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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Thum, Ph.D., CCXP

How to Build Customer Trust: 4 CX Leaders Share - Guest Post by Jeannie Walters, CCXP

Updated: Dec 12, 2020

By Jeannie Walters, CCXP

Trust is a core factor in facing the future of CX.

There are known challenges and many, many unknowns in the months ahead. Customers are figuring out the “next normal” and what that means to their daily experiences. Businesses are looking to stay ahead of the challenges by creating better customer journeys and reassuring customers they’ll deliver what they need and how they need it.

Trust is a core factor in facing the future of CX. Are customer experience leaders doing what they need to today to build enough trust for the future?

When it comes to customer loyalty, a report by Deloitte Digital finds that 87% of respondents have been loyal to their favorite brands for more than three years, and 61% of those respondents have made at least three purchases from those brands in the last six months.

These emotional connections are built on a foundation of trust.

Think about your own relationships:

  • Trust is built by showing up as promised.

  • Trust is built by being proactive in words and deeds.

  • Trust is built by showing that we really know one another.

Customers expect the same types of behaviors to trust the brands they know.

Of course, building trust with customers is not new or going away anytime soon. But with so many factors in play…

  • Disrupted supply chains

  • Employees working from home unexpectedly

  • Unavailable in-person experiences

…Reassurance is key. Customers want to know they will continue to trust the overall experience will still provide what they need, when they need it, and in the way they expect.

Customers are savvier now, too. They know their personal data is relevant to creating those relevant experiences they appreciate. But they also don’t necessarily trust the organization is using their data in the right ways. Customers want transparency into how businesses are creating, designing and delivering their experiences. And they are willing to walk away if they don’t trust what they see.

Are brands doing enough to build trust with customers during these days of disruption?

What can CX leaders do to build trust with customers in the coming months?

As a CX leader, what actions can you take to build trust with customers over the remainder of 2020?

I posed that very question to four friends and fellow CX leaders. Here’s what they had to say.

Stephanie Thum, CCXP

Founding Principal, Practical CX, LLC

It is common during transformative times to neglect the triage of data that tells you about your customers’ perceptions. Don’t lose that cadence.

Trust is such a complex phenomenon, and it is at the heart of what makes an experience an experience. One way to ensure you’re heading in the right direction in building customer trust during transformative times, for example, is to make sure your intentions match your customers’ perceptions. If the two aren’t in sync, then trust can erode.

For example, if your intention is to make it easier for your customers to do business with you, ask for feedback about the ease of working with you. If your intentions and customer perceptions aren’t lining up, then use that as a starting guide for the next steps. It is common during transformative times to neglect the triage of data that tells you about your customers’ perceptions. Don’t lose that cadence.  Keep your listening posts open and ask for feedback.

But to be clear, trust isn’t just about what’s happening in your digital channels. Consider the context. In government and health care, for example, trust can come down to plain language on a paper form you ask a customer to fill out to receive services. If the customer cannot understand the form, then you’re not off to a good start in building trust. The opposite–distrust–is happening.

It is my dream that one day we have a metric on trust that is as commonplace as NPS. I think it is more important now than ever before to measure it. Because what is more important? Whether or not your customers would recommend you, or whether they trust you to keep their health and safety in mind in the online and offline worlds?

Annette Franz, CCXP

Founder + CEO, CX Journey Inc.

Take the time to understand customers. Bring the customer and her voice into every discussion, decision, and design. Ensure that the brand promise is built into every interaction, transaction, and touchpoint.

Trust is an important part of the customer experience equation – now and always. Unfortunately, trust is difficult to earn and easy to break. In CX, there’s a complex model of trust that must be in place in order to deliver a great experience.

A company must trust its employees.

Employees must trust their employers.

Companies must (empower employees to) trust customers.

Customers must trust brands/companies.

To that end, I thought I’d dig up this definition of “total trust,” which appeared in a 1999 issue of Marketing Management. It was defined as:

“…going beyond the realm of customer satisfaction and delight. It is the belief, confidence, and faith that a company and its people will be fair, reliable, competent, and ethical in all dealings. Total trust is the belief that a company and its people would never take opportunistic advantage of customer vulnerabilities.”

It is imperative that CX leaders focus on doing a couple of things in the coming months to build or to strengthen trust with customers.

