In business, customers mean everything. As the sole driver behind revenue, what your customers think about you can affect everything from your perception in the industry to your ability to convert leads. Bottom line? Customer trust makes all the difference.
In a world dominated by digital marketing rather than face-to-face encounters and a steadily growing economy with more active brands than ever before, it's hard to cultivate the kind of perception that makes a difference. Despite this, it's important to find time to develop a business model and corporate practices that your customers can trust. This is why trust matters, and what you can do to create a reputation that resonates.
Why Trust Matters
While relationships between businesses and customers are quite different from interpersonal connections, most of the core foundations are actually quite similar. Trust and respect are at the cornerstone of consumer decision-making, especially in an age when customers care more than ever about transparency and socially conscious practices.
Whether your operations put consumer trust at the center of your marketing, branding, and operational decisions or not, putting an effort in this area can absolutely provide big gains for your business. PricewaterhouseCoopers' 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey found a number of advantages in trust that can boost your business, quantifying the value in good relationships between company and customer. For example, over one-third of customers rank trust in a brand as one of the top three factors that influence purchase decisions, other than price.
Still not convinced trust will win out over your other advantages? 37% of those surveyed responded with the importance of in-stock merchandise, 35% quoted the value of trust, and 31% prioritize location. Among global respondents, 14% put trust in a brand at number one, indicating that even a great place for your storefront and the right merchandise can't always make up for a lack of consumer trust.
At the end of the day, if you want customers, you need a name that is trustworthy and capable. Anything less and you may find yourself skating on thin ice – ice that is likely to crack and sink your business for good should something serious occur.
How to Create Trust
So you want to be a trustworthy brand, but what does that mean? Do you need to offer good services? Do you need to tell the truth about who you are? Do you need to provide customers with good deals and maintain your end of the bargain?
In many ways, trust comes from all of these gestures, but how you apply them will define your business.
For example, in a recent blog we wrote, Accredited Businesses with BBB know that
“BBB accreditation demonstrates to clients that your business holds itself to a higher standard than others in the industry. In industries that don’t always have client needs at the forefront, it’s easy for a newly launched business to be lumped in with others. A strong company culture of taking care of employees and a passion for customer service helps small businesses earn trust. Partnering with the BBB is important for a new or local business to establish themselves as customer focused and trustworthy.”
(Read more on how Accreditation has helped other businesses: 10 Local Businesses Provide Insights on How BBB Accreditation Has Helped Build Trust and Growth)
While many elements go into creating a brand and molding customer perceptions, authenticity is among the most important. Being who you say you are is essential to creating a positive image – and this doesn't mean saying the right things and acting in contrary behind closed doors.
Authenticity should expand beyond your business’s vision and mission. People are more likely to gravitate towards your brand if you can show ‘why’ you’re in business. Doing so will show that you’re looking to build a connection with your customers and not just looking for transactional sales. More specifically, 91 percent of consumers would reward a brand for its authenticity and 62 percent said they would either purchase a product from a brand they deem to be authentic or express greater interest in buying from that brand in the future.
Further, having a consistent voice across all of the mediums that your target audience consumes will help foster growth initiatives and ultimately, sales.
Reliability is another important tenet of customer trust. When your customers can't count on you to do what you say, you risk a compromised reputation and disgruntled buyers who are far too ready to move on to your competitors.
Reliability can manifest itself in many ways. One major factor is the quality of the products you sell and the service that you provide. When your customers make a purchase, they likely expect to be able to make use of your products and services should they have additional questions or face any challenges. For example, clothing that pulls apart at the seams after a few wears or food that spoils within hours of being in the fridge aren't reliable or trustworthy; instead, this kind of poor quality seems like a scam designed to get money rather than to serve customers.
Another element to reliability involves following through on your word. Take shipping times, for example – if you say you can deliver a product within a certain time frame, be sure this is actually within your capabilities.
If you say you can accomplish something, always make sure you can live up to it. And if you can't – apologize. Nothing good comes from doubling down on a mistake.
Customers need to know how to differentiate a scam from a reputable business. Remaining transparent can help your clientele know that you are a trustworthy option. A recent study found that 94% of consumers would be more likely to remain loyal to a company that demonstrates transparency, while 73% would be willing to pay more for products from transparent companies.
Transparency in your company isn't limited to one particular aspect of how you operate; instead, it extends to every element of what you do. The age of technology has made a big difference in how transparency is perceived, too. With social media opening businesses up to more contact with the public, websites providing more information than ever before, and increased channels of communication, you have more opportunities than ever to share data. However, when the information customers receive doesn't align with reality or doesn't expose the true inner workings of a business, your reputation may be compromised. When you make changes to your business, from new products to changes to privacy policies, it's your duty to keep consumers informed.
From honesty at the start to owning up to your mistakes, there's a lot you can do to increase transparency. At the end of the day, it's critical that you communicate, and that there are no lies lurking in the closet that could compromise your business.
Before the onset of the digital revolution, protection was less of a factor for businesses. While it's always been important to make sure that the customer is taken care of, the threat of a digital attack opens up new pathways for customer vulnerability. Instead of physical harm, customers' information is at risk, creating an increased likelihood of damage and danger.
In keeping consumers safe, it's critical to understand the cost of taking risks with cybersecurity and the safety of your customers' data. A typical data breach can cost a large company $3.68 million, an increase of 6.4% over the prior year. This demonstrates a growing trend, a heightened risk that every company should consider in planning for the future. Further, U.S. breaches tend to be more costly than anywhere else in the world, putting domestic companies in a unique and potentially expensive position.
The trust from a cybersecurity perspective can absolutely impact buying decisions. Per PwC, 57% of consumers surveyed will only use credible and legitimate websites, while 51% only choose trusted providers when making payments.
When you can't keep your customers safe, you risk losing them. Commit to investments in research and development as well as protected servers and technological resources, and do all you can to create a secure environment.
Respect may sound like an old-school business value, but it still matters. Your customers, each and every one of them, matter to your revenue stream, so it's critical that you treat them as such.
Customers want to feel valued. They want you to care about them and their needs, and they want their opinions to be heard. In order to build trust, you need to be able to follow through in doing so.
Showing respect to customers can vary based on your business model and what you have to offer, but involves things like answering emails and returning phone calls in a timely manner, being polite in all interactions, apologizing for poor customer experiences, and honestly taking feedback into account. Even things like sending out a promo code specifically to repeat customers to thank them for their commitment to you can foster loyalty and trust for one simple reason: your customers will feel respected.
When you show your customers the appreciation they deserve, you can improve the state of your business and enhance your reputation among buyers.
The Lasting Benefits of Trust
Trust has the ability to help you build a customer base, but it can also help you keep one. If you want to survive, grow, and thrive, trust is essential. Even if your main concern is profits and that's the only goal on your agenda, be sure the customer element doesn't go ignored.
After all, the two go hand in hand: when your customers are invested in your business, you'll see increased sales from repeat buyers. With trust, your future as a business is brighter than ever.