Current levels of skepticism underscore a business imperative: rebuilding trust is vital for healthy customer relationships. It’s also a unique opportunity for companies; a chance for them to stand for something, to build new and deeper relationships as they rebuild trust.
Companies might be in a better position to do that than many realize. According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, worldwide, trust in the four institutions of business, government, media, and NGOs (collectively referred to as “the system”) has decreased since 2016. However, among the 1 in 3 globally who are uncertain of the system, business is seen as the only institution that can make a difference; 58% say they trust business the most. And, focusing just on the United States, trust in business is up from 51% in 2016 to 58% in 2017.
Trusted brands have always driven consumer aspiration and loyalty. Brands have an opportunity to use that status to their advantage, but only if they heed the following guideposts, all of which focus squarely on the customer relationship.
1. Deep customer connections matter
Customer experience (CX) has perhaps evolved as a discipline to create smooth and efficient experiences to help organizations attract and retain customers. It is now apparent that there is even more value in approaching CX – and all customer touch points – as an opportunity to make a deeper, emotional connection with your customers. This is what can grow a stronger and more resilient relationship between businesses and customers, which is the real foundation for loyalty.
2. Creating buy-in is mandatory
All the customer insight in the world won’t change anything within an organization if there is no cross-functional consensus. The earlier you build alignment across departments and amongst colleagues, the easier it is to control compromises – especially the ones that cause good ideas to unravel and move away from the essence of the customer insight.
3. Patience is a virtue
Customer centricity is a journey that takes time. To get there, companies have to make small, yet impactful, steps. The key is to focus and prioritize the areas that are most impactful for both businesses and customers given where both parties are at, and then determine the viable actions to take to get there.
4. Act more human
We know that engaging with customers in an empathetic way is a proven route to inspire them to be brand promoters. In the future, optimized automated customer journeys may remove the need for customers to seek out a connection with companies. Whilst this might be efficient, it also risks removing some of the empathetic connection between a customer and brand. We need to find ongoing ways to create human interactions throughout a customer’s journey – and across touch points – because those moments of empathy are what customers remember and tell their friends about.
5. Think critically to find the insights in data
Data is freely available and accessible to nearly everyone, and it can sometimes be used to support any CX story you like! But how do we use data to do more than just validate a hypothesis or optimize a current process? Data is most valuable when we apply our own critical thinking to glean insights that open up new possibilities, new ways of thinking about business challenges, and, ultimately, innovative solutions.
After years of using surveys, focus groups and now big data points, many businesses have lost trust in the ability of customers to contribute creatively to ideas for the company. Senior leaders must seize the opportunity to be the connector in building trust between customers and the business.
In a world of uncertainty, it is people’s relationships with companies, perhaps, that stand to flourish. It’s up to companies to seize this moment as an opportunity to act more human, make deeper connections, and build trust with customers – something we could all use more of right now.