Consumer trust is a crucial driver of brand loyalty and brand equity, but a recent study from Forrester Research shows that in spite of the increase in consumer/brand interactions, trust in companies has dropped substantially.
Reputational damage arising from misleading information and fake news as well as brand fails, such as the current Tiger Brands listeriosis crisis, undermines brand value in the minds of consumers, creating what Forrester refers to as a ‘trust crisis’ which has the potential to significantly devalue brands.
“We believe four factors have led to this significant collapse in trust: Firstly, more frequent and extreme misleading or false statements from politicians and executives; Secondly, stealth propagandists planting false claims that millions of credulous consumers propagate; Thirdly, the power of platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to speed and scale up the spread of falsehoods; and finally, the belated and (so far) weak response of these tech giants in acknowledging and remedying their role in this downward spiral,” writes Ryan Hart, Forrester principal analyst serving customer experience professionals.
Forrester’s report, Predictions 2018: The Crisis Of Trust And How Smart Brands Will Shape CX, states that customers say the way to build trust is to listen to them more, offer higher-quality products and services, and treat employees better. The report predicts that “enlightened brands” will use Customer Experience (CX) to win back customer trust.
Victor Milligan, CMO at Forrester, says “Trust is an operational competency. It’s not a brand message. It’s not collateral. It’s what I do every single day in terms of transparency, integrity, competence. It is my business. And it’s not just because it’s part of an emotional connection. It is a significant lever to financial performance.”
Forrester suggests four ways that they believe leading brands will use to address this trust crisis in 2018:
1. Authentic brand values are key
Brands need to stay true to the core values and attributes they stand for, resisting transient trends and events. Products, business activities and communications need to stay aligned to the core values they represent, thereby building trust and loyalty.
2. Smart companies will make the effort to genuinely understand their customers
Eighty eight percent of the companies surveyed by Forrester now use journey mapping and other methods to find and fix glaring problems. Using the Design Thinking and Customer Obsession strategic approach, Forrester reports that CX professionals at leading firms will move beyond ad hoc initiatives to probe more deeply into the underlying root cause of the problems and design both scalable and sustainable solutions.
3. B2B companies make the leap from selling to Customer Success Management (CSM)
Three is a significant shift in B2B CX and the report states that B2B companies who place a strong focus on CSM will set themselves apart in the coming year. CSM practitioners can earn trust by strengthening CX management maturity practices, ensuring that promises made to clients in the pre-sale period are honoured post-sale. CSM should aim to build trust and loyalty by focusing on what the client needs from an experience and consistently delivering effective, reliable, and trustworthy experiences.
4. Serving distinct communities rather than the mass market.
Segmentation and personalisation allow for deeper customer knowledge to ensure that brands hit the mark on delivering memorable experiences. Companies that narrow their focus and address a niche market will provide a deeper, richer customer experience than companies that try to be all things to all people.
Forrester senior analyst, Tom Champion, says companies who “use trust as a competitive weapon” will ultimately have the advantage. “We’re at the point where you can diagnose where you’re weak on trust, define to what extent trust matters to you, and then you can use that across the journey and make the systemic changes to match. So the companies that do that will really prosper.”
Bettina Moss is an inspirational writer, motivational speaker, GlowCoach, intuitive counsellor, mentor and presenter in the field of personal growth and development. She founded GloWoman in 2010.