Technology has helped our world achieve convenience and connectivity. However, these innovations have also cultivated a lack of another C-word: confidence.
As helpful as the slew of tech tools have been, past breakdowns and future prospects leave customers feeling uneasy about what’s to come. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, user trust in technology has declined in 16 of the 28 countries surveyed. More troubling that is that 64 percent of respondents don’t believe tech contributes to the greater good of society.
So what does that mean for businesses trying to leverage these resources to optimize the customer experience? Right now, they’re having to play from behind because customers don’t trust what a business’s tech resources will do with their data, products, and services.
Buyers believe that businesses are only out to improve their bottom lines. While technology can help improve profit, blockchain and other tools can also be a conduit for clarity and accountability and can help leaders focus on positive impact as well.
Trust: A Scarce Resource
Trust issues in business aren’t unique to technology. Considering that only 32 percent of Americans have confidence in the media and that Millennials typically mistrust all types of traditional institutions, tech isn’t the only industry subject to skepticism.
Moreover, when companies lack transparency with their customers, the consequences are drastic. The 2018 Accenture Strategy Competitive Agility Index shows that 54 percent of companies saw a decline in trust in the previous two and a half years, directly impacting their revenue streams.
But the financial pitfalls pale in comparison to their ethical implications. Take, for example, the mistrust against our food supply chain. Recent outbreaks of salmonella and contaminated romaine lettuce have cost industries trust and money. Emerging technologies such as AI, robotic process automation, and blockchain will solve many of the problems but not all.
With blockchain, in particular, that veil of doubt about your products can be lifted. Businesses can track a product at every step, ensuring its quality whenever the potential customer interacts with it. By not embracing transparent tech options, companies risk alienating customers, losing their trust, and putting a harmful product into the world.
Let Tech Be Your Eyes
The bottom line is the endgame for virtually every business. But technology can help companies become conscientious of product integrity and customer trust, each of which can lead to bumps in profit. Here’s where to start:
1. Integrate trust-enabling technology. Technology doesn’t have to be the source of the public’s cynicism. In fact, businesses can reframe tech as the solution when it’s user-friendly. Everyone from gadget gurus to tech amateurs wants easy access to information. Make accommodating this need a top priority.
Mobile apps are perhaps the best way for C-suite members to present their tech as a helpful service. Apps from JetBlue and JustFly quickly tell travelers everything they need to know about their flights, something companies in any industry can do. It doesn’t matter what the industry is: Consumers need credible information, and the right tech is the key to providing it.
2. Overhaul data protection processes. Given the prospect of identity theft and compromised information, counterintuitive tech is often the least of consumers’ concerns. Everyone wants their data protected, and it’s up to businesses to meet the demand. The challenge is that things are always changing. New regulations change how customers’ privacy is protected, and if organizations fail to adapt, their consumers’ most vital information is at risk.
For instance, GDPR affects any company selling products in the European Union. GDPR requirements are fairly complex and give consumers more options to consent to how businesses use their information. Thus, executives should consider implementing new training programs to keep the entire organization updated about laws that affect consumer data. Otherwise, when companies fail to acclimate to new guidelines, they not only endanger their customers’ trust — their entire reputation is on the line.
3. Redefine core values. Regardless of the technology used, the most significant strategy for maintaining consumers’ trust stems from a company’s culture. It’s not enough to utilize the most cutting-edge technology available. C-suite members must instill a responsible, transparent angle in their company’s vision, even if that means modifying their core values.
For example, while HCL Technologies offers a variety of advanced technological solutions, the multinational company succeeds because it challenges every employee to contribute via “ideapreneurship.” This method emphasizes the motto “trust, transparency, and flexibility” at all levels of the organization. Use a similar value to organically develop customer-centric tech strategies. This way, consumers are more likely to embrace an organization’s services when they’re confident that customers’ trust supersedes profit.
A lack of accountability is inconvenient at best and catastrophic at worst. Technology can be a valuable tool that helps companies create a culture that treats the customer as more of a human being than a financial incentive. They’ll be in business not just to make money, but also to leave their field (and maybe the world) better than when they found it.