It has been argued that trust is the currency of business. Earned in drops, lost in buckets, as they say.
Nobody has mastered the basics of trust. And yet, the subject of trust grows more complex and more critical for businesses and government agencies, every day.
We all want customers to trust us. We all want our businesses to thrive. But customer trust has to be earned. At the same time, you must avoid breaking trust. Here are five trust-building strategies to follow.
1. Understand what happens when customer trust is broken.
Some customers will simply be dissatisfied and never return. They may tell you in a survey. Or they may not. But some customer reactions to broken trust can venture beyond dissatisfaction into the realms of disvalue. Disvalue is a bigger threat than dissatisfaction. It is a deeper psychological phenomenon than dissatisfaction. Disvalue can trigger social media firestorms, protests, corruption, rule-bending, digital vigilantism, and lawsuits, for example. Let’s hope it never gets to that extreme for you.
2. Check that perceptions match intentions.
Let’s say your intention is to make it easier for your customers to do business with you. But, behind the scenes, extra steps are being added to the customer’s account registration, verification, or check-out process. If that happens, then your intention to create an amazing, easy shopping experience won’t match your customers’ perceptions of the experience. To them, extra steps add hassle to the experience, not ease. That is when customer trust can begin to erode.
3. Keep your eye on data.
You need a mix of operational data and customer feedback data to really understand customers' experiences with your company. If you’re “doing CX” as a regular business practice, then you’re already reviewing that data with your management team at a regular cadence. Sometimes, however, during times of organizational transformation, taking a break from triaging customer data can be an attractive thing.
But that is the CX equivalent of “taking your eye off the ball.” That is when you can miss the early warning signs of waning customer trust. To build and maintain trust, make it a priority to review and triage customer experience data. Put it on the calendar as a regular thing.
4. Measure customer trust.
You can measure customer trust! It's not the same thing as customer satisfaction or customer effort. But if you’re asking questions about satisfaction and ease, for example, then why not ask about trust, too?
Here's one way to ask the question. On your survey, you can pose the statement:
This interaction increased my trust in (program/service name).
Then ask the customer to agree or disagree using a simple, five-point Likert scale where 1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree.
Of course, there are more ways to ask the question and measure trust. The point is to care enough to ask. Then, monitor and triage the scores. And don’t forget the follow-up.
It is true that digital trust is more important than ever. But customer trust goes beyond what is happening online.
5. Context is everything with customer trust.
Many people automatically divert to the idea that customer trust is about what is happening in your digital channels. Or, that trust is about what’s happening behind the scenes to protect a customer’s data. It is true that digital trust is more important than ever. But customer trust goes beyond what is happening online.
Trust can be built or broken from the language that is used on your signage or an application form that customers have to fill out before receiving services, for example. If the form is excessively long, or repetitive, or contains acronyms and jargon, then you’re not off to a good start in building trust with that customer. The opposite–distrust–is happening.
Trust measures as common as NPS and CSAT.
I have said many times in the past that trust is at the heart of what makes an experience an experience for a customer. And my big CX dream is that one day trust will be viewed with as much executive rigor as customer satisfaction (CSAT), net promoter score (NPS), and customer effort.
Trust is all about the relationship you have with a customer. There are no easy or simple techniques for building trust with customers, but the work is worth doing. Why wouldn’t you want strong, consistent relationships?