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PwC Survey Finds Businesses Are Less Trusted than Executives Believe They Are

Ruth Singleton
Published Date:
Jun 16, 2022


A survey released by PwC has found that businesses are not as trusted by customers as their executives believe them to be. The 2022 Consumer Intelligence Series Survey on Trust found that almost nine in 10 (87 percent of) business executives think consumers have a high level of trust in their business, when only 30 percent of consumers actually do. 

With regard to the trust of employees, businesses did much better. Eighty-four percent of business leaders said that employee trust is high, and 69 percent of employees agreed. 

According to PwC, “This big gap between the perceptions of the level of trust is important because employees and consumers are business leaders’ two most important stakeholder groups.” 

Also according to the survey, 47 percent of executives say trust is more bottom-up than top-down, built from customers, employees and other stakeholders rather than senior leadership. But only 27 percent of customers and 35 percent of employees agreed, “indicating that they are looking to the C-suite to lead more on trust.” 

The survey also found that “day-to-day realities—rising prices for essential goods and pandemic fatigue—are demanding more of [customers'] attention and are helping to determine whether they trust a company and its leadership.” For example, PwC’s previous survey showed that 45 percent of business leaders had implemented transparent environmental, social and governmental (ESG) reporting, but only 19 percent of consumers listed it among the top five drivers of trust. “So,” PwC concluded,  while consumers may appreciate that companies are making ESG investments, they’re less likely to say that these actions build their trust right now.” 

Not surprisingly, during this period of inflation, customers ranked affordable products and services as their top priority, with 34 percent selecting it as a top-three important step to earn the trust of businesses.  

“Another top priority for consumers is treating employees well,” the survey reported. “This customer-employee connection is something executives should consider because many consumers are also employees. And as these two important stakeholders become more interchangeable, businesses should recognize that they may be making decisions with dual perspectives in mind.” 

Treating employees well is overwhelmingly the No. 1 factor for employees, with 47 percent of them picking it as a top-three important step to earn their trust. 

Along those lines, the survey found that “businesses are not typically prioritizing what customers and employees find important: 45% of executives are focusing on transparent communications to build trust with both stakeholder groups, but only 13% of consumers and 19% of employees rank this as a priority. And while executives are focusing on being good corporate citizens to build trust, customers and employees rank it low in importance. In other words, when it comes to trust, start with the basics and be sure to get them right. Then build from there.” 

PwC conducted the survey in May 2022. It encompasses 503 business executives, 2,508 consumers and 2,002 employees in the United States. It was built on its previous Trust in US Business Survey

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