6 Definitive Ways to Gain and Retain Customer Trust

By João Alves

    two-characters-shaking-hands

    Trust is the bedrock of most relationships. Think about it, if trust doesn’t exist between two parties, there is very little that can be done. This need for trust goes for any relationship: romantic, business partners, and especially, for customers and companies.

    Today, customers are often looking for reasons not to trust a company. In fact, 55% of consumers don’t trust companies they buy from as much as they used to. That doesn’t bode well for businesses that aren’t proactively looking to gain and conserve customer trust.

    The good news is that once customer trust is gained, it directly affects a customer’s lifetime value, which in turn influences a company’s revenue. Motista found that customers with an emotional connection to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value than those who lack that emotional tie.

    The article below will delve into six key ways companies can build and retain trust. Many of these tactics tie back to the customer experience (CX) as companies can more strategically interact with their customers. We also discuss what to do if customer trust is broken and how to repair it. For a quick summary, see our visual here .

    1. Offer Excellent Customer Service

    Part of building customer trust means having exceptional customer service. Customer service is the support and guidance provided to a client when questions or issues arise with a product or service.

    Customer service is a part of the customer experience and customer journey, and it builds trust because it helps prove to customers that a company completely understands its product and is competent in helping them.

    When customers interact with a company’s customer service team or an individual representative, they should have to commit little to no effort. Each interaction with an agent should result in a low customer effort score (CES). Businesses’ customer service teams should exemplify the qualities below to better serve their customers:

    • Deep knowledge and understanding of the company’s product and service offerings
    • Extremely high emotional intelligence and strong ability to communicate clearly
    • Imprudent patience and attentiveness to customers

    Companies can strengthen their customer service department’s skills by doing the following: Support the team’s mental health through free or reduced counseling or therapy sessions Create procedures and outlines for agents on how to respond to common queries Equip agents with the tools and techniques to find solutions to more complex issues Host training sessions on empathy, communication styles, and how to actively listen

    2. Be Consistent

    Companies must be consistent in all of their interactions with customers. One poor interaction can have a negative ripple effect by quickly turning off other prospective consumers. According to Esteban Kolsky, a major customer strategist, 13% of unhappy customers will share their experience with 15 or more people.

    When businesses are consistent, they are viewed as reliable and trustworthy. Companies can better maintain consistency throughout the customer journey by having standard operating procedures, clear-cut policies, and accommodating mechanisms.

    Companies can use CX technology to consistently review and refine these systems to better listen to and gauge customers’ wants and needs. where-companies-must-be-consistent

    3. Be Transparent

    Customers value transparency more and more. During the second stage of the customer journey, the consideration period, potential buyers are looking for reasons to choose a competitor.

    By being transparent and honest, companies can make themselves more attractive than competitors. According to Accenture, two-thirds of consumers think transparency is one of a brand’s most attractive qualities. Transparency matters most in two areas: delivery and data.

    When it comes to delivery, businesses should perform the following actions when first interacting with a customer:

    • Be upfront about capabilities
    • Don’t promise anything that can’t be delivered on
    • Let customers know early on what they’re signing up and paying for

    Another important area where transparency and honesty are highly valued by customers is their personal data. Data collection is necessary to better understand the customer experience, but customers are demanding that companies be open about its collection and use. Here are a few tips when it comes to data transparency:

    • Assume that all customers care a great deal about collecting and selling data
    • Promise not to sell data to third parties
    • State in a FAQ, terms of service, or privacy and disclosure section how data will be collected and used
    • If a data breach occurs, be candid about what customer information was stolen and discuss strategies to prevent it from happening again

      4. Publicize Core Values

      Similar to transparency, customers today care much more about a brand’s core values. Consumers are intrigued by how businesses act on their core values internally and externally. These core values are displayed internally by how a business treats its employees. Externally, customers care about brand partnerships with NGOs or non-profits and acts of service such as fundraising for environmental, social, or political causes.

    In business and marketing, these efforts don’t hold value to customers unless they are publicized in some way. Here are a few ways companies can publicize their core values either on social media, on their website, or through PR strategies.

    • Supporting causes: Produce social media content showing support for social and environmental causes.
    • Partnerships: Publicize on landing pages partnerships with NGOs or non-profits.
    • Employee engagement: Display on social media and LinkedIn working hours, work conditions, and employee benefits from the C-suite to entry-level employees.

      5. Request Feedback

      ways-to-strategically-request-feedback Customers want to know that companies care and value their opinions. Requesting feedback from clients does three important tasks. First, customers feel heard and appreciated, which builds trust. Second, businesses can use the feedback to tactfully refine their product and offerings. And third, by closing the customer feedback loop, businesses are proactively retaining their customers and reducing churn rates.

    Surveys are the best way for companies to actively request feedback from their clients. The below section will go in-depth on different survey types and the best times to send them.

