Do you deliver on the promises you make?
Your customers don’t think so. In fact, two-thirds of consumers don’t trust most of the brands they use.
This sentiment follows years of discussion on data privacy, unwanted advertising, and company transparency. It’s not hard to see why customers are suspicious of modern brands.
What can companies do to build back brand trust? Or if you’re just establishing your brand, what can you do to create a trustworthy one? Here are nine ways you can increase trust in your brand:
1. Learn what it means to be a trusted brand
2. Be ethical
3. Listen to your customers
4. Keep a small business feel
5. Improve your customer experience
6. Stand for a social cause
7. Share user-generated content
8. Be transparent
9. Be consistent
First, learn what brand trust means for companies and customers.
Brand trust equals brand loyalty. Brand trust is one of the top five deciding factors for customers making a purchase. It’s an aspect of your product, and adding your company’s stamp to what you’re selling will impact whether buyers want it. Three quarters of buyers will continue to purchase from brands they trust, even if a trendy new brand steals the spotlight. Seeing your logo on a product can make the difference.
Trusted brands are those that do what’s right for the customer and the community: 77 percent of customers buy from brands that share their values. That means you can’t overlook your long-term values, too.
Start by researching brands you trust. What are they doing that you want to emulate? Trusted brands have often done their market research, so you can save yourself some time by following their example.
You may think of big names in the spotlight like Amazon and Google, and you’d be right that many of today’s consumers trust these brands. But some picks are unassuming, such as the USPS and the Weather Channel. Building trust isn’t always about flashy marketing and an army of PR specialists -- sometimes it’s just consistent delivery.
Of course, trust varies by generation. Younger generations are more willing to trust newer brands, like Netflix, YouTube, and PlayStation. But older generations place their trust in brands that have stuck around, like Cheerios, The Hershey Company, and AAA. Narrowing down your target audience will help you understand how your brand can build trust.
But it also pays to do your own research on what customers need to trust a brand. Staying on top of the pulse of business news gives you an idea. What corporate gaffes are plunging stocks? Which choices are earning new customers? Research like this is a starting point toward becoming a trusted brand. Answers to these questions will give you a general feel for the landscape.
So what other actions can you take to build trust? Here’s what else you can do.
Remaining in legal bounds keeps your business operating. But customers also like you to stay within ethical boundaries that extend beyond your legal obligations.
Consider this element of your ethics: Can your employees trust you? Their trust is also a facet of brand trust. Employees can complain about your business on review sites like Glassdoor, or they can even toast your brand when a journalist comes knocking for answers, or through thinkpieces of their own. Treat your employees well, and word can spread.
Make your expectations for building an ethical business clear. Set defined policies and share them regularly. Make sure everyone knows what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
While it will be important to discipline unethical behavior, it’s also important to reward ethical behavior. And your rewards don’t have to be monetary; validation works as well. Build an environment of encouragement that supports employees who speak out.
In that same vein, protect and support employees who notice ethical breaches. A lack of a safety net is what keeps honest employees from speaking up.
Then there’s your consumer-facing ethics. Are you doing what’s right for shoppers?
CVS made waves when they stopped selling tobacco in 2014. After CVS stopped selling, many of their regular customers stopped smoking, and the sell of nicotine patches rose by 4%. Years later, they're still committed to this choice, and CVS has pledged not to work with agencies that work with tobacco and e-cigarette companies. CVS is one of the biggest grocers in the United States.
Ethicality and social responsibility often intersect. We'll talk about that more in #6.
This is a tip that isn’t glamorous, nor will it make headlines if you practice business ethically. But ignoring workplace ethics can have damaging repercussions. Take a look at some of the bigger businesses under fire for their high churn rate.
If you’ve been in business for a few months, you already have the chance to listen to your customers.
Gather feedback from your clients, both good and bad. These will show you the past and present of your customer experience, and the feedback can determine how you guide through the future.
