Do Your Customers Trust Your Business?

The success of your business depends largely on your ability to acquire, retain, and grow a base of satisfied, loyal customers. There is one element essential to success in this critical area. That element is building business trust

Trust drives, eases, accelerates, and grows your relationships with your most critical stakeholders – your customers, as well as with your employees, partners, and prospects. Therefore, your company must build, promote, and maintain a culture of trust from Day One. And that trust must be both demonstrable and sustainable.

To get there, you need to begin by achieving and sustaining compliance with critical, independent, widely adopted standards for the protection of business and personal data known as “SOC 2.” SOC 2 compliance is a crucial foundation for robust cybersecurity and consistent, agile, transparent processes that enable verifiable trust. Read on to learn more about how SOC 2 compliance can enhance the trustworthiness of your business in ways that translate directly into significant benefits.

The Business Value of Trust

As a world-famous sales leader and motivational speaker for more than four decades, Zig Ziglar garnered millions of followers and wrote more than 20 popular books. One of his best-known quotes focuses on the business value of trust.

“If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”

The more trusted your business is, the more your customers will recommend and stick with you. This means greater growth and lower churn. High trustworthiness can also help you close more deals faster, with new customers and partners alike.

Stephen M.R. Covey is co-founder of Franklin Covey’s Global Speed of Trust Practice (at https://www.speedoftrust.com). According to CEO Magazine, he helped make his father’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the two most influential business books of the 20th century. In three short years, Stephen took his Covey Leadership Center from $2.4 million to $160 million in shareholder value and helped execute a merger with Franklin Quest to form FranklinCovey.

Stephen credits much of his success to his focus on creating credible trust and cites technological innovation and the growth of the sharing economy as drivers of new levels of corporate accountability and demands for trustworthiness. “Technology creates a platform where relevance and quality are decided and moderated by a system of transparent ratings and reviews—from average, everyday people. No trust, no deal.”

Even multi-billion-dollar companies with millions of customers face trust-related issues. In December 2021, The Washington Post published the results of a survey conducted among more than a thousand US internet users in November of that year. The chart below summarizes some of the results of that survey.

Company Respondent trust levels
“A great deal”/” A good amount” “Not much”/Not at all” No opinion
Amazon 53% 40% 7%
Apple 44% 40% 16%
Google 48% 47% 4%
Microsoft 43% 42% 16%

Imagine if only half of your company’s customers actually trust your company. Now, imagine if you could convert just 10 percent of those who distrust your company or have no opinion into trusted customers. How much would that improve your bottom line and longer-term prospects for customer retention and growth?

Compliance: A Key to Demonstrable, Sustainable Trust

Your business needs the ability to demonstrate and sustain credible, verifiable trust. Compliance with respected, independently developed regulations and recommendations for practices such as cybersecurity and protection of private information can go a long way toward achieving this critical ability.

However, effective compliance can be challenging. You must first identify the compliance requirements most critical to your business and your customers. You must then understand what it takes to meet those requirements and do what is necessary. Perhaps most important, you must then work with auditors and other relevant experts to demonstrate, document, and maintain that compliance credibly and whenever required by regulators or others.

To make things even more challenging, regulations and requirements are growing in number and complexity, as are the penalties for non-compliance. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) ‘s System and Organization Controls (SOC 2). The United States’ Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act (HIPAA). Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Regardless of where your business is based, if you do business anywhere in the world, there is likely at least one set of compliance regulations or requirements with which your company must comply to avoid hefty fines and penalties – or worse.

Trust Begins with SOC 2 Compliance

At a minimum, your business absolutely requires compliance with SOC 2. This is because SOC 2 is not a regulation per se but an auditing process. It is designed to ensure your business and the companies with which your business does business with have policies, processes, and tools in place that securely manage the data upon which your business relies. SOC 2 compliance also ensures your business takes adequate steps to protect proprietary business information, customer data, and privacy.

Non-compliance with SOC 2 leaves your business vulnerable to security breaches. The financial, operational, and reputational costs to your business could be devastating.

  • A 2019 study found 63% of surveyed SMBs experienced at least one data breach within the 12 months preceding the survey.
  • A 2020 Cisco study found that 45% of surveyed companies with fewer than 500 employees experienced from 5 to 16 hours of downtime due to data breaches in the past 12 months.
  • That same study found 12% of surveyed companies with fewer than 500 employees experienced from 17 to 48 hours of downtime during the same period.
  • A 2021 IBM study found organizations with fewer than 500 employees spend an average of $3 million per data breach incident.

Source: “15 Small Business Cyber Security Statistics That You Need to Know,” November 11, 2021.

These consequences can range from financial losses and business disruption to contract and license revocations, fines and penalties for non-compliance with regulations, and destruction of trust. So, while SOC 2 compliance requires an annual independent audit, which can be disruptive and expensive to pass, the necessary investments are more than worthwhile.

Compliance as a Service: Compliance Without CapEx

Your IT infrastructure and the ability to assess and inventory its elements accurately and completely are essential to SOC 2 compliance. And as you likely well know from other experiences with IT, the solutions needed to achieve these goals can be expensive and challenging to evaluate, select, implement, and manage, especially if your access to people with relevant expertise and experience is limited or non-existent.

Fortunately, cloud computing has evolved sufficiently to enable “compliance-as-a-service” – the ability to achieve and sustain SOC 2 compliance, even as compliance requirements evolve. In addition, innovative companies are combining modern technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) with strong working relationships with auditors and others to make compliance as a service easily accessible and affordable for more types of companies. Including yours.