Christo­pher Mur­phy ex­plores the most valu­able com­mod­ity for any busi­ness

Christo­pher Mur­phy ex­plores trust – one of the most valu­able com­modi­ties for any busi­ness

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Re­gard­less of whether money is in­volved, there’s one com­mod­ity in busi­ness that al­ways changes hands: trust.

Whether you’re work­ing on a client project that in­volves con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion or gather­ing your cus­tomer’s in­ti­mate per­sonal de­tails within a SaaS prod­uct, it’s im­por­tant that you keep the bond of trust be­tween busi­ness and cus­tomers sa­cred.

Over the last year, we’ve wit­nessed a num­ber of high-pro­file cases where the bond of trust be­tween busi­ness and cus­tomer hasn’t been han­dled with the re­spect it de­serves.

Face­book’s launch of Por­tal – and the sub­se­quent back­lash the prod­uct re­ceived on so­cial me­dia – is ev­i­dence of how a breach of trust can erode brand loy­alty in a man­ner that can rapidly spi­ral out of con­trol. Why? Be­cause the busi­ness abused the trust of its cus­tomers. Face­book’s han­dling of the Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica scan­dal – par­tic­u­larly the ret­i­cence of Mark Zucker­berg, Face­book’s CEO, to ac­cept some re­spon­si­bil­ity – sig­nif­i­cantly eroded trust in the brand.

Com­pounded by ear­lier re­ports that Zucker­berg had branded Face­book’s cus­tomers “dumb f_cks,” for trust­ing the busi­ness with their data ( fb­dumb­fucks), this added up to a cul­ture of dis­re­gard for con­sumers’ trust. And – as these things have a habit of do­ing – this came back to haunt the busi­ness. Face­book, of course, is not alone.

Google Mi­nus

On 8 Oc­to­ber, Google an­nounced ‘Project Strobe’, an ini­tia­tive de­signed to pro­tect cus­tomers’ data, im­prove the busi­ness’s third-party APIs, and – tucked away at the end of the list – sun­set Google+.

Buried in the an­nounce­ment was an ad­mis­sion that one of Google+’s APIs had leaked the pri­vate in­for­ma­tion of over 500,000 users to third-party de­vel­op­ers be­tween 2015 and 2018.

Leak­ing the pri­vate in­for­ma­tion of half a mil­lion users is bad enough but worse was the fact that an in­ter­nal memo, ob­tained by the Wall Street Jour­nal, re­vealed Google had cov­ered up the breach for fear of reg­u­la­tory reper­cus­sions. As the Jour­nal sum­marised, the memo, “warned the com­pany’s se­nior ex­ec­u­tives that dis­clos­ing the in­ci­dent would spark ‘im­me­di­ate reg­u­la­tory in­ter­est’ and ‘al­most guar­an­tees [CEO] Sun­dar [Pichai] will tes­tify be­fore Congress’.”

That Pichai was aware of this and yet chose to keep the breach buried any­way is alarm­ing. It demon­strates ei­ther: a stag­ger­ing lack of un­der­stand­ing of the im­por­tance of the bond of trust be­tween a busi­ness and its cus­tomers or a fla­grant dis­re­gard for those cus­tomers.

The dam­age that this breach of trust does to Google’s brand is mea­sured not in days, weeks or months, but in years. There are, of course, lessons to be learned here and you don’t need to be a com­pany the size of Google to learn them.

Trust is your most im­por­tant com­mod­ity

Cul­ti­vat­ing an open and hon­est busi­ness cul­ture will pay div­i­dends in the long run. When things go wrong, as they oc­ca­sion­ally do, own up and take re­spon­si­bil­ity. Your cus­tomers will ap­pre­ci­ate your hon­esty and you’ll pro­tect the all-im­por­tant bond of trust that, deep down, drives your busi­ness.

With Face­book’s tar­nished trust­wor­thi­ness, it’s no sur­prise that Por­tal launched to wide­spread back­lash

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