Survey your customers for their thoughts. You can ask for feedback through your email newsletter, by adding a call-to-action on receipts, or even reaching out over the phone through your customer success personnel. You survey should ask them to rate their experience with every aspect of your business, from customer support to product quality. Let them include their thoughts in their own words, and group their feedback to find the most common trends. From this, you can see if you’ve been doing a good job growing brand trust. Do customers like you? Do they buy from you again and again? These indicate that they think you’re a brand with integrity.
Take this survey request from Adobe as an example. Many brands email out their questionnaires.
Customers will also share their thoughts online through reviews. Check all your review platforms for insights; your ratings will vary based on the website, because each review platform has its own ranking algorithms and attracts different types of organic traffic. Just like you did with customer feedback, sort these insights by concern and star rating. If customers repeatedly complain about some aspect of your service, that’s a way you can grow to better foster trust in your brand.
Lastly, analyze metrics for your domain. Who is visiting your site? What pages are they reading? How long are they visiting?
If your users are linking to your resources, sharing them with colleagues, and spending extra time reading your blogs, chances are they trust your brand as a thought leader in your industry.
Conversely, if your pages have high bounce rates and low dwell times, your pages aren’t meeting customer expectations and you’re breaking their trust. Are your headlines what they can expect from your content? Do your ads make promises that your page can keep? Being able to answer yes to these questions positions you as a consistent brand that doesn’t use lies to get visitors on your webpage.
Now that you’ve laid all this groundwork with your research, focus on this question: what do customers expect from you? While some buyers will always have unreasonable expectations, the general consensus will be your guide. Whether or not you’re currently meeting those expectations, it’s up to you to build on them as your guide for the future.
Eighty-four percent of customers trust local businesses more than big businesses. If you’re a big company, you need to feel local.
Why do customers love small businesses, anyway? Because they love the personal attention.
The best brands make each customer feel valued. This has given rise to the age of personalized shopping, where companies can survey an individual to tailor their buying experience or give them a package of services that will work for their needs. This is one way of building a personal relationship with a customer.
Personalizing your services doesn't have to require complicated science, but that customer feedback from step three can come in handy. Personalizing can be as simple as providing a few shades for your product so buyers can choose their favorite color. Or you can have the person preparing the shipment draft a handwritten note. Going the extra mile is what makes you feel like a local, friendly brand.
Hydroflask lets customers design their own water bottles. The colors and features are presets, of course. But consumers trust products when they influence their creation. And as a potential customer, seeing a few extra ways to customize a bottle makes me think Hydroflask cares more about what I want in a water bottle than any old brand at the grocery store.
What are other ways you can personalize a customer interaction?
Start with your point of contact with a customer. Employees can make customers feel valued by something as simple as using their names or respecting their time. The more personal, one-to-one contact a customer has with your brand, the more they’ll trust you. That's where a better customer experience comes in.
Customer experience looks broader than customer service, which can be as simple as a “Welcome!” when a customer enters your store.
Instead, customer experience takes a look at the whole journey. What attracted the customer into your store? What can you do to keep their experience post-transaction positive? Create solutions for your customers biggest pain points, then train your employees to address them.
Eighty-nine percent of companies compete primarily through customer experience. It will be your biggest differentiator.
Good customer experience ties into the idea of feeling like a local business, and best practices can vary by industry. But we can include a few starting points.
Respond to customer needs quickly. Some of the nastiest complaints toward larger brands involve long stretches on hold over the phone or being ghosted when a customer emails them about a problem. Your company needs to be reachable. Assign someone to manage your inbox, and publicize your customer service contact information. Overwhelmed with customers? You might need to solicit more help.
You should also provide customized resolutions to consumer issues. Not every upset customer wants the same solution. Your buyer may want a refund for their vase that broke in transport, or they could ask you to ship a replacement. Good customer experience acknowledges that while you can outline policies for customer issues, flexibility and options are key.
