Why is CX Not Impacting Trust?


Share on LinkedIn

CustomerThink has conducted a study on CX and its relevance. They find that the CX index and the CSat index has not gone up in the last few years, but the CX spend has.

The question is if CX is so important, and if so much work and money is going into it, why is CX Index not improving?

Trust is declining in business…

Take the example of trust. One aspect of doing business is trust. And business trust is going down or is low, in spite of CX efforts. Is trust an experience? It certainly is impacted by experience.

What people are finding is that buyers distrust sellers’ information. The buyers experience ranks 7th out of the 15 items studied as being a reliable source of information. Buyers rely on product demos, user reviews, vendor websites, free trials etc.

We can argue some of these are experience based, but they may well not be.

Source: TrustRadius

One thing that becomes very clear is that buyers are more empowered and are able to get information from various sources. Next, it is apparent that information is poor and not customer focused but company focused. To quote: First, vendors “focus on providing material that buyers don’t find very useful or trustworthy.” The second is that buyers don’t even expect vendor claims to be trustworthy. Lastly, vendors pepper potential customers with unhelpful informational material because they “see their role as strategic.” But according to the study, buyers see the buyer’s role as “pragmatic.”

It is sad that businesses cannot connect meaningfully with customers and get their trust by giving customers the information they want. This is the first step.

Adweek in a new study found that 40% of Marketers Distrust Their Media Agency Partners. What is more telling is that confidence in partnerships declined 11% in two years

In 2018, 40 percent of the survey respondents (from marketing, media, and procurement) rated their client-agency trust level as low, compared to 29 percent of those surveyed in 2016. Only 37 percent of this year’s agency participants, in particular, placed the level of trust at average and 38 percent, low. That’s a sharp decline from 2016 when 85 percent of agency respondents rated the trust level average.

Only 9 percent of respondents in 2018 placed the level of trust at above average, versus 12 percent in 2016.

“Numerous respondents noted that many relationships are fundamentally transactional, where agencies act as suppliers rather than strategic partners,” ID Comms noted in the study.

In 2018, 46.3 percent of brand participants surveyed said they believe transparency and trust will improve in the coming few years, while 56 percent of agency respondents noted the same. That’s an improvement from 2016 when only 38 percent of all respondents projected stronger relationships by this year.

Nirmalaya Kumar wrote in HBR in the late 80s that manufacturer-retailer trust was impacted by:

  • Exploiting power to extract unfair concessions that can come back to haunt a company if its position of power changes. This decreases customer experience and trust.
  • Companies systematically exploit their advantage; their victims ultimately seek ways to resist. This leaves a poor impression and experience

Working together as partners, retailers and manufacturers can provide the greatest value to customers at the lowest possible cost.

… and in government

Governments are not much better. The Edelman Trust Barometer revealed last year that 47 percent of the world population distrust their nations’ institutions. Even in Canada, only 26 percent of surveyed Canadians consider regulators and government officials to be credible.

Trust goes beyond basic honesty and dependability. Nirmalaya Kumar says, “What really distinguishes trusting from distrusting relationships is the ability of the parties to make a leap of faith: they believe that each is interested in the other’s welfare and that neither will act without first considering the action’s impact on the other.” This is another way of co-creating value.

Customer experience is all about creating trust and value.

What is sad that these companies also recommend CX and are seen to be CX advocates. After all, good customer experience will build trust. I am sure you will agree with this. What has gone wrong? Is CX wrong, or is it focused wrong? Or is the company focus wrong? Or is CX trying to be all things to all people?

What experiences can reduce or increase trust?

Trusting the employees at all levels is built by their speaking truthfully, and building a relationship so that customers want to keep coming back to you because they trust you. Beyond this, you must be helpful, and understand the customers’ needs. Treat the customer with respect. Be willing to share information, be transparent; and if the customer follows your recommendations, they should work.

One reason I buy on the net is that I do not want to go to the store. But when the product arrives and it is faulty, why am I asked to return it to the store? Why can’t the company pick it up? This builds a trust deficit. This gets worse when the call centre and executives say this is our policy, in effect saying take it to the store or forget it. We don’t want such experiences that build a trust deficit. Values that resonate with the customer like ethics, honesty, fairness, morals, focus on employees and sustainability will all build trust.

Forbes states understanding what the customers want and value is important and therefore we suggest measuring customer value.

When online stores stop standing behind the products they sell under the guise of just being distributors or middlemen, trust is lost.

If you build trust, Customers will not only rely on you but will seek your advice and your help.

The lesson for CX leaders and practitioners is to focus on basics and fundamentals and get them right. To start with they must understand customer needs and supply these. Trust and CX work together.

Gautam Mahajan
Gautam Mahajan, President of Customer Value Foundation is the leading global leader in Customer Value Management. Mr Mahajan worked for a Fortune 50 company in the USA for 17 years and had hand-on experience in consulting, training of leaders, professionals, managers and CEOs from numerous MNCs and local conglomerates like Tata, Birla and Godrej groups. He is also the author of widely acclaimed books "Customer Value Investment: Formula for Sustained Business Success" and "Total Customer Value Management: Transforming Business Thinking." He is Founder Editor of the Journal of Creating Value (jcv.sagepub.com) and runs the global conference on Creating Value (https://goo.gl/4f56PX).


  1. Great points, Gautam. You’re helping me refine my thinking about trust, CX, and how both relate to value. I appreciate it!

    From a neuroscientific perspective, both trust and CX affect the brain’s value calculation. We buy things because we want to solve problems, and we evaluate (or value) the utility of each of the options. To do this, the mind uses six factors to calculate value: context, rewards, cost (which includes effort), delay, risk, and preference.

    The brain equates low trust with high risk, which in turn lowers the value the brain associates with a decision option. And according to behavioral economics, when humans expect gains, they favor the less risky alternative.

    The brain likewise includes preference, which comes from previous experience, in the value equation. Humans automatically evaluate what happened vs. what was expected after every decision. If the outcome was rewarding, short-term “liking” leads to long-term “wanting,” which increases preference. And all things being equal, people choose the option they prefer.

    So the science suggests brand trust and CX are separable and independent quantities in the minds of customers. If we seek to increase value beyond the inherent utility of the product or service so that our customers repurchase, mathematically we must reduce risk and increase preference. That means we must act in a trustworthy fashion (reducing risk) AND create rewarding experiences (increasing preference).

    And as you point out, success in the one doesn’t imply success the other.

  2. Thanks, Ed.
    people like you portray a clear thinking on CX and trust. Most tend to follow blindly and miss the crucial points that can help them and their companies create value and a trustful experience.

  3. This is such an important discussion on why generic, surface-level CX initiatives fail to build real trust. The research mentioned highlights a clear disconnect between how much companies think they’re investing in customer experience and how little it’s ultimately resonating with those customers.

    One critical point here is the mention of buyer distrust in information provided by sellers. This is where tools like SogoCX can be extremely powerful. By offering a solution that gathers insightful feedback and data at key points in the customer journey, companies can access authentic, unfiltered information – the kind buyers trust. This data helps cut through vendor-focused messaging and allows businesses to address the genuine pain points that actually build trust.

    Additionally, effective CX can greatly influence employee engagement. When employees feel like they have the tools and understanding to drive meaningful customer interactions, they’re naturally more motivated. This creates a feedback loop: engaged employees deliver better CX, further enhancing trust.


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