Dan is a 20 year veteran of the ICT industry working for global and local vendors in bringing new and innovative technologies to market in the ANZ region. During his career, Dan has been passionate about bringing a local voice and insights to global technology challenges. As the Editor of GetCyberResilient.com Dan casts a keen eye across the hot topics, trends and pulse of local security practitioners to curate stories from near and far that are most impactful in addressing our evolving risks.
The global digital marketplace is a highly competitive space, and customer expectations are evolving rapidly.
Spoiled for choice, customers are finding it much harder to decide who to trust with their money. Many customers have been burned by fake online businesses, or even legitimate businesses who have been irresponsible with their data.
That’s why maintaining trust and ensuring transparency are emerging as two of the key considerations among technology leaders today. They won’t be able to stay in business without them.
How customer trust is evolving in the digital economy
Traditionally, customers relied on ‘local trust’, looking at their immediate circles and popular opinion to judge whether a business was trustworthy or not. What’s more, in the old days, ‘trust’ was limited to the transaction: the only criteria for trust was if a business could deliver on the customer's immediate need or not.
Today, trust extends far beyond just the transactional aspects of business. Companies can hold customer data for a very long time, which means that even if there was a data breach months after a customer had done any business with a company, it would still impact them, and they would remember that you put them at risk.
That’s why data security is emerging as another criteria by which customers judge trustworthiness. Many customers have their reservations when interacting digitally with a business. With news of hacks, breaches and data leaks dominating the headlines, customers are rightly worried about where their data goes and who handles it. They also expect more concrete proof of trustworthiness from a business before engaging with them.
Implications of trust for businesses
These trends mean that for many companies – particularly those which are digitally-native – trust and reputation becomes the fundamental building block of success, and potentially, a powerful competitive advantage. Companies that can demonstrate their trustworthiness are in a position to not only mitigate harm, but also drive loyalty, revenue and value for their organisations.
Customers respond positively to a company’s artifacts and evidence of their ability to not only deliver the goods, but also being responsible and ethical when handling private information. So much so, that trust becomes an asset and a currency in itself.
The reality is there is a huge ‘trust gap’ in the market right now. Very few companies in any given vertical speak up about their trust credentials, or offer customers any proof of the measures they take to protect them. Organisations that can leverage their data security practices into a strong customer benefit can wield a lot of influence in their market.
Building trust into your business process
However, making a business or institution trustworthy is not a one-off initiative that a mission statement can fix. It needs to be intentional, embedded, communicated, and ongoing.
In practical terms, trust-building starts with reviewing your cybersecurity practices, establishing secure channels of communication and mitigating cybersecurity risks. Your business must define the trust parameters by which employees, partners and customers access sensitive data and systems.
This can be a big change for many companies, because a ‘trusted system’ needs to be holistic, covering both internal processes and external processes, including the way you interact with your business partners as well as customers.
Your entire organisation needs to meet the baseline criteria for effective cybersecurity, which involves implementing effective security tools and policies. You need to thoroughly assess your business partners and service providers to make sure they meet your security and privacy standards. To keep customers safe, you should also be using secure profiles (or digital identities) for all users communicating or transacting with customers. Cyber awareness training for all employees needs to be conducted regularly to minimise the risk of breaches or cyberattacks.
Finally, you need to educate and inform your customers about your data privacy measures. They need to feel assured that their private information will always be safe in your hands.
If building trust sounds like a big job, it’s because it is. But it is quickly evolving into a prerequisite for doing business in any category. Only organisations that can offer customers transparency, assurance and evidence of trust will be the ones that will survive and thrive in a world increasingly besieged by cyber attackers, scammers and data breaches.