It’s intangible and difficult to grasp, emotional, irrational and at the top of any large organisation’s agenda. Gaining customers’ trust is becoming a key requirement to survive as a business. But how can you build trust? How can you recognise it? And why should you invest in it? It relies on what you do, not on what you say…and that’s just the beginning.
Customer relationships are based on trust
Earning trust is not limited to responding well to an incident or service failure. There are specific points in the customer lifecycle where organisations can deliver what customers expect, instead of what internal processes or systems dictate. In most businesses, the areas where better engagement with customers is possible are well known. Delivering on expectations in those phases makes an organisation trustworthy, which is the foundation of building a relationship with customers.
Trust is not about consumers or customers, it’s a human state of mind
Trust is fundamentally human. It happens deep inside and often cannot be explained or rationalised. We tend to refer to it as consumer or customer trust. In reality what we see happening at a consumer or a customer level is simply the consequence of a human trust or mistrust. That’s the level it needs to be tackled at. At a customer level people might well understand why their telecom provider asks them to sign four different pages of the contract for their new phone contract. At a human level the only thing that sticks is that their telecom provider thinks they might steal the phone.
Detecting lack of trust in basic human behaviour
Checking a mobile bill multiple times, reading every word of the insurance contract, switching bank after a public scandal, are all consumer behaviours that reveal a fundamental lack of trust. It’s symptomatic of feelings like “I don’t trust you with my money” or “You’ll to find a way to trick me”. There’s no use in trying to cure the symptom. The solution is to go to the root of the problem, tackling the cause of the breakdown in trust.
Trust is all about reciprocity. You need to show trust, in order to be trusted. Too often organisations just expect respect without making any effort in bestowing trust on their customers first. What we know from the work developed with our clients across different sectors, is that trust is contagious. In the moment in which you show your customers you trust them, they will trust you back.
The price of not trusting customers
Mistrust of customers often results in huge investments in people, processes, and systems. Training staff to be able to deal with potentially malicious customers, setting up tailor made processes, or systems to track and secure, are some of the common investments that result from lack of trust. Sometimes, however, trusting customers is simply a more effective approach. A pan-European telecoms operator chose to address customer irritations such as “why do I have to sign 4 times for a contract?” and “I’ve been a customer for years, why do I have to fill out my details again?” by embracing trust. Taking the position of “we trust our customers” enabled them to significantly reduce the number of transactions, approvals and signatures required for a contract. Customers experienced shorter wait times and a far easier process when renewing a contract.
The Journey towards trust
Choosing how to show your customers you trust them requires a deep understanding of the “moments of truth” in your relationship with them. It also requires looking at your organisation through their eyes. Processes and procedures that might make sense from an internal perspective might convey distrust in your customers’ eyes. Moreover simplifying the way you do business with them becomes the next fundamental step.
Operate at a human Level to gain customer trust
Customer behaviour often reveals a lack of trust in your organisation. Understanding the human aspect of it becomes the first step in gaining their trust. As we’ve established – trust is contagious: trust your customers and they will trust you, so you should set the tone as early as possible, recognising the fundamental “moments of truth” in your relationship with them. It’s not enough to simply say you trust your customers, you have to show it in action by reducing complexity and building a meaningful relationship.