This is only a taste of good customer experience, but you can see how a good customer experience will make buyers trust you more — they’re looking for responsible brands with follow-through.
Eighty percent of consumers want a brand to solve society’s problems.
You may not want to take a stance on social issues, but your customers do.
Actions speak louder than words. Show what’s important to you by working social causes into your product. If you prioritize the environment, use recyclable packaging. If you prioritize representation, expand the sizing range of your clothing line. You can’t do everything, but since customers look to companies as society’s problem solvers, it’s important to do what you can to foster brand trust.
You can also prioritize social causes by building a culture of consciousness at your workplace. Training on diversity and inclusion can spare you the tongue-tied mishaps that land you under fire on social media and make headlines in the news. The way you treat your employees can also make waves: expanding parental leave or offering education grants can make social statements that match your company’s vision.
Choose to put your money where your mouth is. Customers these days are closely watching who your organization donates to because that speaks to your brand's values. Share your good fortune by making a social impact.
Danone is an example of a brand that backs several social causes wholeheartedly. From promoting sustainability to tackling health issues, the company is building consumer loyalty by aligning values with its shoppers. Danone is clearly matching its vision: One Planet. One Health.
Ask if you can retweet that nice comment someone made about your company — it’s social proof.
Sharing this kind of user-generated content lets other customers know that people trust you and like you. It makes them want to do the same.
You can share social media posts to build brand trust. Customers want to know if their expectations meet reality. Is that rug they saw on your site going to cover enough of their living room? That's where a photo from your customer comes in. Check your social media tags regularly to see what customers are saying. You can encourage more social proof by creating your own hashtags and inviting customers to spread the word.
Publicize positive reviews for similar results. Future customers are reading your reviews anyway. Why not share the good stuff? Stellar reviews are solid social proof. For example, Business Suite provides a social proof pop-up that can appear on your site letting users know you’ve recently had a positive review.
If you want to go more in depth with positive feedback, publish customer testimonials. You can reach out to customers who have had an excellent experience to get them on board. Readers are drawn to good storytelling, so letting you customer's story shine will help users connect with them. Again, this is proving that your brand drives results.
Customers trust other customers — maybe they can convince each other to trust your brand!
Customers have to know something about you to be able to trust you. That’s why you should share your vision openly and let customers know what your company and employees are like.
You can be transparent by keeping followers updated on social media. If you’re experiencing shipping delays, make a quick post and express your gratitude for all the purchases this week. If your company reached an important milestone like your thousandth client, share the good news. Keep customers in the know!
You can also use social media to share insights about your employees and founders. Customers like to know why you do what you do: is there a good reason? You can invite employees to be spotlighted on social media and request coverage for your CEO or company through third-party news sources. Attaching a face and name to a service differentiates you from your competitors.
IT services company Cognizant features their CEO in its content. Clients can get a closer look at the business’s plans by interfacing with its founder:
Include an "About Us" page on your website to let visitors get to know you. This should include your value proposition, vision, and a bit about your founding.
The most crucial element of transparency is staying honest. Don’t inflate your metrics or game the system to fool more customers. If a customer discovers you’ve lied to them, they’ll let the world know. Be proud of what you've accomplished, but if you're not confident that the number of clients you've won or units you've sold will impress buyers, choose to highlight something else about your brand rather than fudging the numbers.
Congratulations on making it this far! Now that you’ve checked all these boxes toward a more trusted brand, the last step is maintaining that trust.
Be consistent in your message, voice, and delivery. Create style guides for your content and design so you can produce the same results over again; develop training that ensures all customers are treated to a positive experience; and make choices that align with your mission and vision. Once you've found a recipe for success, stick to it!
Of course, you'll make improvements to your brand over time. That's part of keeping up with an evolving market. But with every new service or feature that you release, the delivery should be consistent with your brand.
If you need to rebrand, you’ll lose some of your consistency. That’s why you need to emphasize that whether your logo changes or you move domains, you follow the same principles that founded your company.
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