Is your business thinking enough about trust?

Kicking off a season of articles about the business of trust, Zone CSO Jonathan Simmons looks at how people are shifting their faith away from institutions…

Granary Square

A wise man once shared with me the secret of a good life, likening it to a great piano concerto, in which the quality of the performance is determined not by the notes, but by the pauses between the notes.

With so much rapid change driven by technology, it is sometimes difficult to stop and take a look at its impact on our lives. I don’t mean the simple things like being able to order a pizza with one touch, or being able to hold a meeting with 17 people simultaneously from all over the world; rather, the big trends, like the growth of citizen movements, the impact on mental health or the democratisation of information.

Trust is one of these big themes and one we at Zone are going to spend the next few weeks talking about. There will be a couple of Digital Distractions, some longer articles and, next week, a breakfast session with Rachel Botsman, whose new book, Who Can You Trust? explores how trust in society is shifting because of technology. In her book, Rachel points out how we’re becoming more suspicious about the very foundations of our society – established businesses, governments and charities – but yet are much more prepared to place trust in strangers and individuals. She brilliantly highlights the fact that, as children, we were all told not to get in a stranger’s car, but that is exactly what we do every day with Uber or BlaBlaCar.

This breakdown of trust is having a very real impact and forcing governments to act, and I wonder if we are taking this shift seriously enough. As many of our clients ramp up for the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May next year (a direct result of the change in our trust of institutions), I am shocked at how blasé some of them are about the impact of not being able to talk to millions of customers. Or how little our clients are thinking about how the introduction of blockchains beyond currency will impact their businesses. Blockchain has, at its heart, the idea of trusting technology more than institutions. 

Is your business thinking enough about trust? Because if you’re not thinking about what trust means in your business, in your relationship with your customer, are you really prepared for the future? In the book, Rachel highlights how trust is the most important element of business for Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, arguably the most successful of the ‘newer’ businesses. She recounts how, in the first minute of his first interview on the day Alibaba went public, Ma mentioned the word ‘trust’ eight times. 

This is not following the old mantras of ‘putting the customer first’ or ‘the customer is always right’; this is deeper than that, it is about the relationship you have with your customer. It is about realising that the age of consumers unthinkingly placing their trust in institutions and companies is long gone, and that it is incumbent on you to earn and keep their trust, their loyalty and their advocacy in the digital world.

We’ll be talking about this more, and reporting from the breakfast session with Rachel, in next week’s Digital Distractions.