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Do your customers trust you?

Fashions come and go, life events change us, and pandemics disrupt every aspect of our lives. But, one of life’s few cast-iron certainties is wanting relationships with people and businesses we can trust. Trust is the basis on which brands are measured – the strongest brands are the most trusted brands. This is why John Lewis, M&S, Nationwide and Amazon regularly top the ‘most trusted brands’ lists.

So, what is ‘Trust’? The Cambridge dictionary provides the following definition:

‘To believe that someone is good and honest and will not harm you, or that something is safe and reliable’

It’s essentially a faith that someone or something is going to do the right thing by you. It’s based upon your experience, both generally in your life and your specific experience of that person or thing.

Let’s break down what that means in a business context. First, if I’m a customer and am treated well, with honesty and integrity and receive consistently good service, then it follows that I’m likely to both place my trust in that business and want to deal with them in the future.

Our own experience with one of our clients demonstrates a strong correlation between their trust score and their NPS. Recent research from the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) points to an equally strong correlation between trust and customer satisfaction. The ICS report (‘Who do you trust’ – April 2021) also highlights the clear business benefits of having customers who give a high trust score. These customers are significantly more likely to recommend an organisation, stay as a customer and even be prepared to pay more for excellent service.

If we trust an organisation, we are more likely to accept the odd failing (as trust creates a reservoir of goodwill) and move on. If, however, trust has not yet been built or has been eroded, we are far less forgiving, more likely to be wary in future interactions and less likely to want to stay with them.

As Kevin Plank- founder of Under Armour, says

‘Brands are all about trust. That trust is built in drops and lost in buckets’

So, how do we build trust? Well, with ‘how to build trust?’ generating over 1.6 billion Google results, it’s evidently a much thought about issue, and there is plenty of strong academic research behind the theories and models. We believe seven key elements form the foundations for building trust. These principles are based upon our experiences of measuring survey results for hundreds of thousands of customers over many years and across multiple industries.

  1. Be reliable - The Ronseal campaign – ‘Does exactly what it says on the tin’ has passed into the vernacular. But it was a stunningly successful reminder to customers of Ronseal reliability.
  2. Be clear - Transparency has become a key element of building trust, especially when our faith in what we are told is being eroded. The Edelman Barometer of Trust measures levels of trust in four information sources – Search engines, traditional media, owned media, and social media. Their 2021 report suggests that levels of trust in all four are at record lows.
  3. Be honest - Edelman’s report also highlights that trust in institutions has plummeted in the last 18 months, driven mainly by Brexit and the Covid pandemic. Trust in Government has dropped 15 points; and Business is now ahead of Government, NGOs and Media as the most trusted institution (albeit with a trust level of only 51%)
  4. Be good at what you do - Competence has long been a key component of trust. For brands like John Lewis, this is consistently demonstrated in both product and employee performance.
  5. Be easy to deal with - The Customer Effort Score is a mainstay of many customer surveys. Launched in 2010 by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), the underlying premise of the score is that service organisations can create loyal customers by reducing customer effort. CEB maintain that Customer Effort is a better predictor of customer loyalty than NPS or customer satisfaction scores.
  6. Show you care - Accenture’s global survey of nearly 30,000 consumers found that 62% of customers want companies to take a stand on issues like sustainability, transparency or fair employment practices. As a result, purpose-led branding has become a keystone of brand strategy, giving credence to the words of Apple CEO Steve Jobs: “marketing is not about touting features and speeds and megabytes or comparing yourself to the other guys, it's about identifying your own story, your own core, and being very, very clear about what you are all about and what you stand for.”
  7. Have (and display) ethical credentials - Customers expect businesses to act ethically. Edelman suggests that 60% of the UK public believe that CEOs should take the lead on change (of societal issues).

Critically, how can you expect your customers to trust your organisation if your employees don’t? So, the same principles should also be applied when it comes to dealing with your people too.

In the next instalment of this series, we’ll be looking at how to build trust in a digital world.

Do you currently measure trust? For customers or employees? We’d love to hear about your experiences. If you don’t have any measurements in place, we can help organisations measure the levels of trust that customers and employees have in them- and critically what you need to do with those scores to improve and benchmark them.

If you have any comments or would like to know more, please get in touch.

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