The statistics are sobering. Trust is on what seems to be an irreversible downward slide. In fact, 2015 marked the year that nearly every institution fell below 50% in levels of trust among the populace and 2018 signaled the largest single year drop across all institutional categories, according to Edelman’s Annual Trust Barometer. In an era of weaponized information – with everyone spinning facts to support their own version of the world – we just don't trust governments, brands, banks, companies or charities to give it to us straight or do what’s right. But does that mean we should give up on trust?
“A brand is simply trust.”
~ Steve Jobs, Former Chairman & Co-Founder of Apple
Trust is a hugely important but largely shrinking commodity. Brand trust, in particular, is built through customer experience and positively associated with brand loyalty, which is central to building brand equity. In short, consumers have to trust your brand to buy-in, return and tell others, building toward the overall consumer perception of a brand. So, brands can’t just walk away from trust. What’s more, technology is creating barriers. A new ModSquad Harris Interactive survey found that despite all the access to information, 6 out of 10 consumers are less sure of their trust in brands today versus 2013.
As experts in developing brand experiences for our clients, we know just how much trust matters in building a relationship with consumers. We know consumers don’t separate a brand from its products and a breach of trust ripples across everything that brand touches. Gina Bleedorn, CXO of Adrenaline, says, “We have relationships with brands just like we do with people. We expect people in our lives to be trustworthy and reliable, and if trust is breached, it’s a really big deal. Brand relationships are the same way. If a brand violates our trust, we’re very wary of ever letting them back in.”
To help brands develop trusting relationships with consumers, we’ve developed a quick primer on three ways brands can gain or regain trust in the modern era.
When big institutions think of transparency, they often focus on the way they do business – operating in the light of day – but that’s only part of the picture. While they do want to know that a brand is a good corporate citizen, consumers are far more concerned with where a brand’s practices intersect with the consumer’s life. For example, Facebook selling data and numerous companies allowing data breaches personally impacts millions of consumers. Consumers want to know not only that a brand stands behind its products, but that it values the individual and will take steps to protect people.
People develop relationships with other humans, not with algorithms. The ModSquad survey found nearly 40% of consumers reporting “24/7 access to a human agent as influential to their trust.” When deployed well, data technology help brands develop richer consumer relationships, but it can also be a wedge. For example, AI is allowing brands to develop chatbots and other innovative ways to address customer service demands, but you can’t find a human to save your life. Brands should not deploy technology as a replacement for human interaction. Chatbots shouldn’t be a modern day FAQ page.
Many brands solicit consumer feedback, but never use it to better the brand’s product or service or so it would seem. Many consumers have issues with a brand and no one solves them. These two scenarios have more to do with one another than you might imagine. Treating the customer’s experience as vital in good times and bad times, for better or for worse, builds the foundation for a trusting relationship. Giving consumers a voice to developing a better brand makes them feel valued and vested in that brand’s success. The bottom line: Involving the consumer builds a better brand.
Want to learn more about developing brand trust? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.