  • Take the time to understand customers and then use that understanding to design and deliver an experience that helps them solve their problems or do some jobs.

  • Bring the customer and her voice into every discussion, decision, and design taking place within the organization. This ensures that the customer is viewed as the human being (“just like me”) in front of us, not just as an account number, thereby eliminating any concerns of being opportunistic or taking advantage of customer vulnerabilities.

  • Ensure that the brand promise is built into every interaction, transaction, and touchpoint. Don’t let there be a disconnect anywhere along the customer journey.

Ingrid Lindberg

Founder & CXO, Chief Customer

Be easy and helpful, repeatable and reliable. Ask questions and begin to trust. Earn the right to engage.

Healthcare, big oil, and tobacco were the three least trusted industries in America when I took my first CXO job at a health care company. My entire role was based on building trust between the people we served and the company. I even had a “trust pyramid” that I used in every single presentation. I still pull it out occasionally because it is still so pertinent. The inspiration for the trust pyramid was Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

We studied what it would take to earn the trust of customers in health care. Now that I’ve been working inside and outside of healthcare for the last five years, I’ll tell you that what I learned back in the mid-2000s still holds true today. And it applies to any industry. It is so simple to build trust – but I’m so confused as to why so many companies struggle.

The five steps to building trust that we identified were:

  1. Be easy and helpful. You need to be easy to do business with. Every time. And you need to be helpful.

  2. Repeatable and reliable. If I know what to expect, and you continue to deliver it, you build trust.

  3. Ask questions. When I start to ask you questions beyond fixing a problem, I’ve started to build trust with you. It is a perfect moment where all the warning bells of “don’t mess this moment up!!!!” need to be going off.

  4. Begin to trust. People don’t just trust a company 100% at any point. Trust is on an ever sliding scale. Your trust level with people and companies is constantly sliding up and down. But the goal is to keep people at or above step four.

  5. Earn the right to engage. This is the super sweet spot. You’ve made it easy for me to do business with you. You’ve done it consistently. I’ve started to trust you. Now, and only now, do you have the right to upsell me. Or to tell me that my cholesterol is too high. Or to offer me something else.

If you think about those steps in the trust pyramid – and apply them to COVID-19, whether short or long term, focus on making it easy for people who have so much more going on in their lives than ever before. And do it consistently. If you can do those two things across your organization in these crazy times we’re currently experiencing, you’ll win.

Karyn Furstman, CCXP

VP, Head of CX Strategy & Solutions, Rational, a Wipro company

When thinking about customers’ need to trust the companies they choose to do business with, lean on strength, truth, ability, and reliability.

Building trust with customers is a never-ending requirement, just as it is in our personal relationships. Webster defines the word trust as “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” During these times, I find these words particularly powerful when thinking about customers’ need to trust the companies they choose to do business with.

Strength is the foundation of long-term trust. Stability and consistent performance demonstrate that you are there for your customers, not just during a pandemic, but always. You won’t earn more business if you’re not consistently brilliant at the basics.

Being truthful with your customers in every environment also builds trust and loyalty. We are all navigating these times together and things are changing rapidly, so what was true yesterday may change tomorrow. Be honest and transparent and it will pay off in the short and long term.

Having the ability to communicate with customers is meaningless if not followed up with actions. Customers need to believe you have their back. Reassure them that you’re there to actively help them navigate these waters.

More than ever, reliability is a key ingredient of trust – identifying your customers and understanding their mindset are now table stakes. Continually demonstrate you’re doing everything possible to keep them safe – whether in a physical location by taking the necessary precautions, or virtually by protecting their data.

Coming out of the pandemic, trust will be highly sought after by consumers when choosing or staying with a brand. Keeping these trust principles as your North Star will help you in crisis and beyond.

How are you earning trust for today and tomorrow?

I want to extend a very special thanks to our four guest contributors. I’m grateful to be able to share a diverse range of expert perspectives. I hope these perspectives have inspired you, too.

I challenge you to share these perspectives with your team, and even ask yourself and your team the same question: What can you do to build trust with your customers in the coming months?

Today is the day to think about customer trust, both for the immediate future and well beyond. Trust is earned and quickly, easily lost. Earning trust with customers is a constant focus at the most customer-centric organizations. How are you earning trust for today and tomorrow?

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