Posted By Chris O'Byrne on 6th September, 2018

What you need to know about trust

Author: William Archer


The first problem to the question 'what do I need to know about trust?' is that the answer is often abstract. Gathering reliable metrics around something as intangible as trust can be difficult. How customers define and measure trust often depends on how they interact with your organisation – especially when things go wrong, and there is a complaint.


Unfortunately for many companies, the complaints process is cumbersome at best; at worst, it is non-existent. It is no wonder then that consumer trust in UK businesses has been eroding. Earlier this year, a report by public relations consultancy Edelman revealed that the trust in business among UK consumers is among the lowest out of 28 markets – just 43%, down 2% from a year ago. Over the same period, UK-based brands also saw the second biggest fall in trust globally (4%) – second only to the US.  


Building this trust is essential because the way customers interact with brands has changed dramatically. Gone are the days when the impact of a single bad experience could be minimised. Today, few things are more damaging than an unhappy customer.


The modern consumer has a range of online tools that can damage your brand. If someone feels they can’t get a satisfactory response from your company, they will quickly turn to social media – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – to make their complaint public. In many cases, these channels will be their first port of call. This is often because the customer is unwilling or unable to deal with a company directly through its normal channels.


It all comes down to trust. The consumer thinks: “Can I trust that my issue will be dealt with through the normal channels?” A lack of confidence in your complaints procedures can be devastating to consumer trust. A complaint from just one social media influencer has the power to undo years of goodwill built by thousands of satisfied customers.


But it is not just about public image, customers value connection. They want to know that their issue is being dealt with by the right person promptly. In a 2018 survey, the Institute of Customer Service asked the public specifically what organisations should do to improve their service. Over a quarter of respondents said the top priority was to “make it easier to contact the right person to help me.” This connection was even prioritised above improving the quality of the service or product being provided.


The key to building trust with your customers is ensuring that the channels for complaints resolution are as seamless as possible. That means having a system in place where customers are treated as individuals. Doing this requires the relevant data needed to understand who your customers are, what they need and how best to resolve their issues. This insight is essential because the more you know your customer, the more they can be confident that their concerns are your priority too.


That kind of relationship – built on trust – increases loyalty and an opportunity to retain the lifetime value of your customers. This is important because the simple truth is that it is far more expensive to find new customers than it is to keep existing ones. By improving retention you are having a dramatic impact upon your company’s performance.


Research by Bain & Company has suggested that growing customer retention rates by as little as 5% can see profits increase by 25% to 95%. A more alarming figure can be found in a recent report by Ombudsman Services which reveals what happens when customers don’t complain. The 2017 survey revealed that instead of making a complaint, two in five consumers reported not making a purchase at all as a result of poor service, up from 29% the previous year. Meanwhile, the same report showed that 75% will make a return purchase following a well handled complaint.


Which is why asking yourself about customers trust may not just be the most important question you can ask, it is also the most valuable one.


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