This is the first in a blog series about building and maintaining brand trust. 

Brand trust has always been valuable for business, but the ways to develop it have changed a lot in the digital age. I’ve seen a dramatic shift in the last twenty years while I’ve worked in technology and development. In terms of both my personal and professional lives, businesses have changed how they interact with their customers. While it’s fair to say that businesses have always tried to put their customers’ needs first, the mechanics of what that looks like has changed dramatically. This is a reaction to the way the needs of customers have changed a lot in the last decade, and it can help businesses increase customer trust.

What Has Changed?

Today’s consumers — myself included — are looking for trusted brands that give them access to what they want, when and how they want it for as long as they need. This means on-demand, digital access to goods and services and an end-to-end digital user experience. It requires developing and delivering modern, relevant solutions that solve their current needs at a speed they expect. As customers are demanding convenience, they are also much more aware of cybersecurity. High profile attacks on Equifax, Target, Home Depot and Capital One made security a common talking point instead of just a technical concern.

In addition to these needs, social platforms have totally changed the dynamic between organizations and their customers. Now customers and businesses are talking directly through Twitter or Instagram. And the ‘voice of the customer’ is amplified exponentially. Twenty years ago, customers would share their experiences — good and bad — with friends and family. Now, the circle of influence around a single customer can be in the millions. The experience of one impacts the buying decisions of many.

To me, this shows how customer trust has become a currency that we trade when it comes to risk and security.

How to Build Brand Trust

Building a trusted brand requires keeping in mind three elements: relevancy, integrity of data and transparency.

Is your business developing relevant and useful services that consumers want? Are those services or products delivered with a frictionless and connected experience? I think of this when I’m online purchasing something. I cannot only look at all of the information from the manufacturer about a product on a retail site, but also pay using a different vendor and view the tracking to my house on another site. This type of customer trust requires that businesses take new risks with the way they develop their offerings. The connected experience also means that businesses have a tighter collaboration with their partners and suppliers — which brings more risk.

Integrity of data comes in when you save customers’ data. Is your business doing enough to safeguard information? Are the right controls in place to protect this data throughout the connected process outlined above? Finally, is the data you’re collecting from your consumers being used appropriately? Consumers in this era expect their data will only be used for the purpose for which they have submitted it. These are concerns that many organizations did not have 20 years ago but absolutely must influence the risk models organizations use to select security for their business today.

Transparency is key when mistakes happen. Mistakes are a part of life. Security breaches occur. And that doesn’t always spell catastrophe for your brand. There is no doubt that security breaches can hurt the bottom line of your organization. However, acknowledging a compromise occurred and being transparent about what happened and the steps you are taking to resolve it goes a long way to building up your organization into a trusted brand.

Risk and Reward

In each of these elements there is risk and reward. Customer trust and becoming known as a trusted brand becomes the unit — the currency — we use to measure each. If I, as a business leader, don’t innovate my production processes for speed or building in new features, my customers lose trust in my ability to give them what they want. Similarly, if my organization doesn’t take steps to secure customer data at every stage or a transaction — even with an outside partner — my brand suffers.

Trust, and more specifically, the focus on customer trust, has radically shifted the culture and the risk models that organizations use to secure their business. At the same time, the concept of brand trust provides a clear direction for unifying priorities between security and business. This sets up a culture change that businesses need to embrace in order to implement digital transformation securely. Join me as I cover this in my next post.

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