An Operating System to Rebuild Trust

Flight Attendants

A novel approach to building trust

Trust is something so fundamental, so everyday, and so human that we all know it is a factor in our lives – yet often something we overlook until circumstances change and thrust it to the forefront.


The fact that trust has eroded in the U.S. is clear. The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the political divisiveness gripping the nation, has torn at the fabric of trust – who we trust, what we trust and why we trust.

For example, only 17% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right.[1] While this is disturbing on a number of fronts, what is truly worrisome is the impact the erosion of trust is having on our economy.

Trust is the fundamental precursor for economic activity. “Do I trust the safety protocols at the airport?” “Do I trust the people near me?” Do I trust the products I buy will be reliable?” COVID-19 and our current political environment is just the beginning. This lack of trust is making economic recovery, and ongoing economic viability, more challenging and more fragile than ever.

The loss of trust can be seen acutely in changes in consumer behavior during the pandemic.  COVID-19 rearranged how we communicate, how we purchase and how we relate to other people. The effects of the pandemic on our society are not fully known yet, but one thing is for sure, the way many industries have done business based on interactions of implicit consumer trust will never be the same.

Old Data

Things that we used to take for granted like being close to other people in places of business have been shaken to their foundations. While the immediate business consequences of these changes escape no one, a more profound change is also underway in boardrooms across America. How do we make decisions when all the information and data that we were using for consumer knowledge no longer holds the same insight in the current and post-COVID world?

There is no data on the new normal

Old Data is No Longer Relevant. Areas like air travel, hotels, cruise lines, sporting events, concerts, trade shows and conventions have all operated before COVID-19 in a place of implicit trust. Attendees never worried about the cleanliness of indoor air. We have not had to worry about the health of those standing next to us in line. We have not had to do the mental calculation of whether or not our actions at a public event would imperil our loved ones when we returned home. Because there is no precedent for such disruption, the businesses impacted by the pandemic have no actionable data to turn to in response to this crisis of trust.

TrustOS Diagram

Data that was once collected on consumer buying behavior and use of public space does not provide any insights to how to move forward today. Because so many of a businesses’ operational components were taken for granted, the data infrastructure to deliver insights in these new areas of consumer demand simply did not exist.

We can learn that more people are ordering groceries or buying disinfectant wipes, but how are people now shopping for these? We can track the increase of items in an online cart but what about the millions of people still shopping in stores? And how have their motivations changed and what now about the product appeals to them? How have their behaviors and desires changed to this novel situation? For sporting events we can know that viewership on streaming platforms has increased, but what will these fans want to see to make them feel safe once we begin returning to our stadiums to watch our favorite teams in-person? Airports can see that we have a dip in ticket purchasing but what are the specific moments in the air travel journey that make us more reticent to fly? All of these questions drive a need for novel approaches to data collection and business application.

A new approach for the new normal

Our team at Novel Data Labs have constructed a method to tell us the answers to just these kinds of questions. It’s called TrustOS. TrustOS is both a diagnostic and prescriptive approach that measures and models how to improve trust in specific situations. It leverages the classic tool of consumer journeys and matches it with data generated through large-scale online surveys to detail the perception of trust in specific business situations – situations as specific as how a fan sitting in a stadium feels about getting up to buy a hotdog.

TrustOS is adaptable to any client’s business, building on their unique audience journey to understand the confidence level and importance of each step. This allows us to diagnose which actions are eroding trust, identify remediation measures and test them to determine what will have the most positive effect. This approach helps businesses make decisions that optimize their ROI – its precision allows businesses to hone in on what, where and how to invest resources to restore trust.

It can uncover what element is missing to bring consumers back; what are the key points of interaction that are falling short; what businesses are doing right to address consumers’ concerns; and what messages businesses can communicate to demonstrate they are addressing all challenges in a fast-moving situation.

The TrustOS approach is currently being used by the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) to direct operational changes and measure ROI of remediation efforts helping these two major American travel hubs bring travelers back while instilling trust in their operations’ pro-active approach to keeping travelers safe during the pandemic. Trust OS is also a partner with The America Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) as the data partner of their Airline Consortium on Trust (ACT) Program.

But the TrustOS approach is designed to take us well beyond the pandemic. Consumer behavior has moved on, and will continue to evolve as external forces continue to change. TrustOS can track this continual change, and help companies efficiently and cost-effectively engage with their consumers. We are already building out use solutions to informing the new normal. The method is helping companies decide which pandemic- inspired operational adoptions should be kept and what should reverted to pre- COVID standards. We are also working closely with our client’s data teams to blend TrustOS data and 1st party data in an effort create future demand generation signals. The TrustOS approach is the first bespoke dataset solution that focuses on the specific operational changes a business can take to build consumer trust in a company, product or service offering. Its success in the air travel space only foreshadows its ability to drive growth, quantify specific consumer sentiment, address crisis, rebuild demand and provide invaluable data and insights into fast moving business problems.

1 Pew Research: Public Trust in Government 1958-2019
2 Harvard Business Review: How Reviews Do – and Don’t Work

  • Tim Rich

    Tim Rich

    Chief Data Officer, Novel Data Labs

    Tim Rich has 20 years experience as a data scientist specializing in predictive modeling, economic sociology, and quantifying the un-quantifiable.

A TrustOS White Paper: An Operating System to Rebuild Trust

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Get in touch

If you have a novel problem and need help generating the data to drive more informed decision making, we’d like to talk to you. Fill out the contact form here are just email us directly at hello@noveldatalabs.com


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