There's no margin for error when building brand trust in 2020. Earning consumer trust lowers your marketing costs and improves the bottom line.
Most CEOs and CIOs agree that building trust is essential, but what does that mean? It means eliminating uncertainty by communicating with employees and loyal customers. It takes more than staffing a call center to build brand trust.
As companies grow, draconian policies and apathy sometimes set in. Over time, these erode customer trust and threaten loyalty.
I'll uncover three areas every company must fix to become a trusted brand. The rewards are plentiful. The cost of not becoming trusted can be devastating.
What is brand trust?
An excellent place to start is to understand what brand trust is and why it matters.
Brand trust is a measurement of the affinity toward a company or industry. Factors into this include ethics, customer experience, and contributions to the marketplace.
One of the fundamental measurements of brand trust comes from the annual Edelman Trust Barometer. Over time, the report has become the benchmark for consumer's attitudes and perceptions.
Before the pandemic, seven out of ten customers stated that brand trust convinced them to stay. It's likely even higher today.
The only way to attack the obstacles of consumer trust is to understand them in the first place.
Three ways to lose customers' trust forever
Trust value has decreased throughout 2020. There widespread distrust across the board in government, media, social media, and business. With rising skepticism, brands need to deliver consistent, seamless, and timely service.
We'll go over each of these gaps and offer up ways to build trust over the long haul.
1) Irrelevant CRM campaigns
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software powers many essential sales, marketing, and service functions. CRM systems store every interaction between team members and your contacts.
CRMs store valuable pieces of customer data. It tracks digital marketing campaigns, webinars, and even their presence on social media. Even with vast amounts of data, most automated campaigns aren't optimized for people. The complexity multiplies when it also manages relationships between staff, customers, and partners.
Many automated campaigns neglect that the recipients are real people. They have real concerns and may not fit precisely in your ideal customer persona.
When a campaign sends an irrelevant email, it sours the customer experience. All the effort to build the perfect content marketing program goes to waste if you don't align with your audience's needs.
Here are the riskiest areas of the customer journey you must check carefully:
- Prospect nurture campaigns
- Welcome/onboarding emails
- Customer support messaging
- Case studies and social proof
- SEO and other content marketing activities
Each of these areas works to set expectations for customers today. Placing too much stock in influencers can limit your brand-building efforts. Your customers right now determine your brand tomorrow through review sites and comments on social media.
At the heart of any effective marketing campaign is the target audience. Your CRM acts as the swiss army knife to nurture your relationships with relevant content.
Practical solutions you can try to build brand trust:
- Clean up your data. Maintaining brand trust starts with proper data hygiene. Clean out old contacts, update preference data, and turn off outdated campaigns.
- Simplify your marketing automation. Marketing automation in today's CRMs often becomes neglected when it's complex to manage. Strip the sales pitch down to the essentials for a majority of your audience.
- Improve documentation. Improve the precision of your CRM by asking your customer-facing teams to document every interaction.
2) Omnichannel disintegration
According to a study by Acquia, 90% of people felt brands did not live up to customer expectations. This isn't a pricing or brand awareness issue. This is an experience problem.
Omnichannel includes all the methods for customers to converse with your team. That includes the phone, web, email, social media, and mobile. The consistency of service is crucial to deliver a consistent customer experience.
Consumers look for convenience and consistency. You can't have a great sales process and support experience with friction. The truth comes out through online reviews, often in scores of negative reviews.
When different contact channels provide inferior customer experiences, your brand's trust suffers.
Measuring the success of your omnichannel program includes:
- Call center tools and training
- Social media platform capabilities
- Response times across different channels
A survey conducted by HubSpot uncovered that consumers initiate contact with a business using over a dozen contact channels. Additionally, the speed of answering sales and service questions predicted customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Ways to improve multiple contact channels:
- Conduct customer mystery shops. The best way to build brand trust is if you audit your contact channels. Go through as if a customer or prospect would: call, text, tweet, and even email.
