If making money, or more of it, is the end goal in corporate America, it’s time to stop hitting the snooze button on digital trust. Digital trust investment positively impacts business revenue. It’s a bottom-line game changer and offers true competitive advantage – if only we wake up and connect the dots between our way of doing business and aggressively fostering customer trust.

The trick is understanding what digital trust is, how it ultimately connects to business performance through customer trust, and how synchronizing digital trust functions within a company is good for business.

It’s no secret that companies are incentivized by business performance; people pay attention when there are metrics to measure, analyze, and colorful graphs and illustrations to use in decision making. But most companies have yet to realize how connecting the digital trust dots relates to performance.

Competitive advantage comes with digital trust

Digital trust and customer trust are closely connected. Both involve external stakeholders having confidence in the corporate organization and internal accountability for fostering that confidence.

Digital trust involves several important elements. These elements include:

  • Security (e.g., protecting customer data from unauthorized access)
  • Reliability (e.g., ensuring services are available when the customer needs them)
  • Privacy (e.g., using customer data in ways that the customer has agreed)
  • Authenticity (e.g., ensuring the customer can trust online transactions)
  • Transparency (e.g., providing visibility into decisions around how information is used and handled)
  • User experience (e.g., demonstrating the company empathizes with the customer in designing its product)

Ownership of these elements is often dispersed in a company and managed in discrete functions, which are typically siloed or spread out over different departments; that is, if or when they even exist at all. Companies often have customer service, internally focused ethics, compliance, and cyber security areas, all which do work that involve elements of digital trust, but none of these functions are specifically accountable for fostering customer trust.

Take, for example, the function of cyber security. Routinely, maintaining customer trust is a byproduct of security work, while its primary focus is to protect the company–or more precisely, the company’s bottom line. Security professionals often consider their work squarely aimed at protecting customer interests, however, since these teams often do not have much external exposure, customer perception often does not match.

What’s more, these individual corporate functions don’t always work together. When they do work together, it’s often related to product development or managing incidents, and building customer trust is rarely the unifying mission.

Connecting Digital Trust to Business Performance

Connecting these elements and digital trust functions in a company has advantages. One of the most attention-grabbing: synchronizing digital trust functions can have a positive impact on company performance. According to a 2022 McKinsey Survey, “Why Digital Trust Truly Matters” research indicates that organizations that are best positioned to build digital trust are also more likely than others to see annual growth rates of at least 10 percent on their top and bottom lines.”

To achieve this positive impact, companies should put serious consideration into pulling all the digital trust functions together on a coordinated mission of externally perceived trust and ethics. Many companies already have the functions they need, but the focus on customer trust and ethics doesn’t just happen organically. Instead, to get results, through a cycle of ongoing measurement and improvement–the solution is for companies to delegate the coordination of trust and safety to an executive who is responsible for driving change and who is on the hook to deliver results.

By appointing an executive accountable for digital trust, the company instills, from the top down, customer trust and ethical business behavior as priorities. In doing so, the company decides to prioritize and measure trust, safety, and ethical behavior in the eyes of its customers. It also proactively recognizes that customers need transparency, so they can observe ethical business behavior and assess the trustworthiness of a company.

Measuring Trust

Many companies have a mission or values statement that prioritizes the customer (e.g., “customer first”), however, few recognize the connection between digital trust and customer trust. And, what’s more, few measure it. Since companies prioritize what they can measure, until a company embraces digital trusts, it won’t be measured–or prioritized.

Measuring trust and safety is qualitative in nature and involves a degree of subjectivity. However, it is nevertheless essential to measure and track. While there isn’t one definitive, all-inclusive metric to measure digital trust (though there are market research metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) that can help give insight on customer trust), there are factors that a company can use to evaluate corporate digital trust.

Namely, companies seizing these business opportunities must measure the six digital trust elements outlined above from the lens of how aligned and successful the elements are with building trust externally. Then they should also prioritize customer feedback–and use it to measure how much a customer trusts the company. Of course, a company should also continue to consider existing known metrics, such as the effectiveness of a company’s security program, including internal security monitoring, penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, and third-party audits; but feedback by customers–and employees–is essential to competitive advantage.

Certainly, companies have many existing mechanisms for accountability. For example, regulators, investors, business partners, and customers all exercise forms of supervision, however, typically this accountability only applies when it comes to products or services. And often companies have limited or no concept of ethics except for internal conduct. The idea of operating ethically in the eyes of the customer is rarely discussed, let alone a measured goal–and now is the time for change to realize the growth proven to accompany digital trust accountability.

It is through a broad and holistic application of metrics that companies have a tangible way to connect the dots of digital trust to performance. Through this regime of specific accountability and coordination, the organization becomes truly incentivized toward digital trust and customer perception. Of course, in the end, publishing results from these measured areas must be thoughtfully considered to maintain company and customer confidential details, but ultimately waking up to prioritizing digital trust and fostering customer trust is a game changer for corporate America.

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