How to Build & Maintain Customer Trust During Covid-19


Share on LinkedIn

Trust is a critical part of any relationship. We build relationships when we trust the other party, and when we’ve built enough trust with them.

Little moments can build or break down trust quickly.

Has this ever happened to you? You make a new friend, enjoy their company, and then the red flags begin appearing:

  • She’s quick to say “I’ll call you tomorrow!” then never makes that call.
  • She schedules nights out only to call and cancel at the last minute because she’s “just not feeling it.”
  • She reaches out, only for you to find out it’s because she wants you to purchase the new health and beauty product she’s started selling as a side gig.

After a few moments like those, you learned not to trust her. You learned not to take her word seriously. And the friend you have becomes a friend you had.

The same is true for customer relationships. Knowingly or not, some organizations train customers not to take their word seriously, then wonder what’s wrong as the customers they have become the customers they had.

There are everyday patterns in organizations that can build those moments of trust for customers or break them down.

Five Considerations to Help Build & Maintain Customer Trust — During the Covid-19 Crisis and Beyond:

1. Customer Trust is built by delivering on promises.

Did you deliver on the promises your brand made? This is the number one way to make or break trust.

In today’s environment, there are so many unknowns:

  • Around supply chains
  • Around delivery times
  • Around the health and wellbeing of our employees

Building trust means making revised and proactive promises. Brands that are actively promising safety measures, for example, are building on trust when customers see those measures are part of the experience, not just talk.

I asked my community on social media about their customer stories, and many shared how they are making shopping decisions based on how those safety measures are being executed.

This is, quite simply, about trust. Can I trust you to keep me and your employees safe?

Many have sent emails about those measures, but talk is cheap. Customers are trusting those who are living up to that promise.

They are also calling out those who are not delivering. Instead of just a frustrating experience, they are sharing experiences as a matter of “warning.”

To build trust today, revisit your promises and ensure the experience for customers is living up to them.

2. Customer Trust is strengthened with consistency.

Consistency is a way to live up to promises, too. Today, consistency is a way to say “we’re here for you in the same way as before, regardless of the channel.”

Trust is built with consistent experiences. Have you ever stayed in one hotel chain location and been impressed… only to visit another location that is totally disappointing in comparison?

Consistent experiences show the customer they can depend on your brand, instead of guessing what each experience will be like.

Even if it’s not the world’s best experience, there is comfort in consistency. A lot of travelers rely on the consistent experience of McDonald’s or Starbucks. That latte or burger tastes the same at an airport kiosk or a destination far from home.

Humans like knowing what they’re getting into, and consistency is a way to help them feel comfortable. They trust the brand to be consistent.

Today’s environment requires different ways to look at consistent experiences. Instead of location-based experiences, customers are relying on digital and mobile experiences. How can virtual experiences show your consistent approach? Language and user interfaces should reflect the same brand and experiences your customers have come to expect.

As rules shift and change, it’s up to brands to create consistency wherever they can. I like how Target provides clear expectations for their stores. Note how these state all stores which reinforces the consistent experience customers can expect:

Target coronavirus response
The Coronavirus response page for Target stores sets clear expectations for customers.

3. Customer Trust is confirmed with reassurance.

Reassurance is critical in any customer journey, at any time. Reassuring customers helps relieve some anxiety and help customers feel confident in their decisions with your brand.

Today, customer anxiety levels are higher anyway. Plus, your customers are likely carrying extra concerns:

  • Finances
  • Safety and wellbeing
  • Disrupted routines of everyday life

How can you provide reassurance to help release some of those worries? At the very least, how can engaging with your brand not add to their heap of concerns?

When customers take action with your brand, whether that’s purchasing something online or signing up for an email newsletter, reassure them of next steps.

  • Don’t let them worry if their credit card payment went through.
  • Don’t leave the burden on them to figure out what they need to do next.
  • Don’t add to their concerns with emails that are functional but lack emotional depth.

A “payment processed” message is technically a reassurance, but what a perfect opportunity to provide warmth and gratitude. Seek out points of reassurance in your customer journey and develop them into meaningful moments designed to build trust.

It doesn’t have to be complicated: “We thank you for your payment. Please know we’re working on your order right now! We’ll email you within 24 hours to let you know when it’s complete.”

Humans want to deal with other humans. Even if the robots are doing the talking, a human message of gratitude can go a long way.

4. Customer Trust is exceeded with proactive protection.

Trust is built on expectations. Exceed your customer’s expectations by providing proactive service and protection.

Macy's FAQs
In an email, Macy’s anticipates and answers the most frequent customer questions.

How can you anticipate the questions and needs of your customers today? If you’ve got the time, you might want to start with a quick journey map. (Related Article: Covid-19 Makes Journey Mapping More Important than Ever Here’s How to Build One.)

Brainstorm the questions your customers have along their journey, then do what you can to proactively answer those before they need to call your service line.

Having trouble brainstorming? Let your customers do the work for you! When a customer asks a question, ask yourself if it’s a question others may have as well. If so, you know what to do: find an opportunity to include the answer within the customer journey.

This is a great opportunity to use customer feedback without having to reach out with surveys and questionnaires!

Macy’s sent a straightforward email to customers about some of the challenges today. One especially nice touch: After answering the question about delays in shipping , they follow up with the next logical question a customer would have about the return time allowed.

Address those customer concerns proactively and build trust along the way.

Bonus: Being proactive can make things easier for your team as well — instead of spending extra time repeatedly addressing the same questions, they can can put their time to better use. (Related: What Your Customer Experience Team Needs Now)

5. Trust is developed with transparency.

Today, customers want to know exactly what’s happening with your brand, and, more importantly, their relationship with that brand. In a world full of uncertainties, sharing what’s known and NOT known with customers is imperative with building trust.

We don’t have all the answers. Heck, we don’t even know all the questions right now. But sharing with customers where your brand stands and what challenges your teams are facing is respected.

I found this example of transparent communication on Ebay’s Covid-19 Respose Page:

Ebay Covid Response
Ebay’s Covid-19 Respose Page offers admirable transparency.

I appreciate the transparent request for patience and understanding. It’s a thoughtful way to build community.

To Recap, Customer Trust is:

  1. Built by delivering on promises.
  2. Strengthened with consistency.
  3. Confirmed with reassurance.
  4. Exceeded with proactive protection.
  5. Developed with transparency.

How are you building trust with customers right now? How do you feel as a customer regarding your trust level with brands today?

The amazing thing about trust is that it can be built up and provide dividends over time. Creating trustworthy relationships with your customers today will serve you and them for a long time to come.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeannie Walters, CCXP
Jeannie Walters is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a globally recognized speaker, a LinkedIn Learning and instructor, and a Tedx speaker. She’s a very active writer and blogger, contributing to leading publications from Forbes to Pearson college textbooks. Her mission is “To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers.”


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here