- Determine if you have a policy or technology challenge. You'll uncover two types of issues. Decide if you are facing a policy or a technical challenge. Customers should not need to repeat themselves when going through a different channel.
- Adopt an omnichannel platform for your organization. One of the best ways to treat every customer like a VIP is to use a unified communications system. This will let you accept inbound customer tickets and route them easily, automatically.
3) Poor internal communication
Every company strives for transparent, consistent communication with their team members. The reality is often much different. When problems occur, how well can your team address them?
If your team can solve issues in real-time and act on customer feedback, you're in a good spot. Solving problems and elevating product ideas earn trust in your company's brand. This falls under employee empowerment.
Signs of conflict show up in employee surveys, customer escalations, and ratings on Yelp and Google. It's no other leader's task to solve than the CEO because these usually stem from a toxic employee culture.
Nothing fouls up a customer experience than being unable to solve a problem. Worse yet, employees might be unwilling to elevate them to senior leaders. Sometimes it's policy. Other times, technology and tools can get in the way.
Also, take a good look at what your employees say about your company on LinkedIn. Are they excited? Are they proud of it? Every employee can affect other areas of the business like recruiting.
It's important that thought leaders share an outlook over the long haul for their organization and their team. Word-of-mouth is slowly earned but quickly lost.
Three tips to strengthen team communication:
- Set protocols for channels. Establish a standard of responsiveness across all internal channels. It could be as simple as all internal emails should be actioned within one business day.
- Stress clarity over brevity. Rather than only being short with internal messages, aim to be clear. Ask team members to think about how someone might receive their message when they communicate with each other.
- Encourage digital diplomacy. As remote work becomes the norm, employees might not be aware of their peer's responsibilities. Additionally, consider setting up a program where your staff listens to customer calls to understand how they can improve the customer experience.
Business communication tools bring you closer
Customers want to engage with brands using the medium they are comfortable with — social media, email, live chat, phone, and text message. They're looking for timely service and knowledgeable staff.
Your team should be equipped with a unified business communications system. This improves internal communication and speeds up the resolution of customers' issues.
Modern communication tools such as live chat and cloud phone service can drive up brand loyalty. Don't look at these as separate channels. Integrate messaging and voice platforms so that critical data is available in real-time. They're all tools to help you build relationships.
Live chat provides many use cases for exceptional customer contact around the clock. It allows for deeper engagement than casually browsing the site. As you attract customers from outside of the United States, you'll want to adapt your marketing strategies.
It's easier than you think to bridge the gaps between customer contact channels. When your staff is offline, you can answer questions with an interactive chatbot and capture contact info for follow-up.
Looking ahead: Brand trust will separate the winners
You might not sense it right now, but brand trust will become even more pervasive this year into 2021. People see through vain social media marketing ads to the substance of company decisions.
Since 2016, millennials have become the largest group of decision-makers. They tend to value experience over dollars alone. Millennials are savvy to see through search engine tricks and unrealistic testimonials. Establishing brand trust is essential to a marketing plan these days.
Building brand trust is a full-time job. It's not just a fuzzy feeling when sipping a coffee at Starbucks. It's what will separate the higher-performing companies from the bottom-feeders.
We're in an era of economic uncertainty and distrust, it is the perfect time to look for opportunity. Consumers, like most of us, can feel wary and frustrated. Even the most fantastic marketing campaign can fall flat if it's inauthentic.
Being authentic to your values and living up to them allow you to withstand unsettling times and drive brand loyalty.
Brands that optimize their CRM, contact channels, and internal communications, are well-positioned to build brand trust — and actually keep it.
Shannon Plumb is the Vice President of Sales and Business Development for SnapEngage. Shannon’s career has focused on SaaS technology sales, with an emphasis on fast-growth companies, where she enjoys helping to develop strategies and teams. She has lived in Colorado long enough to be considered a native and enjoys everything that 300 days of sunshine and mountains have to offer.