The 5 qualities you need to earn customer trust
Do you factor emotion into your CX strategy? Beyond the quantitative data points we’re used to gathering in surveys, more companies are beginning to bring harder-to-measure, qualitative factors into the CX mix as they leverage sophisticated feedback technologies such as text analytics.
A recent CustomerThink article states: “While businesses may think they know their target audiences, the reality is that brand-consumer relationships are changing quickly, and in unexpected ways. Although brands have been able to quantify consumer behavior with big data trends and other improvements to consumer analytics, these metrics do not get to the heart of what customers are feeling emotionally.”
Now I’ve got a Tina Turner song running through my head, as I wonder, “What’s love got to do with it?” The short answer is: a lot.
You may not be able to get your customers to proclaim actual love or admiration for you, but do know that it’s possible and it’s what you should aim for. Even if you fall short of love and end up developing one of its precursors, trust, you’re in a good place and positioned for success. In the customer-driven era, there are an increasing number of studies that show the connection between positive customer emotion and business success. Conversely, low levels of positive emotions are recorded when customers struggle through their experiences with you.
“…the research reveals a direct correlation between high levels of customer effort and low levels of trust. The majority (54%) who report their online ease as only ‘satisfactory’ rated their trust level as only ‘some trust’ (3.1 out of 5) – that is their level of trust in digital providers to use their personal data appropriately. This trust level falls below 3 (to ‘little trust’), for those who found it ‘difficult’ or abandoned use.” (MyCustomer, Winning with GDPR: How to build customer loyalty).
The above example is limited to consumers sharing their personal data, but across most industries that’s what a purchase requires these days. Even a simple, in-store, retail transaction may require that you provide personal information such as your email address to receive a receipt or to join the mailing list. If your buyers don’t trust you (much less love you), they will hesitate or refuse to give you this data. This and other similar refusals, like dropping out of the buying cycle, hinders your company’s ability to build that relationship as well as do better marketing (personalization, targeting, etc.) to bring that person back.
On the flip side, as people trust you more and in turn provide information and make purchases, and you return that trust by meeting their expectations and treating them fairly, you create a “virtuous cycle.” Customers who enjoy positive experiences trust the company more, which sparks them to come back again to repurchase and perhaps share their experience via social channels and word of mouth.
“With emotion established as the top driver of a positive customer experience and loyalty, brands must learn how to better design, measure and iterate on the customer experience with this in mind. And it begins with with learning what consumers expect you to deliver, and then remaining laser-focused on consistently meeting those expectations” (CustomerThink).
The good news here is that this dynamic opens excellent opportunities for companies that create awesome experiences. You can work toward building a happier customer base by learning what customers expect and then making all those transactions frictionless, whether on or offline, to prove you’re worthy of their trust.
The social marketing strategist Ted Rubin wrote: “I’ve long been a proponent of what I call “Return on Relationship,” or ROR, hashtag #RonR, which is the value that’s accrued by a person or a brand due to nurturing a relationship. That’s no secret. We develop and grow human relationships every day of our lives. Establishing communication is essential to this process because it helps build trust—a vital component of ROR. Seth Godin says that ‘In the connection economy, trust and relationships are the new currency‘.”
So, how do you engender that trust and those relationships?
You need a combination of (at least) five qualities to earn trust, which may eventually grow into love:
- Transparency: As access to information online proliferates, you don’t have anywhere to hide. If you’re practicing crooked policies or otherwise not living up to your public-facing brand promises, you will eventually be exposed and your customer’s trust shattered. We could all name several companies off the tops of our heads who have suffered severe brand crises due to horrible internal policies that they were trying to hide. It should be at the top of the C-level’s priority list to be transparent with policies and corporate values — and if there are any cringe-worthy ones, change them immediately.
- Reliability: A great way to earn trust is simply to not fail customers. If your digital systems and your staff provide reliable services that can be counted on time and time again, you’re creating positive emotions and even if you aren’t the leading product, you may be able to retain customers. Depending on your industry, “not sucking” can at least keep you in the game (not that I’m suggesting that as a goal). See the 2017 Temkin Trust Ratings for where your industry fares.
- Consistency: Similar to being reliable, it’s critical that products and service be absolutely consistent across channels. If your customer seeks information online, receives swift help via Live Chat, and then enters a brick-and-mortar store only to find rude salespeople and haphazardly displayed merchandise, you just lost her. In the quest for omni-channel excellence, which many customers have come to expect, consistency is key.
- Fairness: Just as in human-to-human relationships, we don’t trust companies that take advantage of us. Old-school thinking was to close the first sale, no matter what. Now we know better based on countless statistics that show how retaining long-term customers is far more lucrative than landing new ones. If you have to treat customers unfairly to close a deal, something is off, and you won’t begin earning trust and loyalty unless that inherent process, policy, or pricing failure is fixed.
- Feedback: It’s a basic human emotion to want to share our experiences and know we’re being heard. A direct line to building trust is simply to ask for feedback via surveys and/or other channels and communicate back exactly how that feedback is being applied. Keep basic politeness in mind as well as you develop your feedback program. A good, old-fashioned “thank you” or “we sincerely appreciate you” goes a long way when delivered in the right way (i.e. not just an automated email) but perhaps by a personalized communication from a service agent, sales person, or executive.