Trust is hard to earn – and even harder to keep amid a technology landscape filled with cyberthreats, misuse of customer data and the double-edged sword of maturing artificial intelligence. Yet without strong digital trust, enterprises stand little chance at building the lasting relationships with customers that they need to be successful.
Many organizations recognize the importance of a sturdy digital ecosystem – and perhaps even excel in certain aspects of developing trust, such as investing in a strong security team – but few adopt the holistic, collaborative approaches that digital trust requires. Here are three methods that can put organizations on the path to earning lasting trust from their customers and other stakeholders:
Get in the habit of relying upon cross-functional teams
Many professionals are more comfortable working head-down in their areas of expertise rather than working on cross-functional teams. The problem is, a siloed approach is insufficient to deliver digital trust given the complexity of the risks and threats baked into the current business landscape.
Technology-intensive projects have a multiple of interdependencies, requiring cross-functional teams to develop multi-faceted solutions that can be trusted. It probably goes without saying that it’s important to have representation on major projects from IT-adjacent areas such as security, privacy and risk management, but less obvious functions – such as legal, marketing, and especially customer-facing teams that have the customer experience top of mind – also should be included to make sure that the organization’s collective wisdom is brought to bear.
The cross-functional teams that companies need don’t materialize out of thin air, and rarely do they originate with a grand vision from the CEO. Instead, most of the time someone within the organization says, “I think we need to put together a team for X reason,” and generally, the person who speaks up becomes the leader.
Be that person. A great way to move up in your career is to lead a cross-functional team. And leading a cross-functional team is a worthy challenge because unlike when you are supervising people in your department, you have to persuade people to engage as opposed to simply telling them what you want them to do.
Encourage healthy debate
Once your cross-functional team is in place, take advantage of the diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints by creating an atmosphere where healthy debates are encouraged. Practice active listening when there are disagreements and allow diverging discussions to happen before eventually driving toward a consensus.
It’s healthy for an organization to have good debate. If groupthink becomes the norm, other stakeholders will assume the outcome was predetermined from the get-go and will lack confidence in decisions. If trust is not first cultivated internally, how can an organization expect external stakeholders to believe in their products and services?
The ultimate goal here is to operate as a team, where everyone’s viewpoint is legitimately considered, instead of a disjointed group of individuals all trying to get their way.
Lean into clear communication
Uncertainty is the enemy of digital trust. Clear and open channels of communication are essential in a variety of contexts: when working cross-functionally, when new risks surface related to emerging technologies, when providing status reports to executive leadership and the board of directors and especially in the aftermath of an incident that has the potential to undermine customer trust.
If a trust-imperiling incident occurs – such as a major data breach – many companies have the tendency to either try to conceal the reality of the situation or to slow-play a public response while calculating the options for damage control.
That is a big mistake. In the absence of communication, people tend to assume the worst. Even hearing bad news is often preferable to an information vacuum.
When digital trust is eroded, the road back can be long and painful, but ongoing communication about what steps are being taken to help impacted customers and guard against a repeat incident is essential. SolarWinds is a great example of an organization that took a massive reputational hit but through transparency and communication, began to rebuild public trust.
The bottom line: disclosing the minimum of what is legally required is insufficient and will not turn digital trust into the competitive advantage that it should be for your organization.
See you at RSAC 2023
We will go into greater detail on this and much more at RSA Conference 2023 on April 27 in our session, “How Cyber Pros Break Silos to Advance Digital Trust.” We hope to see you there!