    Customer Effort CES Surveys

    Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys measure how much effort a client had to put in during an interaction with a business. The lower the effort, the higher probability a customer becomes a repeat buyer. For instance, if a customer needed to repeat themselves when speaking with a customer service agent or had a long wait time, their CES would likely be higher.

    Companies should send CES surveys directly after their clients interact with their business to understand and fix any pain points causing high effort.

    CSAT Surveys

    Customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys are surveys that measure how satisfied a client is with a product or service. Typically, CSAT should be sent 5–10 business days after acquiring a new client and can typically be 3–5 questions in length. They can also be sent after product updates or during free trial periods.

    CSAT surveys give insight into a consumer’s preconceived notions about a company and their actual experiences. By understanding and addressing both good and bad experiences early on, companies can improve trust and better retain their customers.

    Net Promoter Score Surveys

    Net promoter score (NPS) surveys measure how likely a customer is willing to promote or advocate for your business. NPS is tied directly back to CES and CSAT. The higher the effort or less satisfied consumers are with a business, the less likely they will be to promote them.

    NPS surveys should be sent about a month after acquiring a new customer. They should also be sent after CSAT surveys to give time for any satisfaction issues to be addressed and resolved. For long-standing customers, NPS surveys ought to be sent bi-annually. This will help to ensure that issues haven’t arisen and that long-term customers are still being satisfied. Use our NPS calculator to quickly determine net promoter score.

    6. Share Online Reviews

    Not only should businesses send surveys to gain customer trust and improve themselves, but they should also request online reviews. Reviews heavily influence customers when they are deciding to purchase from a company. They also impact trust levels early on. In fact, according to BrightLocal, 79% of customers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family.

    To gain reviews, brands can send follow-ups to customers who rank as promoters from their NPS surveys. Companies can also add a simple call-to-action requesting a review at the end of CSAT or NPS surveys. To boost trust, even more, these reviews should then be published on social media and displayed on companies’ website pages.

    To gain reviews, brands can send follow-ups to customers who rank as promoters from their NPS surveys. Companies can also add a simple call-to-action requesting a review at the end of CSAT or NPS surveys. To boost trust, even more, these reviews should then be published on social media and displayed on companies’ website pages.

    Customer reviews aren’t the only reviews that matter. Employee reviews also matter. Customers care about how engaged employees are since they directly affect the products and services. Many consumers will look at Glassdoor or other online review websites to see if customers are treated well. The visual below will give more insight into how companies can improve and maintain trust with customers. importance-of-customer-trust-and-how-to-maintain-it (1)

    How to Repair Trust if Broken

    Ideally, a business would not break customer trust in the first place. However, mistakes happen or issues are overlooked and unresolved. The latter is typically more difficult to explain and defend; still, though, businesses can regain customer trust. Let’s first look at key ways brands lose customer trust.

    • Over promising and under delivering: Stating that a software bug would be fixed by a specific date and time but not having it resolved by then.
    • Major oversight: A key internal issue was continually ignored until it became a real issue or even a scandal.
    • Inappropriate data usage: When customers’ data is stolen or even worse, inappropriately used.

    An example of a major tech giant breaking customer and public trust occurred throughout the spring and summer of 2017 with Uber. Uber’s scandals included reports of sexual harassment, shady business practices, and a toxic work culture that lacked diversity.

    Uber’s internal culture was so entrenched that it took far too long to fix these problems and regain customer trust. On June 20, four months after the first sexual harrasment scandal, 2017 CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down as CEO. This was the first major step for Uber to slowly regain public trust. They eventually admitted to previous mistakes and took actionable steps to prevent them from occurring again.

    For instance, to address the lack of diversity in tech, Uber pledged a donation of $1.2 million over three years to Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that aims to increase the number of women in computer science in the U.S. Additionally, Uber's current CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, invited Uber employees to re-write Uber’s cultural norms. Uber is a prime example of what companies should and should not do if trust is broken.

    How companies can make it difficult for customer trust to be regained:

    • Only commit verbally, but not actionably to changes
    • Deny internal issues or allegations against them, if they’re true
    • Uphold problematic leaders who perpetuate problematic company culture

    How companies can effectively regain customer trust:

    • Apologize for the mistakes and harm caused
    • Openly discuss how the issues arose
    • Commit both verbally and in action ways to prevent the mistake from occurring again

    Customer trust takes time to build. It requires companies to continuously review and enhance their customer experience. In doing so, companies will not only please their customers, they will build a loyal following and create organic traffic and buzz. Just remember that it’s much easier to build and retain trust than to lose it and have to rebuild.

    Sources: HubSpot | Motista | Esteban Kolsky | Accenture | BrightLocal

    Infographic Sources: SuperOffice | Thanx | PwC | Edelman | Stackla | Havas Group | Edelman | Podium

    Power your CX with Chattermill

    Free 14-day Trial