In today's highly competitive business landscape, trust has emerged as a critical factor in maintaining strong relationships with customers and other stakeholders. Organizations that can establish and sustain trust are better positioned to thrive in the market. KPMG and Salesforce, a renowned customer relationship management (CRM) platform, collaborate to help organizations build such trust with their customers.

Understanding the Importance of Trust

Trust has always been a vital element in the relationship between brands/organizations and their customers. Over the past two decades, however, trust dynamics have undergone significant transformations due to technological advancements, changing consumer expectations, and increased transparency. Customer relationships have a universal set of qualities – they are The Six Pillars of Experience:

  • Integrity
  • Resolution
  • Expectations
  • Time and Effort
  • Personalization
  • Empathy

Integrity in particular plays a pivotal role when it comes to trust. Corporate integrity and its outcome trust continue to be a focus for the leading companies. Re-engaging with purpose, validating values and moving Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the forefront of the brand have been key areas for organizations. Corporate behavior has never been under such scrutiny.

Trust dynamics can be defined as the complex interplay of factors that influence the level of trust within relationships, whether they are between individuals, organizations, or even societies as a whole. Trust is a fundamental element in building and maintaining successful relationships, as it establishes a sense of security, reliability, and confidence. Trust dynamics involve the continuous interactions, perceptions, and behaviors that shape the development, maintenance, and erosion of trust.

Trust dynamics are not static but evolve and change over time. Trust can be built, maintained, damaged, or repaired based on ongoing interactions, experiences, and perceptions. Organizations and individuals must actively manage trust dynamics by consistently demonstrating trustworthiness, effective communication, and fair and equitable behavior. Proactively addressing issues, acknowledging mistakes, and taking steps to rebuild trust are crucial for maintaining strong relationships.

The rise of the digital age has revolutionized the trust landscape. Customers now have instant access to vast amounts of information, empowering them to research, compare, and evaluate brands before making purchasing decisions. Organizations must adapt to this shift by cultivating transparency, delivering consistent brand experiences across digital channels, and proactively addressing privacy and security concerns.

Hence, trust forms the foundation of successful customer relationships. Customers are more likely to engage with businesses they trust, leading to increased loyalty, repeat purchases, and positive ‘word of mouth’. Together with that, trust creates a competitive advantage. More than a third of organizations recognize that increased trust leads to improved profitability. With their deep industry knowledge and expertise, KPMG guides organizations in understanding the significance of trust-building and its impact on overall business success. 

Assessing Trustworthiness

Through comprehensive audits and assessments, KPMG professionals can identify gaps and areas for improvement in customer interactions, data privacy, security protocols, ethical practices, and corporate governance. This evaluation serves as a starting point for organizations to enhance their trustworthiness.

KPMG and Salesforce collaborate in designing customer-centric strategies that prioritize trust. By leveraging Salesforce's robust CRM capabilities, organizations can gain valuable insights into customer preferences, behaviors, and expectations. KPMG can then assist in analyzing this data to develop personalized, tailored strategies that build trust through enhanced customer experiences and transparency. By understanding customer preferences, identifying trust-related issues, and continuously improving based on data-driven insights, organizations can enhance their trustworthiness, meet customer expectations, and foster long-term relationships with their stakeholders.

As indicated by Sridhar Nanjappaiah, Senior Solution Architect KPMG: “Trust is a very delicate theme, a sensitive word in itself. There are many layers to it. If I have to summarize it, it comes down to:

  • the (limited) access to the system;
  • the security of the system;
  • the safety of data and how people use it;
  • clear and open communication.”

In the paragraphs below, we will delve deeper into these aspects.

Strengthening Data Privacy and Security

In an era of increasing data breaches and privacy concerns, organizations must prioritize data protection to gain customer trust. KPMG can provide guidance on establishing robust data privacy frameworks and cybersecurity protocols. Salesforce's secure infrastructure and data management features further support organizations in safeguarding customer information, ensuring compliance with regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

Nanjappaiah: “When implementing solutions for end customers, it is important to follow a set of rules that ensures scalability and security. The access to the system should be limited to the defined parts only. For instance, a sales user should only have access to their own leads, not to leads belonging to others in the same area.”

To elaborate on this, he adds: “Another crucial aspect is determining the level of information accessibility for each individual. KPMG places great emphasis on defining trust and on security systems that grant access to the necessary information and nothing more or less. This ensures that the right people receive the appropriate information. However, when discussing trust, it is essential to consider more than just the availability of the system. Trust is primarily defined by the security of the system, especially in a data-driven world where data is invaluable.

One of the key factors in defining trust for customers is the safety of their data and how people use it. For Nanjappaiah this is quite straightforward: “We have to ensure compliance with data protection regulations, such as personally identifiable information and encryption for backups. On top of that, the system also has to restrict access to data based on geographical locations, preventing developers in one country from accessing data in another. Also, people have to be aware of it. Don’t share passwords with others or let an USB stick linger on your desk. Sometimes, it is just that simple.“

As an implementation partner, KPMG plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of data and implementing necessary security measures. This includes defining who can access sensitive information, like citizen’s service numbers or personally identifiable information, and establishing protocols for data storage, backups, and archiving. Additionally, when replicating production environments to lower environments, data is carefully filtered to maintain privacy and confidentiality. 

