Highly-trusted brands can have greater growth potential, more productive employees, and better business partners, according to research.

When consumers lose trust in their governments and the media, they may redirect their trust to other entities. This may yield an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to boost trust across their stakeholder ecosystem, according to market research and advisory firm Forrester.

According to its studies, more consumers across the US, UK, France, and India were more willing to trust businesses than their national government, their local government, and the media. 

Additionally, consumers were giving permission to brands to play a bigger role in their well-being: 47% of US, and 48% of UK consumers in their research were said to be relying on brands for overall advice on how to stay healthy. Some 32% of US respondents and 33% of UK respondents looked for brand guidance on how to manage stress and anxiety. 

Similarly, 18% of US, 26% of French, and 23% of Singaporean consumers in their surveys had said they would permanently stop doing business with a company has contradicted its values. 

With consumers holding the organisations they do business with and work for to new standards of integrity, dependability, and social responsibility, business leaders must detect and understand this new pattern of trust. However, this trust transformation is occurring in the blind spots of the C-suite. In its latest research, Forrester outlines seven key levers that make the concept of trust concrete and provides actionable recommendations to help executives build trust for everyone they serve — customers, employees, and partners. The impact of each trust lever varies depending on the business. 

Trust Imperative findings

The firm’s research pointed to a slew of corporate and governmental scandals, together with an influx of misinformation, as causes of the loss of trust in traditional institutions. Also, their data indicated:

  1. Different stakeholders (customers, employees, partners, etc.) have different interactions with a company, and so will have different perspectives on what a firm needs to do to earn their trust. For example, in the US, the levers of empathy, accountability, and dependability are most important to driving trust with employees. 
  2. For a service-oriented company such as an airline, hotel, or bank, the most important lever in driving trust for consumers was consistency in the US; empathy in France; and dependability in India, Singapore, and the UK.  
  3. To make the most positive impact, trust should manifest itself in the way and in the measures most relevant for each audience. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports and security certifications help make a partner feel more comfortable doing business with an organization but do not increase consumers’ trust.
  4. The brands that an organization affiliates with can waste or increase the trust capital. Organizations must leverage the levers of trust to optimize how partners trust them. The type of products or services they exchange, and the overall risk related to the relationship, are important variables. 

According to the firm’s Senior Vice President of Research, Sharyn Leaver: “Trust is not an abstract concept—there are known levers that can build and strengthen trust with stakeholders. Companies that earn trust among customers, employees, and partners drive revenue-generating loyalty behavior like retention and advocacy. Highly trusted firms also have greater growth potential, as their customers are more likely to experiment with new offerings; their employees are more likely to be productive; and their partners are more likely to facilitate faster routes to market.”

The firm claims its Trust Assessment and Scorecard can help brands to cultivate their trust capital so that trust becomes an actionable strategy rather than an inspirational goal.