Customer Trust: A Two-Way Street

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How do you define customer trust? How do your customers define trust as it relates to your brand?

I’ve written about trust a lot – oftentimes with regard to the employee experience and your culture. Occasionally I’ve written about trust and the customer experience. In 2013, I wrote

Without a doubt, trustworthy companies should…

  • be transparent with their customers, not just for/with their shareholders
  • act with integrity not only in their financial practices but also when it comes to their customers and their employees
  • put employees and customers first, ahead of shareholders
  • act in the best interest of their customers and employees
  • be fair, reliable, and ethical in all practices, not just in financial or management practices
  • not take advantage of, or act opportunistically with, customer vulnerabilities
  • deliver predictable and consistent customer experiences

You can see that transparency and integrity are huge components in earning your customers’ trust, as is consistency. I would add authenticity – do what you say you’re going to do; be who you say you are – to that, as well.

On that note, MarketingCharts published some research findings earlier this year about trust. At that time, the majority (54%) of Americans had little or no trust in corporate America that these companies would do what’s right. But at the same time, 74% of respondents trust individual brands (not the group as a whole) to consistently deliver on their brand promises, while more than half said a brand has to do something wrong before they’ll lose trust in it.

What does trust look like for those customers? Not surprisingly, many brands have wronged customers by not protecting their personal data, not ensuring its privacy and security. (I believe this will continue to be a strong trust factor going forward.) Brands must live their brand promise. Expectations set; expectations delivered. This can be a huge trust leakage point. And longevity is important, i.e., the longer a brand has been around, the more likely they are to trust the brand.

Remember that trust is a two-way street. (1) What are you doing to earn your customers’ trust? Are you doing the things outlined above? (2) But what about trusting customers? How are you showing you trust your customers? Do you have outdated cancellation policies that punish them for terminating early? What about your return policies? Were they written to protect the brand from one or two bad apples?

Here’s a thought. Have you considered adding customer trust as one of your core values. Then define the behaviors associated with it.

I’ll come back to that in a minute. Need an example of customer trust/trusting customers? Look no further than Zane’s Cycles, well known for allowing customers to take $6,000 bikes out for a test ride without leaving so much as an ID or any type of collateral. The last thing customers hear from the Zane’s staff as they head out for their test ride is, “Have a good ride.” They want customers to know that they trust them. Chris Zane says, “Why start out that relationship by questioning their integrity? We choose to believe our customers.” They choose to trust their customers. Customer trust.

Back to making customer trust a core value. I recently spoke to a new client who told me he had added customer trust as a core value, and suddenly everything just became easier. It was just there. It had never been there before. Identify the value. Define it. Outline behaviors. Help employees understand what it means and how it’s operationalized. And it just is. It’s how you do business. That was his experience. It just made everything easier. No questions asked. Customers were no longer questioned or interrogated. They were trusted.

Trust is a two-way street. Trust customers. Then do what’s right by customers and for customers. They will trust you and your brand.

Keep your promises and be consistent. Be the kind of person others can trust. –Roy T. Bennett

2 COMMENTS

  1. I could not agree more with your article. I have just launched a small business and for me the most important thing I need to do right now is to create consumer confidence in my service. Without this in place I will struggle to survive in such a competitive market..

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