‘…collective knowledge is founded upon a degree and a quality of trust which is arguably unparalleled in our culture.’ (S Shapin). We rely on trust to fulfil many of our daily and lifetime tasks. It is the bedrock of support offered to others and relies on their support in return, often intensified in times of personal trial or wider danger. Soldiers lay down their lives trusting in a great cause and in others around them.

Trust is also an essential component of resilience. It is part of the social capital than binds people together in any recovery from major traumas or shocks. If we can trust the people around us then we are more likely to persist with the difficult tasks through thick and thin, realising that mutual assurance and confidence are likely to be rewarded with overall success. Trust, when combined with common beliefs and behaviours, has been shown to improve recovery rates and instil resilience.

A major component of trust is being able to communicate with our fellows. That can be achieved – to some degree – via digital (social) media or distant phone calls but to be really effective it needs personal, face-to-face contact. You need to see and speak to the person in order to build a rapport and a mutual appreciation which can establish trust. Social media, while promising to build communities, cannot achieve this aspect alone.

Interestingly, in a new book by Jared Diamond called ‘Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis’ the author looks at how successful nations recover from crises while adopting selective changes – a coping mechanism more commonly associated with individuals recovering from personal crises. In his discussion of America, the author talks of the ‘civic value’ of social networks and the ‘norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them’. (pp350-351)

Two recent surveys on trust reveal the business impact of trust failures. The Edelman Trust Barometer for 2019 looks at trust at work. While there has been a modest rise in overall trust from 2018, the government and media sectors fall behind business and NGOs. As the former categories do much to shape our perception and appreciation of society then it is perhaps unsurprising that a drop of confidence and a rise in ‘fake news’ are the consequences.  The barometer can be found here.

The 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study found that failing to maintain trust undermines customer loyalty and damages revenues, with over three quarters of UK consumers saying they would leave a supplier that they didn’t trust anymore. At the same time, focusing on getting customer service basics right and listening to consumers can help brands more than advertising, with 63% of consumers ranking ‘easy processes’ as a top three factor in building trust.

Certain industries were more trusted than others, according to the research. Food retailers were most trusted – ranked first by 21% of respondents. When asked who they least trusted, the top sectors chosen by consumers were automotive/garages, tech/social media, insurance, and government. This provides opportunities for brands in these sectors – if they can increase engagement and build trust – to differentiate themselves from rivals and increase overall revenues. The report can be downloaded via the Eptica website here.