Business & Finance
04:03 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl

Editor's Note: Building Trust With Customers Is Imperative

Trust--it's one of those topics that pervades the business-technology industry today. There's trust associated with collaborative business, with customer data, with employee privacy, with the security and quality of the software you buy, with the outsourcing relationship for which you've just committed millions (or billions, in the case of American Express), with the infrastructure you create to protect corporate data, with financial statements provided to shareholders and customers, and more. As technology continues to drive business innovation, trust in the processes, the individuals, and the companies you do business with is crucial.

Trust (or lack thereof) has been a factor in online commerce from the time the first product was sold to today, when many people rely on the Web to buy everything from diapers to diamonds. Frankly, when it comes to E-commerce, the easier question to answer these days is probably, who hasn't bought something online? Still, despite the rise in online sales, the advances in ease of use, and the incredible variety of products and services for sale, it still has a long way to go before it becomes a mass-market shopping tool.

That's partly because of fear. Even though online credit-card fraud is rare, it remains the primary reason consumers are unwilling to purchase something online. Retailers and credit-card companies are well-aware of the fear and are hoping to ease it with new technology initiatives. In this week's cover story, associate editor Christopher T. Heun explores the balancing act that retailers and credit-card companies must deal with--something tough enough to ward off the crooks, but simple enough that customers will use it and trust that it will protect them.

Trust played a role in American Express' decision to sign a $4 billion outsourcing contract with IBM. American Express CIO Glen Salow says a long working relationship with IBM was a factor in the decision to enter into a new utilitylike outsourcing deal. Essentially, American Express will pay for the use of resources such as CPU hours, megabytes of storage, and help-desk services. Other parts of the contract will be based on the more traditional fixed-cost model. The pay-as-you-use model is something other services providers (Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and EDS) are experimenting with, though none have reached deals of the magnitude of the IBM-American Express deal. In "Pay As You Go", associate editor Larry Greenemeier explores the advantages and disadvantages of this emerging service model.

Stephanie Stahl

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