Trust is something that we choose to give or withhold. It can be the game changer that shifts us from a low level to a much higher-level relationship — whether in our home lives, wider society or business interactions. If we can establish trusted allies in life and business, there is a trust dividend. Trust has value!
Humans, like many animals, have relied on the ability to trust family and friends to build functioning societal groups. Unlike other species, however, we have found ways to extend a level of trust to strangers to facilitate trade around the planet. As the world — our society, enterprises, institutions, relationships and interactions — grows more interconnected, global, technology-reliant and complex, what role does trust play and what value does it have?
Let’s explore a few of the key relationships that supply chain leaders need where trust can be a crucial differentiator: with our end consumers, our business customers and our company’s employees.
Our End Consumers
The Gartner Consumer Values and Lifestyle Survey1 tracks consumer trust in various bodies. Compare the results from over 3,000 U.S. consumers from 2016 to 2018 as shown in Figure 1. You can see that trust in big brands and corporations is in sharp decline.
People who believe they have lost political, social and economic influence (much less control) over their lives are distrustful for what they consider to be good reason. So it stands to reason that CEOs tell us that improving customer centricity is at the heart of over 70% of business model changes they are driving through. Chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) are responding by asking their teams to use tools like personas and customer journey maps (CJMs) that until recently were the sole preserve of marketers. Some are leveraging customer journey analytics to operationalize these CJMs by identifying the supply chain touchpoints that are most important to their highest-value customer personas.
Customer understanding and empathy are key in (re)building trust. Supply chain leaders may be unable to address the fall in trust in institutions globally, but they should remember that customers may distrust the intentions of an enterprise while still trusting it to deliver on its promises to the customer. Supply chain delivering what you said you would, when you said you would, as the customer wants is key to building trust and a key growth enabler.
Our Business Customers
Unlocking value is the principal purpose of intercompany collaboration, with trust and mutual understanding being the key enablers. Companies can, of course, operate at a purely transactional level, where the need for trust extends only as far as paying for goods that meet the specification requested. However, as companies increase their level of mutual understanding, they can move to a more strategic footing, and as they build trust on that, it leads to opportunities for shared value creation. From a firm foundation of reliable service, trust and understanding help supply chain leaders build through the levels of data alignment, leveraging multi-enterprise business platforms and sharing talent to create shared value.
Our Company’s Employees
From customer service representatives (CSRs) to CSCOs, employees want to trust, be trusted and valued.
CSCOs have worked hard over many years to gain a seat at the boardroom table. Now many are looking to transform in the same way as just described for collaborative business partners above. They are moving from a transactional relationship with the CEO where they were relied on to cut costs, to becoming a strategic partner who is seen as a trusted ally who shapes the business strategy and enables growth. Figure 3 shows some of the do’s and don’ts that help with that transformation to becoming a trusted ally.
Employees, whether they be directors, supervisors or individual contributors, need insight into company strategy, supply chain strategy and the contributions of their role to those strategies. Management studies over the past 80 years clearly indicate that employees want to be driven by a sense of purpose. It’s not just the CSCO who wants to be trusted! It is a common desire to be acknowledged as a trusted contributor to the overall mission of the company.
CSRs are at the front line of the battle for customer centricity, but are they trusted by their immediate supervisors in your company? Have you built the technology that enables CSRs to work from home and achieve a better work/life balance while also improving customer experience? AI can augment work with smart services and workflow automation. The technology exists to create digital, virtual environments in which work is observable and outcomes quantifiable without the need for CSRs to be in the office being supervised. The question remains: will you make this possible by giving trust?
The trust dividend comes when you give rather than withhold trust with end consumers, business customers and your colleagues.
Trust has value to end consumers:
- It’s directly reflected in two of the most important digital business metrics: the cost to acquire an end consumer and the customer lifetime value.
- Recommendation — Use digital interfaces to build trust by increasing transparency and customer choice, giving your end consumers influence and control. For example, provide your end consumers opportunities to supply feedback, seek remedies and manage information held about themselves.
Trust has value between business partners:
- It enables collaborative information sharing, mutual investment, merged KPIs and talent pooling to achieve shared goals and create shared value.
- Recommendation — Segment your customers and start the journey to build trust-based partnerships with your key strategic customers. Do process audits and then focus on processes, people and technology that cement collaborative agreements and joint business plans for shared value creation.
Trust has value to employees:
- If you feel trusted by your manager and empowered to act on behalf of your company, it enables you to be an advocate for the customer in the moment and improve the customer experience — the prime driver of growth.
- Recommendation — Give frontline employees more freedom to operate and use outcomes rather than presenteeism as a measure of value generation.
Senior Director Analyst
Gartner Supply Chain