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Enterprise Innovation, Hong Kong: Senior Director at Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work Says Consumer Trust is a Brand-Level Risk or Opportunity That Belongs in the C-Suite

“One of the biggest threats to companies today comes not from the competition, but from the imperative to win and keep consumer trust,” writes Manish Bahl. “In an age when personal data is the key to honing a competitive edge, data ethics has become the new battleground for digital success.” Excerpts:

“Companies that view trust as not just a privacy, security or technology issue, but also a brand-building opportunity and place consumers before near-term profits and self-interest will be best equipped to sail through trust-driven business disruption. These are some of the key findings from Cognizant’s latest study “The Business Value of Trust”, which shines the spotlight on the factors that determine how consumers think about trust and the economic value associated with it, while revealing what happens when the trust is breached.

Companies are now increasingly reliant on decisions driven by algorithms and machine learning to find the next business opportunity with consumers. Nevertheless, the aggressive data monetization approach adopted by companies comes fraught with challenges. Data is at once an asset and a liability.

Trust has been elevated to a C-suite issue because consumer trust converts into bottom-line benefits. In the study, 50% of consumers say they are willing to pay a premium for products and services from companies they trust. On the flipside, the misuse or mismanagement of personal information has potentially irreversible downsides. It is evident that consumers may forgive companies for their mistakes, but not for dishonesty.

No industry that the survey covered is perceived as highly trustworthy. On average, only 43% of consumers surveyed have a high level of trust in institutions across industries. Worse, nearly 40% plan to switch to the competition or digital startup due to trust issues.

Increasingly, consumers trust businesses not on the basis of their physical assets or the products and services they offer, but rather on the value and experience they deliver in the virtual and physical worlds. The center of gravity is shifting to agile businesses that can quickly innovate and embrace the power of digital platforms. These digital disruptors are creating new customer expectations every day, and in the process, they are redefining consumer trust.

Trust is not an issue of compliance, privacy, security or technology (as many companies presume it to be) but a brand-level risk/opportunity that belongs in the C-suite. The role of the chief trust officer would be to ensure that the monetization of data assets conforms to ethical guidelines.

Businesses need to focus on self-regulation based on openness and accountability, with an obsession for maintaining consumer trust.”

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