Ethical Practices and Transparency, Enhancing Customer Communication

Transparent business practices are instrumental in fostering trust. KPMG works with organizations to develop and implement ethical frameworks that align customer experience, industry best practices and regulatory requirements. A good CRM platform enables organizations to track and communicate their ethical initiatives effectively, ensuring transparency and accountability in customer interactions. Clear and open communication also plays a pivotal role in building trust. It is important that organizations develop effective communication strategies that align with customer expectations.

Just as important; it’s crucial to focus on building realistic processes for responsible users while still having the means to detect and quickly counter malicious activity. It boils down to ease of use, customer experience, and planning around cybersecurity within the context of enterprise-wide priorities — the commercial needs of the broader business — as opposed to thinking of it purely as a regulatory imperative.

Salesforce's CRM platform plays a crucial role in strengthening trust through various key factors. Consistency is achieved by delivering consistent messaging and experiences across touchpoints, establishing a unified brand image and demonstrating reliability. Personalization is enabled by capturing and analyzing customer data, allowing tailored communications that showcase an understanding of individual needs and preferences. Timeliness is realized through prompt engagement, addressing inquiries, concerns, and updates without delay, emphasizing a commitment to customer satisfaction and reliability.

The omnichannel experience ensures convenience and accessibility, meeting customers where they are and providing a seamless experience across different channels. By leveraging data-driven insights, organizations gain a better understanding of customer preferences, behaviors, and feedback, enabling informed decisions and relevant communications that foster trust. Overall, Salesforce's CRM platform builds trust by ensuring consistency, personalization, timeliness, an omnichannel approach, and utilizing data-driven insights to deliver exceptional customer experiences and build lasting relationships.

The Challenge of Implementing and Maintaining Trust

“Building trust is an ongoing process”, stresses Nanjappaiah. “The technology team responsible for implementing and supporting customers must stay updated on vulnerabilities and new features in the market.”

Additionally, staying informed about cross-references is essential as well. The implementation team must understand and incorporate these measures for the benefit of the customer. During any initial implementation, everything may appear to be functioning well, and KPMG's implementation team delivers the solution. However, throughout the time, upgrades and enhancements may become necessary to keep the system current and address evolving vulnerabilities. This is where challenges arise, as some customers fail to maintain and upgrade their systems, leading to performance issues and technical debt. Consequently, the blame might be directed at the implementation partner, even though the system was initially robust.

Nanjappaiah has the following explanation for this phenomenon: “It is crucial for organizations to have an internal team capable of maintaining and upgrading systems once the implementation partner has completed their work. This includes ongoing knowledge transfer and ensuring the company is equipped to handle future upgrades effectively. However, sometimes organizations do not follow through as expected, leading to misunderstandings and finger-pointing. Implementing a system incurs a high cost, while “Building trust is an ongoing process”, Nanjappaiah stresses. “The technology team responsible for implementing the system and supporting customers must stay updated on vulnerabilities and new features in the market.”

Additionally, staying informed about cross-references is essential as well. The implementation team must understand and incorporate these measures for the benefit of the customer. During any initial implementation, everything may appear to be functioning well. However, throughout the time, upgrades and enhancements may become necessary to keep the system current and to address evolving vulnerabilities. This is where challenges arise, as some customers fail to maintain and upgrade their systems, leading to performance issues and technical debt. Consequently, the blame might be directed at the implementation partner, even though the system was initially robust.

Nanjappaiah has the following explanation for this phenomenon: “It is crucial for organizations to have an internal team capable of maintaining and upgrading systems once the implementation partner has completed their work. This includes ongoing knowledge transfer and ensuring the company is equipped to handle future upgrades effectively. However, sometimes organizations do not follow through as expected, leading to misunderstandings and finger-pointing. Implementing a system incurs a high cost, while maintenance carries a lower cost. Comparatively, it is similar to buying a new car - initially, the cost is substantial, but maintaining and servicing the car afterwards is relatively cheaper. If the car is not properly maintained, then the car may start to falter and show defects, and no one wants that.”

He has, however, a feasible solution to this: “In the case of Salesforce, new features are readily available for free, eliminating the need for complex release updates seen in the past. However, these features need to be enabled and implemented within the project. So, the organization/end user must take care of how they handle the updates themselves to ensure that outdated and vulnerable APIs are removed or decommissioned, while the user interface is constantly updated to prevent hacking or unauthorized access.” 

Long-term Customer Loyalty

In an increasingly interconnected and digitally driven world, building trust with customers has become paramount for organizational success. By leveraging the expertise of KPMG and the capabilities of a robust CRM platform, organizations can establish themselves as trustworthy partners in the eyes of their customers. From assessing trustworthiness to designing customer-centric strategies, enhancing data privacy, promoting ethical practices, and driving compliance, KPMG equips organizations with the tools and guidance necessary to foster trust, differentiate themselves in the market, and cultivate long-term customer loyalty.

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