Does Trust Matter?

26 Sep 2017

Posted by Jon Davie

In a digital world where trust in society is shifting from institutions to a more distributed system, how do brands adapt? And if we lose our customers’ trust, how can we get it back?

These were just some of the questions explored at a recent breakfast session held at Zone’s London HQ with Rachel Botsman, author of the new book Who Can You Trust?, and Shailen Joshi, head of marketing innovation at Lloyds Banking Group.

Rachel, a long-standing friend of Zone, is a world-renowned expert on trust whose TED talks on the topic have been viewed over 3.5 million times. In her book she reveals that we are on the tipping point of one of the biggest social transformations in human history and entering the age of ‘distributed trust’: a shift driven by technology and changing consumer expectations.

She kicked off the session by defining trust as “a confident relationship with the unknown”, which involves taking a “trust leap”, by taking a risk to do something different. This could be something monumental, like the first time you entered your credit card details online, or more incremental, like switching from paper to online invoicing. 

If trust is the bridge between the known and the unknown, says Rachel, then it starts to explain how we can place our trust in complete strangers, such as when we book a room through Airbnb, or why just enough trust is a critical ingredient to the success of innovative companies such as Apple or Amazon.

The flipside is that when trust breaks down, it leads to an erosion of faith and a brand can quickly lose legitimacy. Rachel spoke about an ‘inversion in influence’, whereby customers are no longer just consumers; they’re social influencers. While this may be democratic, it can encourage us to place our trust in the wrong people.

She added that 80 per cent of Facebook users have shared stories based only on the headline, which raises the issue of individual responsibility as well as platform accountability. Who should check whether the story in question is genuine or not? Rachel asserted that “the sun is setting on platforms such as Facebook not having accountability for their news flow”.

Looking at the trust issue from an institutional perspective, Shailen said companies need to look at the culture within their organisations, and change how they measure accountability. In order to maintain trust, he stressed the importance of focusing on what the customers want, rather than jumping to conclusions. Shailen said Lloyds Banking Group is constantly looking to improve all its experiences with its customers – both physical and digital – to ensure it is meeting their evolving needs. 

Finally, when asked if convenience trumps trust, Rachel said that a company built on those principles is very fragile. For example in 2017, when Uber was hit with a wave of trust scandals including allegations of sexual harassment, a lawsuit over theft of trade secrets and mishandling the medical records of a rape victim, their market share dropped to 75 per cent from 90 per cent. Meanwhile, ridesharing competitors including Lyft gained a massive rise in the share of rides in the US market. Regardless of the shift to the new digital landscape, one thing remains true: trust can be hard to achieve, but very easy to lose.
Jon Davie
Posted by Jon Davie

Jon Davie is Chair of BIMA London and CEO of digital agency Zone. Experts in strategy, technology and content, Zone helps ambitious businesses win in a world where digital is mission critical. As CEO, Jon chairs the agency executive team and leads senior relationships with blue-chip clients including Unilever, Aviva and Pernod Ricard. In the last year, Jon has spearheaded Zone's further consolidation as the UK’s leading independent digital agency, recently awarded agency of the year by BIMA. 2016 saw Zone expand its premises at the heart of the King’s Cross development, open offices in Cologne, complete two acquisitions, grow staff to a 250-strong global team and increase turnover to over £20 million. An industry thought leader and regular commentator on content, digital strategy and business transformation, Jon writes a regular column for The Drum.

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