Trust and Safety

Trust and Safety is the heart of your business. It is how your customers feel when engaging with your brand, confident that their identity, image, physical, financial and emotional safety is in good hands. T&S is usually associated with technology companies; the first team to identify themselves as Trust & Safety was eBay in the early 2000s. All the big tech companies have a T&S team: Facebook, Google, Stubhub, Uber, Trade Me, Twitter. There are a few articles written about the discipline like this one and this one. After working in Trust & Safety for over 15 years at a few of these companies, I think about it like this:

Does your purpose, values and culture reflect a trusted brand, and are you delivering an exceptional and fundamentally safe experience for your customers? 

If yes, then you’re already a long way ahead of the pack and ready to dive into the operational parts of T&S. Very few companies are gold standard in T&S, even those that have large Trust & Safety teams (see the blog for examples). The first place to look is your company’s values – do they inspire a T&S culture? Make Trust and Safety a priority at the top, your staff will think it, your products and services will be designed and operated with it in mind, and your customers will love you for it even when things go wrong.

Trust and Safety teams work on just about anything: marketing, public policy, facilities, customer success, payments, product owners, financial risk etc. That said, Trust and Safety is not normally a land grabbing team and honestly, you may not even need a team if your purpose and values are spot on. Your engineering and product teams, marketing, policy, risk, customer service… they are Trust and Safety assuming they’re headed in the right direction with appropriate resources. That said, the work that does sit nicely under a Head of T&S is:

  1. Protection from direct threats like fraud, abuse and law enforcement relations
  2. Quality and risk management for customers, products, policies and more
  3. Incident response when things go wrong
  4. Privacy, security and physical safety of your customers, staff and business partners

I’ll expand on these 4 pillars through the blog posts. Trust and Safety teams aren’t like more traditional teams that have a playbook on how to operate, what skills you need, defined KPIs etc. Your T&S team might be just be fraud or physical safety, or it might also take on customer service or public policy work. No two teams are the same, however the people at the top will have some common skills and ways of thinking that delivers a Trust and Safety culture. They are, in short, customer-champion risk managers.

If your brand is delivering for your customers on the pillars above (and other parts of the business are bought in), then you can start working on the 5th pillar:

5. A Trusted Brand

A Trusted Brand is an outcome of your purpose, values, culture combined with getting results in the areas above. By getting the foundations right, you have the credibility to promote the work you do. Things like trust marketing, industry engagement, government relations and brand protection fit here. Without a solid foundation, promoting this work leads to consumer backlash. See the blog.

With the right purpose, values, culture and the right level of investment in the foundations, you are well on your way to having a Trust and Safety culture.