2023 Emerging Technology Survey Preview

Trust insights

How to build customer trust in your industry
  • Report
  • 5 Minute Read
  • October 05, 2023

How to build stakeholder trust in emerging technologies 

Technology is far and above the top item on strategic agendas in the near term. In fact, 59% of executives responding to our August 2023 Pulse Survey told us their company plans to invest in new technologies in the next 12 to 18 months, and 46% say the same about generative AI (GenAI) specifically. Still, our August Pulse Survey shows executives remain concerned about falling behind when it comes to adopting new technologies.

To learn more about what is shaping technology transformations, we launched our Emerging Technology Survey. This preview offers a deeper dive into what survey responses reveal about trust and emerging technology — what trust benefits executives expect and what measures they’re taking as well as common vulnerabilities that many are not yet addressing.

Findings from our trust preview data: Executives are confident — and optimistic

Business and tech executives tell us they’re confident about trust in emerging technologies. It’s close to unanimous, with 93% of executives agreeing that emerging technologies are helping build trust with stakeholders. Even more expect this trust to grow in the next 12 months.

Yet most executives also report taking few if any of the 12 foundational trust-building actions described below. This could leave companies vulnerable. Action now could help safeguard against any breakdowns in trust among stakeholders including customers, employees and investors.

Simply by adopting and announcing plans to invest in emerging tech like generative AI (GenAI), companies can increase stakeholder trust that they will remain relevant. Emerging tech can also help companies improve what they already do to build and maintain trust with stakeholders. They can help further automate, standardize and raise the quality of their products and services.

The IoT can, for example, monitor machine operations and employee safety. GenAI can help tax teams enhance reporting and mitigate compliance risks. VR can enhance employee training. Blockchain and digital assets can create an audit trail for transactions.

Executives say emerging tech is helping build trust Executives say emerging tech is helping build trust

Capitalizing on key trust-building actions for emerging tech

Common measures exist to boost trust in emerging tech. These measures can help address potential issues in risk management, compliance, performance, workforce impact and ROI, among others. But for each of these 12 trust-building measures, fewer than half of companies are taking action.

Falling short on trust-building actions for tech Falling short on trust-building actions for tech

Some executives may be underestimating the need to build trust. Like all technology, emerging tech may seem trustworthy until there’s a data breach or an inaccurate or biased AI output. It’s possible too that executives aren’t more concerned simply because they aren’t yet using these technologies to their full potential. If, for instance, you use GenAI just to write internal memos, risks may be low. But if you deploy GenAI at scale to transform your business and workforce, then a more thorough risk assessment is probably needed. New controls, upskilling, stakeholder communications and other measures may be essential.

Achieving trust today — and in 12 months

A surprising 47% of respondents say that emerging technologies are already delivering enhanced stakeholder trust — and that this value (enhanced trust) is measurable. Thirty-seven percent say the same about GenAI specifically. Expectations for this value 12 months from now are even higher.

For this trust to be earned, many companies will need more trust-building actions. Existing data governance, for example, may not be able to keep up with IoT devices embedded throughout your operations. To take another example, GenAI appears easy to use, especially when it’s in a chat-based interface, but suitable guardrails, usage policies, oversight and training are fundamental to achieving trust in its outputs. Training should cover the responsible use of GenAI, including making decisions about whether or not to use it, how to use data, how to craft prompts and how to verify or modify outputs. 

Enhancing trust Enhancing trust

Looking down the road Looking down the road

Focusing on GenAI governance

A third of the executives in our survey report already having governance around GenAI’s responsible development and deployment. Another two fifths say it’s on the way. Considering that GenAI is relatively new, many of these companies may be adapting existing governance processes or processes designed for traditional AI models. That can be a wise approach, so long as governance is both rigorous and attentive to GenAI’s new potential risks. You may need new processes to govern the often novel ways in which GenAI can ingest, disseminate, analyze and generate data.

One of GenAI’s most useful traits — its remarkable scalability — often also requires a governance upgrade. You may need new measures as a single GenAI model helps your tax team generate disclosures, helps your customer service team provide guidance and helps leadership make data-driven decisions. Since it will be much of your workforce using GenAI, not just AI specialists, governance should become more granular and broader — without holding back speed and applicability.  

Prioritizing GenAI governance Prioritizing GenAI governance

Next steps

An action plan: 5 ideas to build trust in emerging tech

To help fulfill these expectations, consider different stakeholder priorities. For customers, our 2023 Trust Survey found that data protection is top of mind. Our August 2023 Pulse Survey showed that executives recognize employee fears that new tech will make their jobs obsolete is a challenge. Upskilling and clear communications could increase their trust. Investor trust may benefit from evidence that you’re deploying emerging tech responsibly as part of an outcome-focused business transformation

A human-led, tech-powered approach is fundamental to trust. People should not merely be in the loop, they should be in control — reviewing outputs, training systems and monitoring the systems to work better, and continually making high-value or high-risk decisions.

