles may evolve and who will likely work with automated systems.”
Business Growth is Contingent Upon Trust
While an internal culture of trust should be priority number one, building trust with your customers is equally important – the company culture comes first only because it fuels the success of your external efforts. Today’s customers have options – and their expectations are high, with trust being the barrier to entry. Just to earn business, let alone evolve or expand it, customers expect you to keep your word good, meet your commitments, and get the job done.
According to PwC’s Trust in Business Survey, 49% of consumers started purchasing or purchased more from a company because of trust. So, for companies looking to transform their business models from product provider to As-a-Service, or from break-fix to outcomes-based, this evolution isn’t conceivable without a strong foundation of trust. For a customer to want to invest in a new, different, expanded relationship with your company, they must have a deep level of trust in your understanding of their needs, your commitment, and your abilities.
From a digital perspective, technology has the ability to strengthen trust with your customers – or break it. You need to ensure you are applying ample attention, and investment, to your digital initiatives to ensure you achieve the former.
Invest in Technology You Can Trust
While the emphasis on trust should be weighted toward your employees and customers, your technology investments are a through-line that – when executed well – can help you build that trust. Today’s digital landscape is exciting in the sense that it is more sophisticated and intelligent than ever, but also overwhelming in that it is more complex.
The key to building a digital ecosystem you can trust is to focus on minimizing that complexity. As the Deloitte article states, one important aspect is a strong foundation. The article says, “Build a strong data foundation. Without methodically and consistently tracking what data you have, where it lives, and who can access it, you cannot create an environment of trust. A strong data foundation unifies stakeholders around a single vision of data accountability and delivers on secure technology that supports effective data management.”
Consider business needs and don’t be distracted by what’s “cool” simply because it’s cool. Be cognizant of failure points – streamlining as much as you can into a single platform helps to keep the employee and customer experience smooth and data integrity high. Start with solid execution of core elements, and only then look for opportunities to add more sophistication and automation. And get feedback as you go! Asking your employees and your customers for their input is a great way to strengthen trust (as long as they see their insights put to use). You can find some more great advice from our recent podcast guest Dr. Haroon Abbu, VP of Digital, Data, and Analytics at Bell and Howell who, in 2021, co-authored the book TRUST: The Winning Formula for Digital Leaders – A Practical Guide for Companies Engaged in Digital Transformation.
What Drives Trust?
If you’re wondering what drives trust, I’d start with reflecting on what drives trust for you. What helps you to trust an organization – or even an individual? Are those concepts reflected in your company culture, your customer relationships, and your partnerships with technology providers?
For some external perspective, PwC reported in its Trust in Business Survey what respondents said were the top drivers of trust in company (asked of both employees and consumers). The top six responses were:
- Accountable to customers and employees – 50%
- Clear communications – 48%
- Admits to mistakes – 40%
- Delivers consistent customer experience – 39%
- Appropriate employee compensation – 32%
- Protects customer and employee data – 29%
Each of these characteristics sound simple at face value but have varying degrees of complexity when it comes to the realities of execution. No matter the effort it takes, though, prioritizing trust is key to accomplishing the objectives we have in digital and business transformation.