Trust in Crisis – Customer Experience is the Way Out

Trust in Crisis – Customer Experience is the Way Out

Trust is eroding.

Not only in governments and media as we could clearly observe but also in independent organizations like NGOs and businesses. And in business leaders, experts, even into the famed ‘people like me’.

According to the recently published 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer NGOs and businesses are barely not distrusted. Especially businesses are now on the brink of distrust. They are often seen as part of the problem: While Automation may be good on a society level there are vital job concerns for individuals. Wealth distribution becomes increasingly unequal. While societies improve economically this is not felt on an individual level.

In fact, amongst those who think that the current social-economic system is failing only NGOs are not actively distrusted.

On the other hand amongst those who are uncertain about the current system businesses are the most trusted entities.

So there is a way!

Building Trust - Source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2017

Source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2017

A Focus on Customer Experience Guides on the Way

The trust barometer lists as the 5 most important actions that businesses can take:

  • Treat your employees well
  • Offer high-quality products/services
  • Listen to your customers
  • Pay your fair share of taxes
  • Engage into ethical business best practices

Although one doesn’t need to fully agree with these findings, which are partly overlapping, the points have two things in common: They are key ingredients of a positive brand image and of good customer experience. These five points are also about company values and the culture lived by the company – as opposed to the one that is written down.

A positive brand image is a result of good customer experience. And here is how it helps.

Treat Your Employees Well

There is little doubt that employees are the ones who are providing customer experiences, be it on the shop floor, in a sales or marketing capacity, or in customer service. Even in back office capabilities – following the thought that a business’s reason for existing is fulfilling customers’ needs. A highly motivated employee is far more likely to give good experiences than an unmotivated one. Employees that have clear responsibility, authority, and accountability, who are recognized for their good work, feel paid well for their efforts, compared to other people, and have the tools at hand that help them doing their job tend to be more motivated. Employees who feel forced to create phony bank accounts, will do so, making only the employees responsible does not help – and employees are the most trusted people within a company. So it pays off to keep them engaged and invested into the company.

Offer High-Quality Products and Services

I do not fully agree to this one and would prefer to speak about value. The quality must be high enough to meet customers’ expectations and of the value that they intend to get out of what the company offers. So the key is quality in relation to price. Customers want to get a solution to an issue at hand. Be it preparing the next meal, getting from A to B, or implementing and running an enterprise software system. A customer’s positive assessment of the value of a solution, well after the transaction(!), makes for a good experience.

Listen To Your Customers

Continuing on the thought that customers do want a solution for an issue at hand and that a business’s purpose is to provide good solutions, it is important to not only focus on ‘completing the transaction’. Instead companies need to consider how their customers are behaving, what they are doing and saying – pre- and post transaction. And this consideration needs to lead to adaptations to products/solutions, and services as adequate to fulfill both, the customers’ and the business’s needs. Customers get their value only after the transaction, by leveraging the solutions and services. This requires constant interaction. Positive interactions and the perception of creating sufficient value out of the earlier expense are the ground for good customer experiences.

Pay Your Fair Share of Taxes

People are sensitive to companies’ business practices. Paying taxes is part of these, and paying a ‘fair share of taxes’ is regarded as a commitment to the society that a company is part of. Not paying taxes by using international loopholes is considered greedy, and might also lead to dead capital that cannot be used to full advantage to provide an improved customer experience.

And it leaves a bad taste with the customers, especially when combined with record-breaking profit announcements. Look at discussions about Apple, Google, and Facebook, and many more. Not everything that is (or appears to be) legal is also legitimate.

Engage Into Ethical Business Best Practices

This one is similar to, but far broader than, the tax topic. It also covers sustainability, paying fair prices to suppliers, not abusing market power, and delivering up to promise. Company culture, too. One can consider topics as diverse as privacy, destruction of rain forests, water rights, acknowledging IP, phony bank accounts, or defeat devices in automobiles, and many more here. A part of the brand image (and value) still lies in ‘a company like me’. And many people prefer to make business with companies that exhibit ‘moral behaviour’ and not greed.

My Take

The Trust Barometer clearly shows that people want to be valued, e.g. exhibited by fairness, correct information and solutions to their needs at fair prices. Providing customers with a consistently good experience throughout the customer liftetime is the best way of demonstrating this value. Looking at relative levels of trust companies that understand this and implement an outside-in approach to serving their customers stand good chances being more successful than businesses that continue an inside-out model.