We seem to be in the Age of Everything: the Age of the Customer, the Age of Artificial Intelligence, the Age of Data, the Age of Digital Transformation, the Age of Disruption, and so on. If there is one thing these ages have in common, it is their focus on delivering memorable customer experiences. But with a lack of integrity, experiences are destined to vaporize. Welcome to the Age of Trust.
In the Age of Everything, data is a vital component. It helps brands to target and personalize their offerings to your liking. At the same time, however, this data causes friction. We all know that large tech companies like Google and Facebook seemingly offer their services for free, while in fact we pay for these with our privacy. Scandals and data breaches have resulted in a growing public awareness, and the need for stricter regulations like GDPR and PSD2.
People are starting to see the downside of their digital footprint, and increasingly value their privacy over algorithmic personalization. I wouldn’t be surprised if some tech giants will be facing mega claims, as seen in the tobacco industry. Unless they manage to drastically change their business models. We are now willing to pay for ad-free experiences. Someday soon, we might pay for our digital anonymity as well. Privacy by design is becoming the new standard. This week, Mark Zuckerberg finally announced Facebook’s “first step in building out a privacy-focused social platform”.
Living in a bubble
There’s another downside to data driven personalization: becoming biased. Profile based newsfeeds and tailored advertising help us to conveniently find our way in an increasingly complex world. But they may also keep us from being exposed to different perspectives and alternative options. Without realizing it, it becomes harder to listen without prejudice, remain open-minded, and distinguish fake news from real. RAND studies the Truth Decay, which they define as “the diminishing role of facts and data” (in American public life). There is no single truth – we each have our own.
In his 2017 farewell speech, Barack Obama spoke about people retreating in their own bubbles as being a threat to democracy:
“For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or on college campuses, or places of worship, or especially our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, and increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste — all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.”
Over 8.000 scientists, including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and Eric Horvitz, signed the 2015 open letter on artificial intelligence. It called for research on ensuring that “AI systems must do what we want them to do”. As with any powerful tool or weapon, we need to trust the people that control it.
What happens to one’s sense of autonomy when the horror scenario of a Black Mirror episode may become reality in China? When world leaders withdraw from nuclear and climate treaties, our faith in humanity is at stake. When we entrust our children to a babysitter, we don’t want to worry all night. And when you are being anesthetized for a major surgery, you want to feel comfortable putting your life in the doctors’ hands. Or for many, in God’s hands.
iBeleggen, a Dutch asset management company, clearly understands what matters most to its clients. Their tag line reads “the best thing we can earn is trust”. The Blockchain was designed to eradicate unethical human interventions, by enforcing data integrity between decentralized nodes. And the man who invented the world wide web 30 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee, is now aiming to re-invent it by safeguarding our privacy with the Solid project. The Public Spaces initiative is striving for something similar.
Trust as KPI: introducing ‘trust score’
On who (or what) do we rely for our privacy, information, technology, assets and health? I expect there will be an age in which trust becomes more valued than ever. This idea isn’t new, and has been described before. Edelman publishes its Trust Barometer yearly. And a company like TrustPilot calls upon the wisdom of the crowds by enabling trust ratings.
Brands can (or even should) measure trust by adding a ‘trust score’ to their KPI framework. I have seen several definitions and calculation methods, but this long read by the Institute for PR will give you a good head start.
In the Age of Everything, it is our job to win our clients’ hearts and loyalty by earning their trust. In addition to valuable KPI’s like FTR, TCR, CES and NPS, trust score can monitor just that.