Operational resilience vital in building customer trust

Michael Campbell, CEO, Fusion Risk Management, explains why operational risk is crucial to build trust in a new operating landscape.

In the business world, trust is king. Each deal, each transaction is a promise to your customers – a promise that you intend to provide products and services come rain or shine, no matter the disruption on the horizon. Steady success in the business environment relies on building and maintaining customer trust, and there is never a good excuse for breaking customer promises. And yes, never means never – not even for a once-in- a-century global health crisis, a ship blocking the Suez Canal, or a major cyber-attack with devastating consequences.

As businesses faced a series of supply chain disruptions over the past 18 months and continue to do so, leaders have had to reconsider how to build and maintain trust. In order to uphold customer promises, businesses must be resilient and able to navigate any disruption, or risk failing customer expectations. Simply put, being trusted in the market goes hand in hand with operational resilience.

A new landscape brings new challenges 

Last year changed the way in which organisations work and do business. Large numbers of employees began working from home, gaps in third-party management were exposed, and cyber criminals ramped up their activity, taking advantage of the uncertain environment. It became evident just how heavily businesses rely on external partners and vendors, further complicating the ability to keep customer promises. These events made it clear that businesses must have resilience plans which go beyond simply responding to disruptions – there must be a focus on the proactive mapping and predicting of potential risks to operations.

With a global vaccination program well under way, and we adjust to the ‘new normal,’ it is time for businesses to re-evaluate. Looking back at the disruptions over the past 18 months, organisations must take stock of the short- and long-term effects of these disruptions and use this information to help futureproof their businesses. Now is the time to create an agile strategy with operational resilience at its core. Because disruptions are inevitable; it is how a business handles them that truly matters.

Trust building and resilience

Operational resilience has not always been number one on the priority list. But a global pandemic and ongoing consequences have changed everything. Now, resilience has been pushed to the top of the agenda. In fact, a recent 2021 CeFPro survey showed that operational resilience was voted the utmost important non-financial risk for organisations, ahead of technology, IT, third-party management and even cyber risk.

This should not surprise experienced leaders – they know that customers will remember which businesses met or exceeded expectations, and which ones did not. The best way to keep delivering is with a comprehensive resilience plan that considers every possible major threat and dependency.

To gain recognition as a resilient provider, businesses must break down business silos which act as a barrier to transformation. By tearing down the virtual barriers between departments; from business continuity to incident and crisis management, to disaster recovery and other risk disciplines, organisations can develop a comprehensive resilience program which secures their position as a competitive, agile and innovative business. This in turn solidifies customer trust and wins new loyal customers in the future.

Brand reputation centres around customer centricity

Reliability in the market ensures survival and growth. The best strategy to achieve reliability is by putting customer needs at the core of all operational resilience plans. Business leaders must walk a mile in their customers’ shoes and look at all products and services through a customer lens. This is done by identifying the most important, most essential services to customers. These are the services that cannot fail, no matter what, and need to be protected at all costs. Businesses should build the resilience plans from this point outward – it is the only way to ensure customers always have the most important needs met.

By investing in a customer-centric resilience plan, businesses can not only build trust, but also gain the ability to make real-time, data-driven decisions that tackle any disruptions before they even occur.

It is important to understand that while senior level executive ownership is critical – resilience planning is not the responsibility of any single team or individual – it concerns employees across the hierarchy of the business, starting in the boardroom. C-level leadership must truly understand and see the value of resilience and how it strengthens customer trust. When leaders can see how their business works, breaks, and how to fix it – they are in the ultimate position to lead their company and see growth in the market.

This commitment to resilience tells customers and partners that the business will meet their needs, no matter what. In short, it is becoming clear to business leaders that operational resilience comes with great ROI.

The recipe for success is simple: protect your operations with a comprehensive operational resilience strategy, keep your promises and build customer trust – this is how your business will triumph over your competitors. The past 18 months have brought many challenges – from rising vendor risks to supply chain issues, but they have also signalled a mindset change. As businesses prepare for what the future brings, especially with the rise of new COVID-19 variants and hints of new restrictions, it is crucial to commit to investing in resilience; to commit to making all business decisions with resilience in mind and inspiring a culture of resilience across all aspects of the business. Doing this is the only way to ensure your organisation weathers any future disruptions, and continues to deliver on your customer promises, always.

Last year changed the way in which organisations work and do business. Large numbers of employees began working from home, gaps in third-party management were exposed, and cyber criminals ramped up their activity, taking advantage of the uncertain environment.

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