With this human-led, tech-powered approach as a foundation, consider these five ideas to advance trust in your use of emerging technologies.

  1. Align the right people — early. It’s far more effective (and less expensive) to design trust into technology from Day One rather than reverse engineer it to close gaps later. That requires identifying the right internal stakeholders early, building alignment on priorities and assigning clear roles and responsibilities.
  2. Integrate emerging tech with your strategy and values. To grow trust in its value, emerging tech should be an integral part of your long-term strategy, and it should align with your corporate values around employee well-being, sustainability and more. Upskilling should be part of your workforce transformation strategy.
  3. Focus on outcomes. Trust can be part of how you assess emerging tech initiatives. Quantitative data and qualitative measures can help you monitor progress in trust building, identify gaps and communicate with stakeholders.
  4. Prepare for the unexpected. If well deployed, emerging tech can be trustworthy — but it’s still wise to prepare to remediate sudden threats. A good plan will consider both new risks, such as an AI algorithm failure, and the impact of digital communications and operational platforms.
  5. Deploy responsible AI. Responsible AI is a toolkit designed to help an organization enable AI’s effective and ethical use. It can deliver trust-by-design throughout the AI life cycle (including the GenAI lifecycle) with frameworks, templates and code-based assets.

Stay tuned for our full 2023 Emerging Technology Survey, coming in late November. 

Industry perspectives

Only 41% of financial services executives say they disclose data privacy policies or initiatives

Business leaders in financial services know that protecting sensitive information is critical to their firm’s reputation and trust. To that end, the vast majority of leaders (85%) say their firm protects customer data “very well.”

But it’s unlikely that customers know how a firm puts safeguards around sensitive data. A minority of financial services executives (41%) say their firm discloses data privacy policies and initiatives. That’s a missed opportunity to make a deeper connection as consumers want to know their information is protected. The simple act of talking more about your firm’s data privacy policies and initiatives may be an effective way to help address a customer’s deepest concerns, while at the same time earning more loyalty and trust.

90% of consumer markets leaders are prioritizing efforts to reduce the likelihood of a major supply chain disruption. 

Supply chain disruptions are easing, yet geopolitical tensions continue to exert downward pressure on global trade, requiring consumer markets (CM) companies to constantly monitor the health of their supply lines. In fact, 90% of CM executives are prioritizing efforts to reduce the likelihood of a major supply chain disruption, the kind that could erode trust. Underscoring the need for collaborative supplier relationships, 41% of CM leaders say suppliers are among the top three, most important stakeholders with whom they want to earn trust (versus 34% for all sectors).

Only 54% of health payer and provider leaders say their companies do very well at offering employees an engaging, high-performance environment.

Ninety-two percent of healthcare executives say consumers have high trust in their companies — the top result for any sector in PwC’s 2023 Trust Survey. Yet healthcare leaders have the lowest self-rated scores when it comes to being transparent about their purpose and values (64%) and protecting customer data (72%.) Both results are at least 12 percentage points lower than other sectors.

Employee trust is another area in need of improvement. Just 64% of executives say their company does very well at offering career advancement while only a little more than half (54%) report an engaging, high-performance work environment. The numbers underscore the importance of creating a tech-enabled workforce to improve productivity, ease workloads, attract talent and earn trust.

Trust earning: Top 3 challenges for tech execs

#1 Current company culture
#2 Diverse stakeholder perspectives
#3 Unsupportive leadership team and/or board of directors

Tech executives self-rate their industry highly on trust with consumers and employees. But customers and workers don’t feel the same way following a year of layoffs and headline-grabbing, often polarizing comments by executives. The industry has the largest “trust gap” among surveyed sectors.

To close that gap, technology executives should consider their company culture — 36% cite culture as the biggest hurdle to earning trust with stakeholders. And 22% of tech executives (the most of any industry) say they don’t encounter any major challenges in earning trust — a sign these executives may want to be more conscious of the demographics of their teams and whether they’re hearing from a diverse set of voices.

Just 55% of manufacturers are “very prepared” for a major supply-chain disruption

Consumers who say they “highly trust” IP businesses fell by just one percentage point to 30% compared to last year’s survey, the smallest decline across the surveyed sectors. This staying power in trust likely reflects the rising popularity of US manufacturing, job creation in the sector and increasing investment in domestic production. However, the popularity of onshoring and reshoring poses a risk of disappointment should those trends falter. Manufacturers can earn trust by transparently communicating to stakeholders what can and cannot be realistically brought back to the US.

As manufacturers’ supply chains stabilize, a lack of preparation for future disruptions remains a major risk to trust. Just 55% say they’re “very prepared” should their supply lines break down. Weak cybersecurity defenses are a potentially major trust issue amid pervasive adoption of connected devices across the value chain — from operations to connected products. Just 60% say their organizations are “very prepared” for a cybersecurity incident or ransomware attack. And only 55% say they are “very prepared” for a data breach.

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