Why trust matters in the digital world

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Vinod Kumar, CEO of Subex, takes a look at the increasing importance of trust in today’s digital economy.

As our lives become more and more dominated by digital services and most aspects of our day-to-day activities are fully controllable by our phones and tablets, often by using just a few key services, the question of trust in our technology providers has become more important. Whether you’re buying groceries, dealing in real estate, seeking health advice, finding life partners or even the security of the houses we live in, everything is digital and remains accessible at the click of a button.

However, in spite of the wide range of digital services at our disposal, only a few are widely adopted and these have become the key enablers of our lifestyles. Of course, huge numbers of services exist across the digital landscape and new ones continue to come to market. Only a few of these break through to the mass market and have importance beyond a relatively contained special interest group. The mainstream, hyper-popular digital services are the ones at the centre of our lives.

Digital preferences

So what makes a digital service a mass-market phenomenon? If we take a closer look at most users’ digital activities, an interesting pattern is revealed. Each of us typically has a single preferred digital service for every purpose, and we seldom use an alternative for this function. For instance, while there might be two or more e-commerce giants operating in a region, we all have that one service amongst the two that we always buy from.

That might be Amazon, Ebay, Facebook Marketplace or Google Shopping but we tend to prioritise one above the rest. Equally, there are multiple platforms that provide cab aggregation services, but we book our cabs from one of them, always. There are also multiple payment services that are popular, but we always have our preference of one of these over the rest. Why should this be the case? What creates loyalty to a single service for a specific function and can user behaviour be changed?

The secret ingredient

The immediate answer to why users prefer one digital service over another could vary from simple reasons such if it has great design or it was the one first tried but he use to more complex reasons such as whether the service has easy compatibility with other downstream processes or allows a wide range of payment methods. However, there is a universal, underlying element that determines what digital services users choose, and that is trust. We typically adopt a product or service because we trust its ability to deliver a great experience. In e-commerce that means trusting a digital service to do what it says. That involves trusting that your personal data and payment information is secure, trusting the item description is accurate and trusting that the item will be delivered in the timescale stated.

We adopt and then stick with a digital service because we trust it to be secure, we trust it to deliver on its promises and we trust the pricing to be fair. Trust is hard won and easily squandered but the reasons for developing this trust can be numerous. Those digital products and services that are able to create and nurture the necessary trust are the ones that make it big. The rest just continue to exist without moving to the next level. These are adopted by a more modestly-sized core of users that are attracted to specific functionality but don’t break through into the mass, mainstream market.

Why trust matters

Digitalisation has changed and continues to transform our lives in many different dimensions, some of which are yet to become clear. A key part of this transformation is the pace at which these changes occur and their impact on businesses as well as consumers and customers. Today, there really is no such thing as the status quo unless you accept that it is transient and continuously changing. Being at today’s expected level should therefore not be the goal and it certainly does not ensure security or leadership in the market. Developing for the needs of today without enabling a path of continuous innovation is nothing more than a dead end.

Therefore, businesses face the risk of obsolescence if they fail to innovate or adapt and hence there is a need to be ahead of the curve in every aspect of business. Standing still is not an option. This need to lead encompasses technology, business models, strategy and customer engagement. Against this backdrop, the one aspect that lies at the intersection of all the opportunities, risks and vulnerabilities is trust.

Trust is the centrepiece for every interaction on a personal, societal and business level — across both traditional and digital business models. With the lines blurring between the digital and physical worlds, multiple disparate elements including people, processes and products come together to work in tandem. Digital business depends upon agile and sometimes ephemeral digital interactions and relies on digital supply chains that are established dynamically to enable each interaction.

In such scenarios digital trust becomes the key enabler for high quality digital interactions. This is because trust forms the basis upon which the expectations of an entity can be measured and quantified, specifically validating who or what the service claims to be. This trust predicts and assures the digital service will behave in the expected manner within a digital business transaction. Digital trust is therefore viewed as the lifeblood or currency of digital business, and it wraps around every aspect of digital business.

The bottom-line

Trust has always been an important enabler of success, but its role is much more prominent now in the digital era where data holds so much value. Breaches of security have become an everyday issue, and trust seems to be at an all-time low, whether between an enterprise and its customers, or between partners, or even within an organisation’s own data. Businesses that have realised this and are investing in inculcating a culture of trust in their ecosystems are going to be the hyperscalers of tomorrow.

 

Vinod is responsible for leading the strategic direction for the company and driving its execution by fostering the right culture of leadership and talent development. Prior to becoming the CEO and Managing Director, Vinod served as a COO of Subex where he spearheaded several initiatives that helped the company engage with its customer as a long term strategic partner. These initiatives, in turn, helped Subex emerge as a global leader in Revenue Management space.

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