Dealing in digital: a matter of trust

“The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy. The essence of trust building is to emphasise the similarities between you and the customer.”  (Thomas J Watson Sr, founder of IBM)

With the rapid increase in the integration of digital technology into our personal lives, more questions are being asked as to how secure and safe they are to use. Underlying these questions is the degree of trust and confidence customers have in their service providers. This can influence whether customers wish to deal with businesses through digital technologies.

Back in January this year, Edelman published its global 2015 trust barometer. Ai Group was recently invited to attend the Edelman Trust Barometer launch event, which further expanded on the Australian context.

In a finding consistent with other developed countries, Edelman found that a large proportion of Australians (53%) are not as comfortable with rapid changes in innovation and technology compared to users in developing countries. That said, technology such as online search engines was found to now be the most globally trusted source for general news and information.

Over the last year, there was a decline in trust in governments’ and businesses’ roles in implementing technological changes; this is even the case for technology businesses, who tend to be the most trusted in this area. The level of trust also varied according to the type of technology and industry sector.

The report suggests part of the reason for this mistrust is the survey respondents’ perceptions of the motives for driving implementation of technology and innovation – they do not think businesses are primarily driven by societal benefits.

Paul Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications (and former Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at Optus) provided an interesting Government perspective. He emphasised that users will adopt new technology where they see a benefit from doing so. He anticipated the Government’s recently created Digital Transformation Office (DTO), being focused on consumer needs and benefits, will build consumers’ trust in Government and make the DTO a success.

He also observed a change in consumer attitudes and behaviour towards technology over the last two decades. He pointed to our reliance on smart phones, which have become equivalent to an extension of the body. Can a link be drawn between this device-dependence and the high level of trust in businesses providing these devices?

If Fletcher is right, businesses could also learn from Government efforts to build trust in technological change through a greater focus on customer needs.

Have you found trust in a business or customer to be a factor in deciding whether to supply, or invest in, certain types of technology? Are you finding rapid changes in technology to be confronting for your business? Share your thoughts and experiences below.

And are you making the most of the opportunities that digital technologies can provide to your business today? See our Digital Business Kit for free advice.

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Charles Hoang
Charles is Digital Capability and Policy Lead at Ai Group, concentrating principally on policy relating to technology and digital issues. He has worked in a broad range of industries, including energy, broadcasting and telecommunications. Previously, he advised on energy policy for the Australian Energy Market Commission, and was Assistant Director of Engineering for Free TV Australia.

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