Trust is paramount in the customer-company relationship. However, not all businesses realize how easily it can be lost. From data breaches to privacy concerns to legal and independent investigations, there are many factors that can affect a customer’s trust in a company. In fact, Salesforce’s third State of the Connected Customer report revealed that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or service. Furthermore, 73% of customers say a company’s trustworthiness matters more than it did a year ago, and 54% say it’s harder than ever for a company to earn their trust.
Trust isn’t so hard to build, and it isn’t hard to maintain.
Trust isn’t just an imperative for business leaders, it is also a competitive advantage. The importance of trust rings even more true with small business leaders, who overwhelmingly (more than eight in ten) view trust as the most critical element in their customer, employee and vendor relationships.
Therefore, the trust deficit expressed by customers in the State of the Connected Customer report gives businesses the opportunity to differentiate themselves simply by being an organization people can trust. But to do this, where do businesses start when it comes to not only gaining customer trust but maintaining it?
Here are eight communication tips that I believe businesses can use to build and maintain customer trust:
1. Improve Your Security Strategy
Businesses are constantly in a race to adopt the latest technologies in order to gain an advantage over their competitors. However, becoming more digitalized also opens businesses up to an increasing threat landscape. It’s important that all businesses prioritize the implementation of appropriate, CCPA-aligned security strategies alongside other technology investments, promoting themselves as a company that takes security seriously. Doing so will help reassure customers that they are putting their data in safe hands.
2. Transparency Is Key
No one likes being lied to, plain and simple. And in today’s digital age, when a business is dishonest, there is almost no going back. Therefore, if something is not as expected or promised, and the business is at fault, it must quickly own up to its fault and be fully transparent with customers as to how it will fix the matter for them efficiently.
Following this initial step, a business should then keep its customers informed throughout the entire process, to ensure that the customer feels appropriately looked after and reassured that the problem will not happen again in the future.
3. The Customer Always Comes First
A successful business should focus on each of their customers individually, rather than rushing to get things done. When a customer receives a memorable, personalized and truly helpful service experience, they feel as though they can trust a brand with their problems.
To start, a telephony platform is a great solution as it offers customer service agents a 360-degree view of their voice interactions, from their previous conversations with the brand, right down to their specific preferences. A company shouldn’t assume that all of their staff understand the impact they have and the role they each play with a customer. While it may be obvious to some, it’s important that all service agents receive the right training and leadership in order to deliver great customer experiences.
4. Get on the Same Playing Field
In order to focus on solving customer issues, businesses need to converge with their customers. One example of this in practice is using real-time voice translation. This allows global companies to break down language barriers between service agents and customers.
Businesses should also consider changing communication channels for the issue at hand. Often times, a customer inquiry or problem will be delivered via email or web form, but based on the issue, it may not be the best channel to continue communication.
An emotional customer may be better served via phone call in order to diffuse the situation and resolve it quickly and empathically, without the risk of a misunderstanding via email.
5. Don’t Keep Your Customers in the Dark
A vital part of good customer-company relationships is consistent communication. Companies should send an email or pick up the phone to keep their customers proactively informed, rather than wait for the customers to come to them. Furthermore, companies should set expectations in mutual agreement with their customers – most of the time customers don’t need an answer in a few hours.
However, if a business doesn’t set any expectations on response time, a customer’s confidence in the company can quickly start to wane. By keeping in constant communication with their customers, organizations have the opportunity to over-deliver.
6. Be Present
Organizations should make sure there are a handful of ways for customers to contact them. This can be done using various channels of communication like an online chat function or phone number. Many businesses decide to adopt a wide range of channels in the belief that breadth is better. However, as with most things, quality is better than quantity.
When a customer sends a message to a company, whether it be via social media, web form or email, and doesn’t receive a response in a timely manner, frustration will only continue to mount. A business should focus on the communication channels it has the manpower to monitor regularly to ensure consistent and reliable communication with the customer.
7. Provide Feedback
All businesses should encourage customers to provide feedback on their experience, whether it be good or bad. If a company can show they can deal with negative reviews in a sensible and appropriate way, prospective customers will feel confident that their experience with the brand will be the same. There is nothing wrong with making a small mistake, but it’s how it’s dealt with that is key.
8. Showcase the Human Elements of Your Business
Not everyone has time for a chit chat on the phone, but it’s important to ensure that customers feel comfortable on the other end of the line. Therefore, businesses should scrap the script and really get to know who they’re talking to.
Companies should practice being personable, using a customer’s name and be as informed about the customer as they can; where possible, adopt technology that can help staff with this personalization.
Ideally, when a customer contacts a business, the company should know they have an open issue, offer up a personalized menu addressing them by name and direct their call faster to an informed agent who is ready to help. This avoids a sometimes awkward and slow initial conversation where a frustrated customer has to repeat their issue over and over.
Trust isn’t so hard to build, and it isn’t hard to maintain. All that’s required is a bit of time, effort and investment into the customer. However, without that commitment, customer trust can be very easily lost. While customers today still report being disappointed with customer service and experience, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing for all companies. Businesses should use this feedback as an opportunity to become a provider that customers remember for the right reasons. Keeping in mind the eight tips above is a great starting point to building long-term customer retention.