Trust in the four major global institutions, namely government, business, media and non-government organizations, has taken a massive knock in the last several months, to the point where rebuilding trust has not only become a nice-to-have, but an absolute imperative, if these institutions are to survive. This is according to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, a survey which tells a pretty dire tale of the disintegrating trust people feel in established institutions.
But what does this mean for your company or organization? Trust is one of the most important things needed by a company to sustain business. Without trust, people are hesitant to buy your products or use your services; they hesitate to invest in, vote for or otherwise support you, because it’s just too risky. Moreover, trust cannot be bought, sold or manufactured – it is one commodity that simply must be earned, and doing so is becoming increasingly difficult. So how do you build trust into your Customer Experience?
The Rise of Authenticity
One thing we’ve been hearing more often and more loudly from our clients and their customers is that people want authenticity. But to understand what that means, we need to understand what exactly they mean by authenticity.
Authenticity in marketing boils down to a seemingly simple concept – representing yourself (your company, your brand) honestly, transparently and consistently. And let’s be honest here, while we’re talking honesty – this goes contrary to everything we’ve learned about marketing and advertising in the last five or six decades, where making your product, service and brand look amazing was the most important thing, and honest representation was incidental or, in many cases, non-existent.
It’s this loose (and sometimes non-existent) association with honesty that has led so many people to lose their trust in organizations – they simply no longer believe what obvious marketing is trying to tell them, and they want truthful, open and – yes – authentic communication with the companies, political parties and other organizations they deal with every day.
The only solution is to embrace authenticity, to represent your company honestly. This means responding in a human voice to customer queries and complaints, being open to criticism and being willing to adapt when the market tells you it’s time. Instead of being focused on what kind of manufactured image you can show the world, you need to start considering what the genuine, true, unfiltered image is and, if that image isn’t good enough, what you can do to improve it.
While image adjustment has traditionally been the domain of PR companies, it is falling to organizations themselves to improve their service, their staff relationships and various other factors that create an organization that doesn’t just appear trustworthy, but actually is trustworthy, reliable and humble. In other words, it isn’t enough to just have a veneer of trust, you have to build it from the ground up by being as authentic as possible.
According to the Edelman survey, a great deal of that lost trust that people are feeling is trust in authority figures – in business, that means the CEOs, managing directors and owners of large companies. Where the image of the ‘man of the people’ CEO speaking on behalf of the company used to engender trust, it is now the ordinary folk, the employees, who have the people’s ear – and the people are listening. They are listening to find out which companies treat their staff well, which ones listen to customers, and which ones offer products and services of high quality, according to the employees.
It makes sense once you start to think about it. There are significantly more employees than bosses in this world, and over the last few years, with increased focus on the one percenters, the struggles of everyday workers and the ever-growing spotlight on unfair practices in the name of the almighty dollar, people identify with other people who are in the same position far more readily than with some out-of-touch rich guy. There are, in fact, only a handful of CEOs who have managed to retain their personal vox populi, and these are usually the CEOs of companies that have been building brand trust and loyalty for a lot longer than most.
The Trust CX
Building trust into your customer experience could mean starting from the bottom and working your way up, especially if your organization has been around for a long time and has relied on traditional marketing and advertising in the past. To build and grow trust, it helps to break things down into manageable chunks – products and services, employee relations, and customer relations.
Products and services
Whatever else you do, if your products and services are unreliable, poor quality, overpriced or cheap knock-offs, you are not going to gain the necessary trust to provide customers with a great experience. If customers can’t trust your products and services to deliver, then they won’t trust you – simple as that. And news of poor products or services will get out. People are more inclined to leave online reviews – and not all of them will be on your own website or social media, either.
One of the things that came up in the Edelman Trust Barometer survey was that people tend to trust companies that treat their employees well. This doesn’t mean you have to go over the top, but it does mean taking your staff’s needs and desires into consideration. It also means having open lines of communication and not sweeping staff issues under the carpet. The last thing you want is a group of disgruntled employees taking over your Twitter feed and giving people the “true story”. Your employees are the voice and face of your company, so make sure they have something to brag about, a good reason to uplift your company name. We discussed the employee experience during our webinar ‘Designing an Exceptional Employee Experience From the Inside Out’ and come to some interesting conclusions about how to build that relationship with authenticity – give it a listen.
It’s no longer enough to simply speak to customers from the lofty heights of marketing. Customers want to be heard, listened to, and treated with respect and dignity. The customer experience needs to be one of engagement, interaction and honest, real interest in their feedback, issue and needs. To build trust, you need to go the extra step and prove that you are taking customers seriously and are taking their feedback to heart. Lines of communication need to be wide open and your customer cannot get lost in the noise. Our research shows that all organizations have an Emotional Signature ®, which is a level of emotional engagement with their customers. These emotions manifest themselves in every part and touch point of a customer experience, from branding efforts to long after the interaction is complete. Trust needs to be worked at and never taken for granted.
Trust is a basic component of a good Customer Experience. To learn more and improve your Customer Experience register for our FREE webinar ‘Anatomy Of A Customer Experience’ being held on 27th June.
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX