Trust has never been unimportant in business, but it has also never been more important. Human relationships breathe the air of trust, within organizations, with colleagues, co-workers, partners, suppliers, clients, and customers.
Within your organization, trust is what keeps business moving. Stephen M.R. Covey wrote a whole book about it called The Speed of Trust. He talks about the relationship between trust, speed, and cost. “When trust goes down,” he says, “speed decreases with it. Everything takes longer. Simultaneously, costs increase.”
But let’s talk about customers.
Customer trust has eroded over the past few years on several fronts. The more that consumers learn about how their data is gathered, used, sold, and compromised, the less they trust organizations to use it only to create better experiences or offer more relevant products. Earning and keeping customer trust has never been as important or as difficult. But it is possible.
With trust in such a precarious and fragile state, it takes an instant to gain or lose a customer. And it could be for anything, any indicator that your company is not worth trusting if the risks seem to outweigh the benefits of doing business with you.
Take steps to gain trust on the first try. Because you will likely only have that one chance. You must make a great first impression, and every time a customer engages with your branding, your products and services, and your organization is the first impression. After you’ve made thousands of positive first impressions, even with the same customer, it only takes one bad first impression (every customer interaction is the first impression) to lose them.
The cost of acquiring a new customer can be five times more than retaining existing ones. According to research by Bain and Company, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25 to 95 percent. Clearly, the research supports Covey’s theory of customer trust.
Here are some steps you can take to demonstrate to customers that their trust in your company is well-placed.
1. Be transparent about who you are, what you offer, and how you do business
Let’s start with some recent research that says 86 percent of American customers say that transparency from businesses has never been more important. Also, 86 percent who see a lack of transparency from businesses on social media are likely to do business with the competition. However, 85 percent of consumers are more likely to remain loyal to a brand that has demonstrated past transparency prior to a bad experience.
Recent Pew Research Center findings show that among U.S. adult respondents:
- 81 percent feel that the risks outweigh the benefits when companies collect data
- 79 percent are very concerned about how the data that companies collect is used
- 79 percent are not convinced that a company would admit mishandling consumer data and take responsibility for those mistakes
- 75 percent do not believe that the government will hold companies accountable for misusing consumer data
As the age of data breaches continues to pull back the curtain on how companies have been behaving behind closed doors with customer data, the only thing stunning about those statistics is that the numbers aren’t higher. Without question, one of the fastest ways to establish trust with customers is to understand what kinds of transparency they value and why and make that a defining quality of your organization.
2. Help your customers live out their values
The need for transparency goes beyond and deeper than data practices to the root of your organizational values. Customers evaluate your company based on many criteria, but increasingly important among them are your core values.
Some of the business behaviors that your customers and potential customers evaluate and factor into their decision to do or continue doing business with you include:
- What issues and causes – social, environmental, and otherwise – do you support and engage with as a company?
- Who are your business partners?
- Do you and your partners pay fairly when sourcing labor and material, especially from developing countries?
- What kind of working conditions and work environments do you foster, from the C-suite to the warehouse to the call center?
- What are your company positions, policies, and initiatives regarding environmental responsibility and sustainability efforts?
Earning and maintaining customer trust rests heavily on how well your business supports, enacts, and helps consumers live their values as they do business with you. Remember, your customer wants to be the hero, and they expect you to help them make that a reality.
3. Enact empathy for your customers
In the experience economy, the companies that deliver the best customer experiences enjoy a great competitive advantage. Key to improved CX is understanding customer needs, wants, feelings, and motivations. In short: empathy.
Increased empathy benefits the entire organization, from inside out. As discussed in Entrepreneur, greater empathy leads to a boost in productivity, innovation, sales, loyalty, referrals, and more.
4. Be authentic and genuine with your customers
Gathering relevant and useful data and customer information to analyze can help inform how you engage your customers across their entire journey, and to do so in a meaningful and authentic way. The saying “fake it till you make it” can work in many contexts, but faking empathy will only make it clear to your customers that you still don’t get it – or them.
5. Deliver exceptional customer experience and customer service
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Walk the walk. Practice what you preach. Use whichever clichés you want; just don’t be one. You work so hard to convince customers to do business with you, so make sure they don’t regret their decision after enduring a bad experience or poor customer service.
A lot of things are the new gold: data, blockchain, crypto, silicon, water, and the list goes on. Trust is the old gold. In fact, trust is the OG: the original gold. Trust was gold before gold was gold. And now trust is the new gold, too. It only takes a moment to lose a customer forever. So, make every moment and engagement count.
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