Benevolence goes beyond mere acts of goodwill – it is the genuine concern organizations show towards their customers. However, in a business context, benevolence is often misunderstood. It is not about selfless giving; it is an investment in building trustful customer experiences, where customer well-being takes precedence over short-term profits. And like any investments it comes with an expectation on return, which is trust.    

The Rise of Benevolence during the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations embraced benevolence to foster customer trust and provide support during financial hardships. Internet providers pledged to maintain internet connections for up to 60 days, even for customers that were not able to pay. Insurers reduced car insurance premiums during lockdowns when driving was restricted, and retailers implemented designated “senior-only” shopping hours to create a safer environment for one of the most vulnerable groups during the pandemic.

While the list of examples of how organisations benevolently responded to the pandemic is extensive, we are witnessing a decrease in the display of benevolence as the pandemic subsides. 

Is ‘Back to Normal’ Always the Best Answer?  

Let’s take retail as an example: While measures to contain the ongoing pandemic have eased or are elevated completely, many technological solutions have remained and lastingly altered customer expectations. Online shopping is more prevalent than ever, modern click-and-collect solutions are increasingly popular, and when people visit a store, they expect utmost convenience resulting from seamless digital-to-physical transition. 

Whilst data-intensive technological solutions thrive, trust becomes paramount for organisations that need to navigate the collection and utilization of vast amounts of customer data.  

Benevolence: An Opportunity to Build Trust 

Trust is a quotient, based on four fundamental elements: uncertainty, vulnerability, confidence, and benevolence. Building trust involves reducing uncertainty and vulnerability, while increasing confidence and benevolence.  

Benevolence is just one component of the trust quotient. Acting benevolently alone is not sufficient to create customer trust. However, it is undoubtedly the most under-utilized element in building trust outside of crisis situations.  

Making ‘doing good’ part of the business rationale, presents a unique opportunity for organizations seeking to differentiate themselves in building trust with their customers. It requires a shift in perception, viewing benevolence not as a crisis response tool, but as a practice that can be systematically implemented and operationalized within business routines. 

Cisco Whitepaper: The Benevolent Enterprise  

Are you wondering where to start on your organization’s journey towards becoming more benevolent?   

The report ‘The Benevolent Enterprise‘ offers valuable insights into benevolent practices worldwide and provides clear patterns that exemplify how benevolence can be operationalized and scaled. It emphasizes the need to understand benevolence as an essential part of a business rationale, going beyond crisis response.  

This comprehensive resource serves as a blueprint for doing good while simultaneously reaping the mutual benefits of benevolence—for both your organization and your customers. 


Dr Nadine Ostern

Cisco Chair in Trusted Retail, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Guest Blogger