In the good old days, trust between two businesses as well as trust between a customer and business was taken for granted since major stakeholders were local, and people knew each other very well. However, the scenario has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, especially with the mass adoption of the internet. The internet has made it easier to do business in other parts of the world. With increased potential for business growth, so too did the opportunity for positive and negative attention on brands from corporate headlines, which made people wonder if they should trust businesses. Once a stakeholder has lost trust in your business, it is very difficult to win the trust back.
4 Ps in Building a Culture of Trust
Trust not only sets the foundation for a strong relationship with customers but also plays a bigger role in the long term success of any business. Gaining customers’ confidence and trust takes a lot of time and resources. The process of building the trust should start within the organization. One of the proven techniques to achieve this difficult task is the 4 Ps technique.
The four Ps are People, Processes, Prospects & Products.
The following sections explain how businesses can implement People, Processes, Prospects, and Products in fostering a strong culture of trust.
4Ps of Trust Building
People are one of the core components and the biggest asset of any business, and they play a vital role in building trust with your customers and partners.
Awareness: People should be trained to understand what is important for the business. If they don’t know, they can’t act. Some of the common training topics for most businesses are- Ethics and compliance, Usage policy, Security awareness, Privacy regulations, and Information classifications. Many smaller companies have daily educational sessions (frequency varies based on size and industry). These are short 30 minute to one hour sessions. Speakers are usually one of the employees talking about the projects they are working on, a speaker from other departments, or even a guest speaker. The goal here is to provide an atmosphere that cultivates learning.
Screening: Employee screening before onboarding employees is another important factor that partners and customers look for. The company should perform background checks, drug tests, criminal record checks, and verify visa status if needed to vet the employees before hiring.
Contractual Agreement: Every employee must sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) as well as other confidentiality agreements before starting work. This factor is also very close to customers and partners before they trust the business.
Involvement: Nothing solidifies trust more than social interaction and collaboration. Meeting coworkers regularly, even if it is virtual, goes a long way in building trust. Interactive meetings do not have to be offsite meetings in Hawaii every two months. It can be something as simple as a weekly lunch and learn. These meetings do not have to be business related. They could be on any topic – like to review an interesting book one week or share someone’s experience of attending a conference the other week. The goal is to provide an environment for people to interact with coworkers and management. Management support is key to such events.
Tracking & Rewarding Individual Performance: Nothing boosts employee morale more than rewards. Every employee is looking to grow in their career. Measuring Performance and rewarding employees is the best way to keep them happy and build trust.
Employees are ambassadors of organizations. Successful organizations are often identified as those who develop a workforce as if building a university. Have you ever wondered why one university is considered better than another? Because one provides a culture of education while the other just awards the diploma certificate.
Customers think the same way -customers prefer a culture of trust over just a compliance certificate!
An informed and happy workforce is the foundation of building trust.
The process informs and guides people on how to perform the task. Process in this context is not about how to do the day-to-day job but the process of building trust. The process to keep prospective clients informed. The process to let the world know the best qualities of your organization. Some examples of processes that help build trust are:
Every employee must write at least one blog/year.
Senior people/Managers must present at one conference/year.
Technical people must write white papers on the leading industry trend.
Executives should engage with the media, participate in fireside chats and be part of the panel discussions.
The goal here is not to go out and talk about the company’s product – although, depending on the situation, one can politely touch upon company products as well. These processes are not about sales or marketing pitches. The process is to talk about leading trends, innovations, successful practices, etc., and your audience will make the connection. Going back to the university analogy, the processes should be carefully crafted so that the organization stands out as a university with a culture of offering quality education!
People and processes will not help much business without engagement with prospective (and existing) customers. In a popular ABC TV show, Scandal, an experienced lawyer tells a new hire, “We are lawyers, but we don’t practice law. We don’t care who is at fault and who gets sentenced. We serve our clients and do what is best for our clients. We look after our client's interests.” Conceptually, every business should be thinking this way. Stay one step ahead of your prospective and existing customers. Create a customer forum and meet with them regularly. Discuss what your business can do to improve their experience. Share upcoming product enhancements. Regular interactions with customers help build strong trust.
Without reliable products, there is no way to build trust with customers. People, processes, and prospects will not help build trust without good products. Customers and partners trust the organization more when they are assured that the business will stand behind the products or services that they are selling. One of the leading luxury automakers learned from the customer satisfaction survey that services provided by the dealers after selling the vehicles are one of the primary reasons for repeat business! The root causes of most medical malpractice suits are the (mis)handling of patients by hospital staff and medical professionals – not the treatment itself! Small things businesses do for customers, reward in a big way. Customers, unconsciously, look for a long term relationship when they purchase a service or a product – and that is why brand loyalty and rewards programs are very successful.
TaaS & The Command Center
The Chief Trust Office acts as a command center for Trust-as-a-Service (TaaS). As shown above, in the diagram, People, Processes, and Prospects work as input to the Chief Trust Office and create trust as output.
Customers trust a business when they have confidence that the organization and its services are reliable, consistent, financially stable, transparent, and can protect their information and data. Achieving competency in these elements is not an easy feat but using that information to build stronger relationships is even more difficult. Trust-as-a-Service is a focused way of fostering trust with the 4Ps technique.
Pillars of TaaS and Culture of Trust
The cybersecurity industry is based on the principle of “never trust, always verify,” and that adds a layer of challenge for the Trust Office – customers need evidence and third party attestations to validate that the business is trustworthy. Trust-as-a-Service, offered by the Chief Trust Office (CTrO), sets out to do just that – fostering trust with the 4P technique.
The goal of TaaS is to showcase to customers that the business is Compliant with industry standards and government regulations, has Security controls in place, has implemented Privacy safeguards to protect data & information, and is Transparent.
As shown in the figure, the Trust-as-a-Service is based on four elements or pillars - Compliance, Security, Privacy & Transparency. The 4Ps -People, Processes, Prospects & Products- contribute to enhancing each of these pillars to ultimately build a solid culture of trust.
Since its establishment in 2020, the Chief Trust Office has launched:
Security & Trust Service Center – an AI/ML based tool for customers to perform vendor security assessment.
SAP Trust Center - customers can find information on Security, Privacy, Compliance as well as cloud service performance.
Customer Security Advisory Board – a select peer group of decision makers responsible for the security and risk management strategies at their organization.
An inter-university event curated for a community of early talent and entering security professionals with SANS Institute
Annual Security Awareness campaigns and learning programs curated by the audience and intended for the SAP workforce.
TaaS is not limited only to the technology industry but goes way beyond VPNs and firewalls, and many industries have started to embrace the concept of TaaS. However, with the boom in public cloud usage over the last several years, the issue of trust is at the forefront of the tech industry. After all, it is not easy to sleep well at night when your data is managed by someone in the other part of the globe.
The Bottom Line
TaaS is a proactive way to foster trust with customers, vendors & partners. SAP Chief Trust Office keeps stakeholders informed by podcast from our Chief Trust Officer, Security Advisory Board, Whitepapers, and dedicated Customer Information and Security Advisory team, in addition to regularly published SAP Notes about software releases and patches! SAP Trust Center has a place on SAP’s home page and provides information about all elements of trust – security, privacy, compliance & transparency – in one place!
The 4P technique makes it far easier to build a culture of trust. More trust creates stronger relationships which makes customers happy. Happy customers translate into a healthy bottom line!